Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read August 2021 — Nashville is bustling with construction developments amid a commercial comeback, a heightened interest in consolidating a life sciences footprint and projects leaning more toward the technological end. In an interview with Invest:, John Vardaman, Nashville business unit leader at DPR Construction, shares why the outlook for the city is tremendous.
How has demand for your services changed over the last 16 months?
We’ve seen tremendous growth and renewed interest in the life science industry. Our healthcare projects that were previously on hold are coming back online in addition to some pent-up demand in the form of new project starts. In this post-pandemic period, we are starting to see the first wave of commercial projects coming out, including office redesign and developer-driven projects that are poised to capitalize on the life science push. With the combination of renewed growth in the manufacturing and data-center markets, we see a surge in more technically-driven projects. We anticipate these trends will continue to play out during the next 24 months.
What are some of the most pressing infrastructural needs for the city of Nashville?
This city is doing quite a bit to address local infrastructure. First and foremost, we are quite fortunate to live in a city where the business community, local government and the other entities that make up the community that is Nashville all tend to work together. There has been continued investment in infrastructure, specifically utilities, to broaden development opportunities in outlying areas of the city. In parallel, there have been somewhat less popular moves around making sure the tax base is equitable but that it still ensures the municipal government of Nashville maintains all the services that people can count on. At the end of the day, that will turn out to be a net positive, even though taxes are not always popular. It shows a commitment toward ensuring the infrastructure is in place for the continued growth of Nashville to the benefit of surrounding areas.
How is your company capitalizing on Nashville’s status as a national destination for residents and businesses looking to relocate?
Firstly, with more hiring! That is the best part of people moving here. It has been super helpful to know that there is a talented pool of people who want to be here. As we grow, we try to do so in thirds: a third of our workforce as internal transfers, another third as our local hires and then a third for people coming from somewhere else. It helps create all sorts of diversity within the office.
Everyone has to take the realistic view that with growth comes change and adjustment challenges. That is true even in Nashville. The city has adapted well to its growth, although that does not mean that everything is solved. All city stakeholders continue to rally around the best solutions for the city’s growing pains while creating opportunities for others to have their voices heard.
How did your company mitigate the challenges posed by supply chain disruptions?
It really starts with information from within the supply chain. One of the great things about being a national company is that we had notices of several incidents across the supply chain very early on that kept us informed about what was going on. Our supplier base was issuing statements about shortages and price increases and we had a dedicated team keeping track of those. The data was aggregated, updated and disseminated internally so that we were always well aware of the potential impacts. We were able to translate that key intel into real actions on a project-by-project basis to avoid any serious issues on our projects.
How is DPR Construction addressing the ongoing labor shortage?
At any given point, about half of our employee makeup is craft personnel. We try to attract those new employees not only with a competitive hourly wage but by offering full benefits, starting immediately, to all our craft: health insurance, life insurance, 401(k), paid time off, sick leave, to name a few. Not only do we think that that’s the way to attract quality employees, but it’s also the right thing to do to help drive the construction industry in the right direction.
How is technology changing the construction industry?
This is one area where the pandemic helped accelerate what we were already doing. We have always relied heavily on technology and it has been a growing trend in construction for the better part of a decade. Construction is in the middle of a technological revolution. One of our challenges these days is how to pick out which technology or which new vendor has the legs for scalable, sustainable success. Our primary focus is to avoid doing 12 different things in 12 different offices in favor of a more strategic approach while continuing to try new things and new products.
What is your near-term outlook for DPR Construction and the industry in Nashville?
The outlook is tremendous. There are several great factors in Nashville’s favor that are either unique to the city or rare in their combination in a major metro area. The commercial sector is going to continue to move along. We are really excited about the new developments required by more advanced technology companies and we continue to capitalize on the hot topic of life sciences as these firms are intent on diversifying geographically.
For DPR, we need to expand on the work that we have. It’s great to be growing but growth for the sake of growth is not a good strategy. We have some great plans already and we’re focused on taking care of them, looking ahead and making investments in our great people for future projects.
For more information, visit: https://www.dpr.com/