2 min read February 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Pat Rodgers, president and CEO of Rodgers, talked about advancements in technology, strategy in the construction industry and the success the company has been able to maintain throughout the pandemic. Rodgers also shared her thoughts on the future of the company, the industry and the necessary infrastructure needed in Charlotte to accommodate the continued surge in growth.
What have been some highlights and takeaways from the past year?
We are fortunate to work in a region with an active and robust economy. The past 2 years have proven to be challenging, and day-to-day decisions have become increasingly complex as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. We’ve been able to complete 30-plus projects despite challenges with supply chain disruptions, skilled workforce shortages, and other pandemic-related hurdles. We’ve made progress on some exciting new projects and look forward to breaking ground on several projects in the first and second quarter of this year, some of which have been on hold since the onset of the virus.
We are keeping up with the changes that have occurred as a result of the pandemic and are continually fine-tuning our operations in response.
How has demand for your services changed over the past 12 months?
The healthcare market is obviously addressing external pressures while planning for future growth in our region. Commercial and corporate work have different pressure points while still planning for their future needs, as well as the higher education and K-12 market. We’ve stayed on schedule with construction of existing projects despite the pandemic and it’s clear to us our clients are taking the necessary precautions to keep their enterprises moving forward.
It hasn’t been easy for anybody, especially the healthcare market. We completed two very large senior living expansion projects during the pandemic. It’s been interesting working with our partners to find solutions to the on-going challenges.
What infrastructural improvements are needed to accommodate the continued growth in Charlotte?
We are anticipating construction of the public-private market to ramp up. Many voices were amplified in the 2040 plan addressing how people would like to see Charlotte grow and the challenges that inevitably come with smart growth. We are making progress; however, we have a lot of work left to do. As a community we are well positioned to do it together.
What has been your strategy to combat labor shortages?
Prefabrication has changed the way we work and raises the bar in the construction build process at a time where trade labor is scarce and at a premium. Implementing prefab early in the planning phase of a project increases efficiency and quality, reduces overall construction schedules, on-site manpower requirements and improves safety. It is attracting more talent as people can work in a more controlled and safer environment.
We’ve teamed up with owners, manufacturers, subcontractors, local inspectors and building standards departments to support the prefab process. It has worked well for us, and we expect it to continue to do so, believing it will likely become part of the normal process for projects in the future.
Another piece of addressing the labor shortage is education for the skilled trades. It’s important that we are both educating and fostering excitement in students at the high school level and collaboration between community colleges, high schools and even junior high schools is becoming the norm. We work closely with the ACE Mentor Program by sponsoring a local high school, providing students with mentors and scholarships to pursue education in the construction industry. We also work with ROC Charlotte and the Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center. They have a great program that educates and mentors high school students for career and technical education and employment opportunities in the construction industry.
What positions are you looking to hire most?
We are looking to hire superintendents and senior-level superintendents as baby boomers are beginning to retire. We are always going to need master builders no matter how standardized prefabrication becomes.
What strategies have you put in place to mitigate supply chain disruption?
We are working closely with manufacturers and subcontractors, as well as owners and designers to find alternatives to specific products and materials that may be specified and have long lead issues. We often have to find a way to re-sequence the work as we wait on the things that couldn’t be changed or substituted. We’ve learned how to do things differently and it has been a great opportunity for us.
Are you seeing repurposing and redevelopment as a trend in the industry?
We’ve seen that for a while. Several years ago, we converted an abandoned big box store into a community technical college in one of the regions where we build. I think we will see more of that in Charlotte. There are many benefits as it can also help bring the economy back to an area that may be struggling.
How do you envision the future of the industry?
I think it is going to revolve around technology and data. Matt Agner, Operations Process Manager at Rodgers says, “Because of our increasing use of technology, we have more data available than ever before. Now we can analyze this data to help us make better business decisions.” Those better business decisions help us to mitigate one of our biggest challenges, rework. Prefabrication technology helps by minimizing rework and virtual design allows us to know where things need to go and to find conflicts virtually. That lowers the amount of work in the field and is critical to schedule and cost.
This will also attract more people to the industry. Technology will continue to make a huge difference in all market sectors.
We’re also noticing clients being intentional, creative and resourceful with their spaces. The Ballantyne Reimagined project is a great example – the improvements we’re making there include infrastructure improvements that will support a much denser, mixed-use vertical development in underdeveloped portions of land. This is another huge transformation for one of the region’s most successfully designed communities, bringing with it new roads, parks, a greenway connection, and an amphitheater. More and more projects are addressing the entire visitor/user experience and work/life balance, creating more interactive and creative design elements.
What is your outlook for the company over the next two to three years?
We have tremendous opportunity in the footprint that we operate in and beyond. It always helps to be an optimist. I think the opportunities are great and we have to make sure we continue to be thoughtful. We are fortunate to have the team we do and have the support of the communities around us.
We must make sure we continue to work well together as a city, county and region and identify and elect leaders who can provide visionary and collaborative leadership. We need to support our trade workers. We have to make sure we are prepared for the surge in growth coming and support our infrastructure. That includes the supply chain and workforce infrastructure.
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