2 min read November 2021 — Timothy O’Brien sees the influx of new residents and businesses into Charlotte as an opportunity to continue growing LaBella Associates in terms of platforms, development, and innovation. “The resources and will are here. There’s a kinetic development community and a very engaged city,” O’Brien told Invest:.
What have been some key takeaways from the past 20 months?
We’re thankful for our diversity of services. Participating in so many sectors allows us a modicum of balance across organizations. Even in these somewhat chaotic times, we’ve had steady if not exponential growth, ranging from waste and recycling to getting into environmental issues like solar. We’ve added depth in terms of project type, staff and added architectural resources in the Southeast. LaBella is bullish on the Southeast as our greatest opportunity for expansion. There is strength in diversity and that allows us to put our focus on what we need to as we aggressively expand.
How are you approaching infrastructure challenges in Charlotte?
We’re trying to position our transportation groups and civil engineering groups for when those infrastructure components come to life, as those tend to be the first areas of our practice that are impacted. Environmental services may also see growth as a result of infrastructure opportunities. It’s not necessarily the architecture group first; underlying components need to be in place first. As we align ourselves in the market and create this vertical organization to have access in those spaces, we will have a heavy emphasis on responding to the opportunities that arise in transportation, civil engineering and environmental, that result from infrastructure measures.
How is your company leveraging and capitalizing on the influx of new residents into Charlotte?
We’re seeing people from all over the country migrate here. It’s driving stratospheric growth that continues in multifamily housing. We can’t put that up fast enough but we want to be mindful as stewards of the town, to make sure we put it up well and thoughtfully and that’s a collaborative act between all stakeholders. On the west side, we have a sensitivity for that corridor from the airport into Uptown. You have the infrastructure in place and at some point, some form of the light rail will connect to Uptown from the airport. There’s also a lot of land stock and property ripe for a refresh. Where there’s a will there’s a way with Charlotte.
How does sustainability play a role in your daily operations and long-term strategic vision?
We’re looking for environmentally conscious ways of generating energy. We have solar in the Northeast, we’re getting into wind, and on the single-building level, sustainability has always been a part of it. We hold ourselves as good stewards of our clients’ resources, and those of the communities in which our clients work and live, and, in the broadest sense, the resources of the planet.
What strategy is your company using to recruit and retain talent during this time of labor shortages?
We’re thankful that we’ve been able to retain a vast quantity of talent. We’re employee-owned, which provides that sense of ownership, and people want to be a part of that. We’re aware of the supply chain concerns and how they relate to construction. We have to adapt in many ways to a far less predictable construction landscape. There’s a lot of quiet chaos. I feel for our contracting partners in all disciplines because it’s added a whole different layer of logistics. It’s something we have to address in this phase of the economy.
What are some exciting projects you’re working on in Charlotte?
The west side has been a catalyst, working along Wilkinson Boulevard we have been bringing online new lease space in old buildings as well as building ground up. There’s an old grocery store we’ve brought online for high tech and high design-minded office and collaborative lease space. We’re looking at light industrial along that same corridor coming out of the ground on the site of the old Little Pittsburgh steel mill. It’s a brownfield site we’ve been working on for some time and we’re going to start going vertical on that this year.
What are some of the advantages of doing business in Charlotte today?
The resources and will are here. There is kinetic development in the community and it’s a very engaged city, not just governmentally but through entities like the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, Center City Partners and others that are world-class in their approach and great ambassadors for the city. At a cultural level, the lifestyle and depth of experience have grown so much in the past five years. Leading organizations have been deliberate in investing in culture. We see that on the architectural front with sensitivities to the type of development. We’re more conscious of what we bring to market.
What is your outlook for LaBella in the next three to five years?
Our outlook is very favorable. We’ve acquired Odell Associates and that adds significant depth to our design presence in Charlotte and extending up to Richmond. We’re quadrupling the size of our design presence here in Charlotte. We’ve added to our range, depth of services and the talent that we can draw upon. We continue to invest in Charlotte as the city invests in itself.
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