At HED, great design is about thinking creatively to overcome challenges and improve real world outcomes. Their firm has a long history and reputation for excellence because we believe that all the facets of their design, from architecture, consulting, engineering, and planning, must create a positive impact for our clients, the community, and the world through responsive, innovative, and sustainable design solutions. This belief has allowed HED to succeed and grow in a broad range of markets in nine U.S. offices (Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento.
See how HED advances your world at www.hed.design. Enjoy the conversation.
Hey there, Commercial Construction Coffee Talk fans. Thanks for chiming in. My name’s David Corson, I’m your host. I’m also the publisher and editor of Commercial Construction and Renovation magazine. That’s what it used to look like. We’re digital now, went digital in August of 2021, but this is December 2020. Really good looking Deborah Delaney, Associate Vice President Design Construction for Mark Sports. Check this was a great looking issue, 148 pages, really nice. And I’m sitting under my flag, my pack of dogs, they’re all rescues. Actually, we lost the big one there, we lost him last year. May he rest in peace. But anyway, that’s my pack. It’s always nice to hold the magazine in my hands, but going digital, it’s been an amazing ride. Had another couple million people hit our website this past month. I got one more month left in 2023, and we’ll see if we hit 29 million last year. Maybe we’ll go over 30. It’s basically on that same track. But listen, I couldn’t have done it with all you out there, so thank you so much for finding us on the web. It’s Cyber Monday. That’s all I’m getting on my email. You know, Cyber Monday, you didn’t buy anything over the weekend. Hopefully, everybody had a good Thanksgiving, ate lots of food, watched a lot of football, maybe hit some golf balls wherever you might be warm. But anyway, I hope everybody, you got about four weeks to go, and in my life, it’s about two and a half weeks in the month of December, and everybody takes off, you know, in retail because stores are built, and they’ve had a long year, and they disappear for about two weeks from a little before Christmas all the way through New Year’s, and then it all picks up back again. So with that said, I’ve got a nice gentleman down in the great state of Texas out of Dallas. His name is Barton Drake. He’s the principal of ATD. They do business in the public sector. Barton, say hello from Big D. Greetings, David, it’s great to be here. I really appreciate the opportunity. Absolutely, we appreciate you finding the time on a Monday. Everybody’s coming in, they’re trying to get through their email boxes. I’ve got about four emails that I’ve created, and I’m like, I don’t even want to send anything until about one or two. I got to catch a flight tonight, so I’m going to be jamming this afternoon. I got a signage report and security for my last issue and I forget what the other one is, and anyway, I won’t do it until the afternoon because everybody’s going to be getting through their email boxes, and I was going to send them before, and I’m like, they’re just going to get lost. You know how it is. But it looks like it’s nice down there in Dallas and a little chilly here in the ATL, sunny but chilly. Old man winter, he’s finally arrived, got rid of all the leaves off the trees a couple of weeks ago, and just waiting for spring. It’ll be here before I know it by the end of February. The cold, you know, February, March, every you know, but the time April comes, it’s warm here. You just got to deal with pollen. But the way we’re going to work this is, we do it in three parts. You’ll tell us your story, where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you ended up where you are today at H, and then we’ll talk about lessons learned over the last years of the roller coaster that we’ve all been on, and then you’ll leave one positive thought or phrase, and then we’ll close it out. I do have a sponsor today, they’re called the Contractor Consultants, and I’m going to watch a little video here, and then we’ll get to Barton’s story, so hang tight, it’s just about, you know, maybe about a minute long. So anyway, enjoy the video and we’ll be back with you after it’s done. Hey everybody, for all you contractors out there struggling to hire, I want to introduce you to a partner, dear friends of mine, the Contractor Consultants. This is the company that is putting recruiters and staffing agencies out of business. So if you’re a construction business right now and you’re struggling to hire, you want to grow and expand your team next year, and you’re sick and tired of sifting resumes and all the administrative burden of hiring, well, I’ve got something very special for you. These guys have figured it out. They’ve made construction hiring faster, easier, and a lot more affordable. They’re endorsed by ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and they work nationwide across all 87 industries. So if you want to put your hiring to bed for a small monthly fee and learn a new way, a better way, a more effective way to hire in our industry, schedule a call and learn more about this new hiring solution. Text HIRE to 66866. That’s HIRE to 66866. Worst case scenario, you show up on the call, and you’ll learn a few things you didn’t already know about hiring. These guys wrote the book, the course, and are doing it every day. Welcome to the show, and thank you for listening. Thanks for watching the video, Contractors Consultants. They’re a great group, they’re out of LA. Like I said, they go through 87 industries, so if you’re looking for some help to get some added team members to your firm, give these guys a shot. They’ve got a really cool gig, the way that they do things, and they know what they’re doing. So with that said, Barton, like I said, I do it in three parts. Tell your story, talk about the last three years, and then your contact info. So with that said, the floor is yours. Tell us your story. Wow, thank you, David. That’s a lot of pressure, but I’ll try. I’ll do my best to carry through and tell Barton’s story. Well, I’m almost four decades into my career, so it’s been an interesting journey. Been born and raised in Dallas, Texas. It’s interesting because a lot of people struggle with finding out where they fit in the world and what they want to do with their life, and I was lucky when I was in junior high, I took a drafting class, and it was the only class I recall in my entire public sector education where I hated it when the class ended. I’d sit down on my seat and start drawing, and then the bell would ring, and I would go, wait, I’m not ready to leave yet. This can’t be over yet. So that was a clue that tuned me in very early in life that I love drawing, and I didn’t know about architecture at the time. But when I got into high school, I had a friend that invited me to do construction with him during the summer, and it was a fun job of decking apartment buildings. So all I did was heave plywood for 12 hours a day during the summer when I was in high school. And then I hooked up with a framing company through the same friend, and I started framing houses in the summer. My beginning in the profession started in junior high and kind of morphed in high school where I put drawing and construction together, and time flew. I loved it. It was something I totally had a great time doing. So when I got out of high school, I went to college here in the Dallas area for about a year and ended up moving down to Austin, Texas, to go to the University of Texas at Austin. Hook ’em horns, by the way, great football this weekend in case you missed it. So down there, I actually chased a high school girlfriend that went to school down in Austin. And when I transferred down there, I realized I probably wasn’t as academically geared for the University of Texas system. It was a fairly stringent program. So after one semester, I decided I better pause for a moment and really get my act together before I could complete my career in college, because it was a lot harder than what I had anticipated. Just coincidentally, and really uniquely, my girlfriend’s brother-in-law was a dropout architecture student. Go figure, I’m not sure how that worked out.
And it just so happened that he had been working in construction. He was a gifted framing carpenter and could cut any kind of complicated roof you could imagine. So we said, “Hey, I’m not ready to do the college thing, let’s start a construction company in Austin, Texas,” in the boom time. It was big growth back in the late 1970s. We spent about two and a half years together building houses all over the area out in the Hill Country and throughout the town, and I loved it. But after a couple of winters, and there are some things that you learn about teamwork in the construction business, right? We were a small company. If guys didn’t show, it would be the two of us, and it’s kind of hard to frame a roof with two guys. So after some struggles, that motivated me to go back, finish my college career, which I did, and graduated a little later in life because I took a couple of years to work and get a handle on things. I had a great experience, and then I met my current wife there when I was in Austin, not high school girlfriend. That was not a long-term deal, as you might sometimes know that happens. They never are the high school girlfriends, very few of those stories out there. It was a great journey, I’m glad I went down to Austin because of her. I met my current wife who I’ve been married to for going on 40 years. That’s 33 for me, so good on you. And you have a partner in life, it makes the journey a whole lot more fun, and it helps get you through the rough patches if you got the right partner anyway. So when I met my wife, Austin was booming, and we had a conversation about what to do. She grew up, her father was an atmospheric scientist for the government. He was a brainiac and traveled quite a bit, and she lived in several other states. She had actually seen every state in the country because her parents traveled so much. I was not as lucky to travel as she was. So when we talked about it, because we were both pushing that close to 30 mark, we decided we wanted to start a family soon. So we just opted to be near family and came back to Dallas where my family was. So that’s kind of why I ended up landing back in Dallas where I grew up. I’ve been here since I graduated in 1984. I had about a six-year stint with a small company called Brandon Shelmire. Overton Shelmire was an awesome human being, kind of mentored me. Interviewed me down at college, he was also a UT guy, so he came down to the University of Texas at Austin. They have an interview program for graduates, which is great. I got two job offers, and I took his because he offered the most diverse path for diversity early in my career. Since I had that construction background, I kind of knew some stuff that a lot of young architects don’t know because they don’t have that hands-on construction experience, right? So that kind of flavored my perspective, and I think they appreciated that. So I came back to work at Brandon Shelmire right out of college, worked in Downtown Dallas. That was an interesting experience. I got to do so many different projects. It was a great learning ground because they gave me a lot of rope. I had, within nine to ten months of being on the job, they had turned over an 8,000-foot wide WCA project for me to do Soup To Nuts. I got to do, within the first year of graduating from college, my first project from Soup To Nuts. Drew all the drawings, coordinated the design team, worked through the bid process with the client, and then did the construction administration process with the contractor. I will say they beat me up pretty good. The drawings weren’t perfect, as there are no perfect drawings, as I’m sure you know. It was a good set, but I learned a good lesson in that process and got a lot of different kinds of experience. I really don’t think there’s a project type that I haven’t worked on. I had an opportunity through a friend, one of the architects that worked there, who knew another father-son team that had a very small company. They were looking for a young architect to maybe join the firm. There were only like five of them at the time, so it was a big shift for me. I had lunch with the partners of the other firm for about six or seven months, and then, when the time was right, I made the move. That was largely because Brandon Shelmire, while they were a great company, they weren’t looking forward into the computers that were starting to come online by the late ’80s. Some firms were adopting it more than others, and I knew that this firm was, and that was the future of architecture. So I decided these guys were not going to get there in time for me and where I was in my career. So then I made that move to a company called P and Associates, which was a father-son team, both architects, that had teamed up about three or four years before I joined the firm. So I came on board employee number six in 1990. I worked there, became a partner in a few years. We did primarily public sector work when we were VAAI. About three years ago, the father and the son were looking to transition out, so they started talking to other companies. That’s where the dialogue with H came into play. We probably had discussions and conversations with several firms, but the H culture was just, it seemed like such a great fit. About 400 people nationwide, scattered out over nine different offices on the west coast, in the north, and then in Texas. So it was just an opportunity, and they’re a full-service integrated architecture engineering firm, and they’re in like 10 different marketplaces. So for me, I was not a young man anymore, but I had done such a diverse amount of work primarily regionally in the area, some adjacent states, but mostly in the region. It just seemed like an incredible opportunity for all of us to spread our wings and become part of a much bigger pool of really talented people in a lot of different market sectors. So that deal took six or seven months to negotiate and get worked out. I’m two years into the merger here at HED, and I’m loving it. I’m working across multiple time zones, so that’s been a little bit of a challenge as I’ve grown. But I’ve had the blessing, I guess, the way I look at it, to work in almost every project type there is. Everything from multifamily residential, higher ed, K12, I’ve even worked in maintenance facilities. The Dallas area has a light rail system. I’ve worked in station design for light rail systems here in the Dallas area. It’s just, you know, of course, a lot of cities, federal and state, and municipal governments, maintenance facilities, water treatment facilities. I’ve worked in high-end residential when I started in Brandon Shelmire. We were working on homes for what I considered the benefactors of the city, these were the very wealthy leaders of the city. So I got, as a kid right out of school, I was working on, you know, 10, 15,000 square foot residences. It was a broad spectrum of experiences and opportunities. That’s kind of my story and kind of where I am today in what I like to call the fourth quarter of my career, and I’m just having a blast because it’s an exciting firm. We’ve got young, talented people all over the country. I interact with people now, I’ll be talking to someone in California in the afternoon, maybe someone in Boston in the morning, and someone in Detroit. And by the way, the other interesting thing I meant to mention about HED that I want everyone to know is it was founded in 1908. It’s been around. There aren’t many companies that have survived that many years of design and construction industry, as you know, it has its peaks and valleys as the economy moves up and down. So does our ability to work. I just call it the roller coaster. You and I are probably close. My family is in demolition recycling; they’ve been in business since 1888. You can appreciate that. But like you, I was outside of Philly, and you got your license at 16 in Pennsylvania, and all the grandsons, when you got your license, had to go work in the scrapyard. We had no choice. That’s just the way it was. My other two cousins were all born in June, so we all got our licenses, and then I burnt steel in the scrapyard, knocked asbestos off pipes, laid railroad tracks, you know, I did all that. On my mother’s side, that was my mother’s side. On my father’s side, he was in upholstery manufacturing down in North Carolina, and we had a showroom at the Mart in Dallas. So every summer, I’d have to go down there in the humidity, unload the truck, and get the showroom ready for the show. Then I’d have to go back and undo the showroom and sell the furniture that people bought, the floor samples and stuff. Then I did my retail career in Levitz. I went to the University of Denver. I did the five-year plan, like you. I took a year off, worked on the mountain, my parents had a house in Vail. It was nice; I didn’t have to pay rent, but had my pass. I was an economics political science major, really a lacrosse hockey player. I got my sticks behind me. I noticed the sticks; kind of hard to miss those. I’m very proud of this, but I actually didn’t pick up a stick until I was a sophomore in prep school. I was really a hockey player. I wanted to be a professional hockey player, and I kind of just fell into lacrosse and ended up being a better lacrosse player than hockey. But I still play in the old man’s league. It’s the fastest sport on two feet, and it’s American. You know, the Indians invented it. The biggest thing is your story that hit home with me was all the different experiences you did in the summer. Some people just aren’t ready for school. I give you credit for saying, “You know what, I’m not ready for this.” A lot of people go into college, and like I lived, I was a boarding student, you know, 9 through 12, I was in Central Jersey. So I had lived away from home, so when I went to college, I had already lived away from home. I kind of didn’t really have that, “Oh, what am I going to do?” But a lot of kids go in there, and they’re just on their own, and some of them make it, some of them don’t. So your story, taking that time off, I always tell people, look, if you come out of high school and you don’t know what you’re going to do, I tell people, I said it many times on my show, go into the military. You get a roof over your head, three square meals a day, learn a trade, come out, and you can figure things out. Versus hanging out, like today, a lot of kids don’t know what they’re going to do. Like my son, he works for Boeing. He didn’t go to college; he went to trade school, learned welding, woodworking, all of that stuff. Now he’s working on 787s, $350 million birds, just got his pilot’s license. He’s only 24 and has grandiose plans. Like I said, he didn’t do the college route; he went the trade route. So many of his buds either became pilots, or they just went to get their… but, you know, listen, some of these people, they walk out of school, like you got an architecture degree, but a lot of people will get this four-year degree that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, right? And those jobs aren’t even around. And you and I are both in construction, so we need architects, engineers, but we also need HVAC, plumbers, electricians, you know, all those people to get the jobs done, whether it’s new build or renovation and facilities. So your story, we’re probably close to age, as well as our marital roller coaster. But you know, the biggest thing when I talk to people like you is that when they go to school as an architect, they teach you drafting and design, and you’re kind of like a glorified artist. But when you get out of school, architecture is not all that. You’re basically a project manager because you’re talking to your team members, but really, you’re a PM with the contractor, the end-user, making sure because your reputation is on the line. They don’t teach that in school, am I right? No, that’s an interesting conversation that I’ve had with other professors and deans along the way when I get a chance. Some schools luckily are integrating design build programs. The University of Texas at Austin, several years back now, has a design build component. They have shops, so they’re getting these young people out in the field, putting their hands on tools and materials, understanding how things go together. You’re exactly right. The design part is critical, but if you look at the design piece in the scheme of the project, it’s this much of the project, and the rest of the project is this much. And it’s all of the things that once you’ve figured out the design, you’re still designing, though. You’re still designing the components, looking at the systems. And I think it’s fascinating, the conversation you mentioned about the trades. I think people are realizing now that we’ve got a lot of people getting these educations that have just morphed out of control in terms of cost and maybe not providing the value they used to. The trades have suffered because of that. There’s a real awareness; you see it back in the K12 market in our industry and the projects we do here at H, where a lot of these CTE programs are moving into the high schools, even into the junior college market, or the community college market. So they’re building these big areas where they can train people to work on all these trades that we need in the building industry. It’s such a relevant issue right now that we’re dealing with in our industry. What was amazing when my son, they had, listen, I loved shop class when I was in junior high school. I did too; they don’t have shop anymore. We had the drafting tables; they were angled. I remember one day we were replicating an engine, so some people were pistons, some people were this, and the combustion engine. You go around and do the loop, and those were the days. They don’t have it; my son, they had a shop class.
Could go to, took a couple of classes in the morning, and then you go to the class and then you come back. But he didn’t have the grades, so I met with the counselor and someone, you know, principal or whatever, and I said, “Look, if there are 3,000 kids at this high school, there’s one kid that you want. He was flipping cars and working on engines and bikes. He always wanted to work with his hands. So look, there’s one kid in here, he’s not in English, he’s not in history, he’s in there working with his hands. So if there’s one kid you want to put in here, this is the guy you want.” “Oh Mr. Corson, he doesn’t have the math.” I’m like, “I’m telling you.” But they wouldn’t put him in there. I yanked him out, he did homeschool, Life Academy, and he worked in the local garage, was a waiter, and got his degree. Then first, he wanted to be an auto mechanic. I said, “If you don’t have your own shop, you’re not going to make the money.” Then he wanted to be a motorcycle mechanic. I said, “Look, you have to do it in a state where you’re going to ride all year. Alright, because during the winter, if you do it in, you know, Minnesota, you’re not gonna work. Well, you might be working on snow machines as they call them, but I call them snowmobiles.” But you never know. And then we took the tour of this place called AV Aviation Institute of Maintenance. Anyway, it was an old grocery store that was just sitting there, vacant, and they renovated it. They had a huge parking lot, they even put a little taxiway that they could taxi planes in the back. But he did welding, woodworking, avionics, learned anything that has an engine, you know, he could work on. It was only a two-year program, and then it takes about a year to get your license, which is FAA certified, and then you can work on anything that has a jet engine. Could be a boiler in a healthcare facility, could be a train, could be an Abrams tank. It was amazing. I looked at some of his curriculum and the stuff that he was learning, and listen, I went to prep school, so I took physics, calculus, Latin, and it was way above my pay grade. I mean, I could probably go through it, but just the stuff he was learning was unbelievable. And then we went and did the tour of the Boeing plant, not last summer, but the summer before when he got hired. He’s been there two years now. What an experience. And I was just looking at him thinking, “I thought you were going to be a barista in Starbucks. Had to drag your butt out of bed every morning.” But here he is, he’s out there on the flight op, he works on all the planes that come out of the plant, and gets them ready for delivery. The delivery center is absolutely immaculate there. And then any of the birds that they’ve sold that need to come back get tweaked or worked on. So he could be in the cockpit, he could be in the wheel well, he could be wherever it is. So it’s been really amazing to see that he did something that he really loved to do, and that he’s taking it to heart. But all those other things that he did, you know, just like yourself, they all kind of mold you into who you are. And like, mold you, you’re the principal there, so you’re molding the way that you want the next generation to come in. Obviously, there’s more technology, and with AI, everything’s just at warp speed. But still, you can leave your footprint and let those people carry on the tradition, just like my family. You know, we were in sustainability before sustainability was even a word. So I look at now my cousins, they’re my age, they’re running the company right now. And it’s just really cool when you look back at all the things that you do that you can take. Like we were talking before we got on, you’re a golfer. Alright, so when you play golf, it really is like playing chess or you got to be a program manager. You can’t worry about the score; you got to take one swing at a time, but you have to plan it. What club am I going to take? Do I want to get air? Do I really want to give it some oomph? Maybe I want to lay up and chip. There are all these things that you’re thinking about that you do in your business every day. And so I always like talking to athletes because they know about winning, losing. They know about being flexible and having to be able to scrap your game plan and go. Because I’m sure over the years of some of the projects that you’ve done, you’ve run into some little bumps or potholes where you’ve had to adjust. And be flexible, am I right? Oh, there are no projects where we don’t have to adjust. I think anytime you have so many moving parts and pieces in a process, there are many opportunities for things to get off track. So I think part of the thing that’s so important is having lived through the process enough times and you’ve seen enough things that can happen in the process that you can anticipate. You can kind of read the tea leaves almost as you’re going through a process once you understand the character of the client, nature of the project, the particular challenges of the site, you know, the budget. So you’ve got all these things you’re navigating through. And depending on the client and the size, sometimes there’s a client team, so you have multiple people you’re answering to simultaneously. That can be a challenge. So you really need to be flexible and ready to pivot, and you need to be able to do it thoughtfully with something to back it up. You need to be able to explain to the client, “Well, here’s what I see and why I see an issue that we need to talk about, and here are some pathways I think forward that we can get you where you want to be.” Because my job, I’m in the service business. They come to me for professional service to get their project idea from it, maybe a reasonably well-thought-out idea, or it may not be very well thought out. So we may come in early enough to help them conceive and fine-tune their idea and even create the idea and document the idea and put a budget to the idea. Or they may come to me and say, “Well, hey Barton, here’s this school project. It’s going to be 150,000 square feet. I want 20 classrooms. I want a gymnasium. I want the library space. I want CTE classes.” And then I’m just kind of helping them put it together on the site. But every site’s different, as you know in the construction industry, there are challenges around the perimeter, within the site, depending on the site. And the marketplace lately, as you probably know, has been crazy. My biggest struggle, I would say, navigating project process most recently would be getting the budget right early and figuring out how we’re going to get to the finish line. I think a lot of clients have misjudged or they might have funded a public project a year or two ago in a bond, and they made an assumption a year or two ago. And then by the time they get to actually building the project, the market is, in some cases, we struggled with 25, 35 plus percent budget challenges early on. So that’s a fun conversation to have with a client when you got to say, “Okay, here’s where I think we are, and here’s why.” Then we have to have that tough conversation about, “So how are we going to adjust? How are we going to pivot? How are we going to rethink this project to get you as much as you can?” It could be a phase. “We’re going to just phase it right now. We can build you this phase. We’ll plan it so this other phase will plug right on really easily, and maybe in the next year two or three, you can add that on. Or maybe by the time we finish the design, you will have raised some additional funding to supplement your current budget, and we can go ahead and finish designing the whole thing.” So those are the things that we have to offer as professionals. And it’s nice in an integrated team environment that I now have at H, which I didn’t really have at VAAI, which for most of my career is now I have experts in all the engineering disciplines that I can bring on to the team and into that conversation.
Can get out ahead of it. I can have that conversation before. It’s really been a real nice journey, the last couple of years at HED, doing these. Well, listen, I’m going to, we bought a piece of land up on the lake. The HOA, there were 52 homes up there, and my wife’s an interior designer, residential contractor renovation, not for ground up, but that’s what she does, call her consultant, etc. Anyway, we have our plans done, and we’re getting our construction loan. We’re going to build it, you know. We have a contractor. In the state of Georgia, unless you pay full cash for your house, you can self-build, but you got to be a licensed contractor. Now, we’re registered federal contractors with the government, so we do small little jobs, or she does. It’s woman-owned and stuff. We have our architectural plans done. So we had tweaked a couple of things, the HOA now was like, “Hey, you got to break ground, blah, blah, blah.” The lender that we’re dealing with gave me a spreadsheet right before the Thanksgiving holiday. We talked to our grader, he’s graded every plot of land there. In fact, he puts his trailer on there when he, you know, when I’d have to go up there every two weeks to make sure the grass was cut, you know, to keep the HOA guys happy. I’d be like, “Red, you got your trailer there, man. You know, next time you park, bring your whacker because when you weed it, I don’t want to see the weeds just sitting up there.” Anyway, we have to get these estimates. I have a federal contractor that helped me get the estimates, and she has her team. I’ve got to find a concrete guy, a framing dude, and a roofer. Everything else, we have; she’s got her team, and she treats her team great. If you don’t, someone else is going to steal them. She feeds them well, treats them like gold; they just jump when, and they’re ecstatic. They can’t wait to build that thing. It might be 4,000 square feet, an empty nester house, little Southern range. So the grader said to her last week, like, “Red, we need your estimate.” “Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to run into.” I’m like, “Red, you’ve cleared every piece of land that’s up here. You drop your trailer; you know there’s a little dip where they put the sewer line in there, there’s a little hole there, but you’re going to clear. There’s a lot of trees on this lot, and you’re going to have a lot of dirt, so you’re going to figure it out, but you have to give me an estimate.” The financier is going to want to see what everything’s going to cost. So now, the her team that’s going to give me their estimates, I have a professional estimator looking at our plans. He’s going to estimate it out, so if they are under or over, I want to go over, to be honest with you. I want the pad there, so even the S is like, “Look, I’m going to pad 105% additional on there because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.” And then financing, you know, it’s 9%, 8%, but now, you know, with the politics, it’s election year, so they’re going to probably drop the rates. But as soon as they’re going to go back up again. But yeah, that’s a whole other story. But so we’re going through that whole rigmarole of looking at everything and trying to make sure that you get the right amount of funding, so you can cover it. The best thing would be that you don’t spend all that money, but the worst thing is that you run short, right? You got to go out and raise that other funds and stuff. So we’re excited to break ground in January, and my wife and I don’t kill each other. We haven’t killed each other, though, you know, we don’t work together. But it should be a fun project. I told her, “Look, you watched all those homes get built, so your reputation’s on the line.” All the neighbors are going to come in there and going to look at it, they’re going to walk through the house and go, “Why didn’t you do that? Oh, that was really a good idea. We should have done that.” You know exactly what I’m talking about. We don’t have to have the most; we just want the house to look really, really, really, really nice, nicely built. He did a great job; that’s all I want to hear. And we’re going to videograph it, so I might even put it in the magazine as a diary. So anyway, it’s, I get the whole padding thing. That’s a major because you just don’t know what’s going to happen, you know, three or four or five months from now, as you know, when you’re getting the budget done. But having the multi-discipliners, architecture, engineering, and have you know, that design-build mentality. I always tell people, like, you know, like I’m a lacrosse player. So on my men’s team, I’ll go in the goal if I have to, if I put a deep hole in my hand, or if I’m an offensive guy, I can play all the positions. So I always tell you know, any of the kids or when I was coaching on any of my teams, I’m like, “Look, you might play running back in high school, but when you get down to University of Texas, coach Sisian, he’s going to say, ‘Hey, you’re a linebacker.’ ‘No, coach, I’m a running back.’ ‘No, you’re a linebacker.'” Okay, so that’s just the reality of it. So you might as well learn as much as you can because you don’t know. The more you know, the more different positions you can play, it’s just like in golf. You don’t want to be just a driver but can’t putt, or you don’t want to be. It’s that same concept. You want to be able to hit all the different tools that are in that golf bag and be good at it, right? And because, you know, I’ve only broken 80 once in my life. I’m a bogey golfer, but I only broke 80 once. And the only reason I did it was I was playing with three really good golfers, and they kept score. I didn’t do any Mulligans, played all my ball, and they didn’t tell me I was on, you know. They could have told me on the 16th hole, “Hey David, if you par these two holes, you’re going to break 80.” But they didn’t tell me. If they would have told me, I would have knocked it in the water. So when I got done, they’re like, “Hey Dave, you shot 79.” I’m like, “No, recount that.” And I told them, “I’m so glad you didn’t tell me where I was at because I was just having a fun time with you guys.” After, I was just, you know, had, you know, how some days you’re out there, and just everything is just clicking, you know? And listen, a couple of putts here and there could have just knocked me over that 80 benchmark. So that’s what keeps you coming back too, right? The love of the game, and you have days, bad days. And just like me, listen, I’m a builder. I build a magazine every month. I used to do it paper, ink, and all, but now I do it digitally, but I’m still proud of it. Look at it; I built that. I’ve got one more to build this year, and then I’ll just start doing it all over again. So, if there was one of your coolest projects over your 40 years, what’s the one favorite ones that you did? Wow, that’s going to be, let me think about that. I’ve got some things going right now. I think my most favorite project is the one that I’m getting ready to start. So let me talk a little bit about my sector is the community sector, which is primarily made up of municipal districts, the cities, and local governments. But it also includes some of the religious stuff. We’ve done libraries, we’ve done fire stations, done some City Hall work, done police station work. I’ve done maintenance facilities for cities and a big variety of things. One of the most unique projects I’ll mention briefly is the Catholic church project I did many years ago because it involved what I affectionately call two, a Cuban, a Mexican, an Irish Catholic, and a Texas boy. We went to Mexico City to research the churches, and it was the priest from the church, the founding partner of my company, GMIDO, back in the day, and Father Mike Mooney, he was the priest of the church. They hooked us up with a Mexican architect down in Mexico City, and we went down and toured about 40 churches all around Mexico City. You’d basically just walk across the street, and there’s another Catholic village church, beautiful architecture, beautiful stonework. But what was so fascinating about that project is very poor, small Hispanic group in Texas, and it was their first church. The diocese was helping them out, so we wanted to really learn, you know, what’s this group about. So we researched the history of churches there, and it was fascinating because we would get together every day after touring and we would have conversations and talk about what we saw and what we learned. Then there would be this little period of, “Well, have to do it in Spanish and have to do it in English,” because the Mexican architect didn’t speak any English, but he spoke about as I spoke Spanish, right. Incredible project. We came back and built what I consider a very authentic, inspired Mexican village church here in the Dallas area. That was a very meaningful and important project. I mean, it was really phase one of about a 40-acre development. It was phase one, and we did about four phases overall and did some other community buildings, a childcare facility, a recreation facility, and then an elementary school, and then a Catholic church, all around a kind of inspired Mexican village plaza space. That was probably one of my most meaningful ones.
But recently, I’ve been working in a small suburban area north of Dallas called Celina, and we just recently converted an old church building built in 1922. It was converted into a council chambers, which is kind of an interesting adaptive reuse. You take something that’s a hundred years old and repurpose it for something totally different. It’s a beautiful fit, and it was a lot of fun because we got a chance to get in and peel back some of the terrible things that have been done to it over the years, and kind of get it back to some of the basic structure and clean it up, bring in new technology and state-of-the-art efficiency with the mechanical systems, and just transform it into something really special. And because that worked so well and they liked it so well, we got invited back, and we just recently won a commission for what’s going to be called their new government center. It’s going to be a 100,000 sq ft facility that includes a downtown public library, then all of the management group from the entire city departments, you know, the building department, the finance department, the development group. It’ll have the management offices for the council folks. The unique thing is it’s going to have a parking garage built immediately adjacent to it, and it’s right on a town square. This is a small growing city north of town, only about 30,000 people right now, but it’s booming. We’re getting about 3,000 people a month moving into North Texas from around the country, so those little suburban cities around the big urban areas are booming, and this happens to be one of those booming areas. So we’re getting to help them as part of their master plan development. We’re going to be the first major new building on the new town square, so it’s going to be an important project for this little city. We’re going to do something that’s architecturally compatible with the character of their downtown, which is mostly brick, turn of the century kind of building vernacular. They want a traditional look, but on the inside, they want to switch gears. They want to go contemporary, modern, high technology. Thinking about our workplace today, the way that everything’s changed since COVID, we all had to adapt our work habits when we got shut down several years ago. Even cities are trying to figure out the new work plan. This particular city’s gone to a four-day work week now with one day remote work, so that causes us to rethink how we’re going to design the functional aspects of the interior of their building. This is probably going to be one of my most significant projects of my career, and I’m really excited that it’s just getting started in January. I’m starting the new year with something really exciting to work on. We’re going to bring our integrated team in to think about how to make this place really special for this small growing city. It’s got a couple of unique features that I think are going to make it even more special. It’s going to have a basement because they’re worried about the scale of the city; they don’t want this big, tall overpowering element in a very small, quaint downtown environment. So we’re going to have a basement, which will be perfect for part of the library function where the kids can run around and have their own kind of space down low. And then we’re going to have a rooftop garden where there’ll be some community space up top and a place for the staff to go and even for them to have functions at night for the town. We’ve got some really interesting kind of ideas that we’re kicking around about how to bring this thing to life.
I know Salina very well because, oh, do you really? Yeah, I know that people from Fort Worth don’t like going to Dallas, and Dallas people don’t like going into Fort Worth. Salina is kind of right in the middle. Whenever I did my cocktail party, I always wanted to be in the middle because I didn’t want to tick off anybody that was in either part of the city. I don’t live there, but I know the gig between Fort Worth and Dallas. You’re exactly right. There was a time, I remember growing up, very specific stories about the mayor who would come to Dallas or anything. He would never spend a penny in Dallas, the mayor from Fort Worth. He would always brown bag his lunch. He would make it a special event to show, “I’m in Dallas, I’m eating my lunch I brought from Fort Worth. I’m not spending any money in your town.” So yes, indeed, there is that rivalry, and it exists today. Very different cultures in there. I’ve done several events there. And like when people ask me, “Where are you going to do it?” I’m like, “I’m going to do it right in the middle because I know the gig between Fort Worth and Dallas.” You’re exactly right; you got to stay neutral. Look, the Switzerland of Dallas-Fort Worth, right? Yeah, yeah. I was like, we did it at a beer, you know, craft brew place. It was right around the corner from the stadium, and we did it in another place. But I did a bunch downtown, don’t get me wrong, I did a couple in Fort Worth, and people came over. But I know the rivalry between the two, but it’s good, competition’s good. It is, and I think the fact that we’re different is a different synergy for the Metroplex. It makes us more interesting, I think, and maybe one of the reasons that people are attracted and coming to North Texas. We’re a metropolitan area pushing 8 million, and growing. So yeah, sure, it’s a happening place.
So everybody out there on Commercial Construction Coffee Talk, if you got a project and you’re looking for a little more flare, you know, to have the historical aspect and then put that contemporary look at it, you know, it could be commercial, it could be a government municipality, whatever. Barton’s team, he’s got offices all over the country. Barton, if anybody wanted to reach out to you or maybe they were building a church too, and they wanted to hear how that whole concept went with the project, how would they reach out to you? The best way to get me is by email. I love reading emails. I read them in the morning when I get here and in the evening when I go home. But if you reach out to B Drake at HED. design, we’ve got a little different unique spin on our design and I’d be happy to talk to you about any project. If you need something that I don’t have expertise in, I have access to expertise all over the country and that’s one of our selling features I love about being with H, which I didn’t have before. If you need someone that’s an expert in housing, I can have them here in half a day. That’s the really cool thing about construction, because, you know, I deal with the Real Retail Contractors Association and I do their newsletter and their membership directory. He’s coming up on my next issue and I’ve been doing it forever. They’ve got contractors all over and they might get a job up in the Northeast, but that brand is expanding out into California. He’s not really out there, he’ll reach out to one of the other guys, “Hey, will you do this for me?” There’s no rivalry there, they’re all in together, and it’s kind of like a family gig. You want to keep it within the family. I love being able to provide that; it excites me to no end, especially now that I’ve kind of seen it all and done it all. I’ve done a little bit of everything, but now I’ve got guys that are like surgeons. If you want something in housing or it’s mission critical or higher education or manufacturing, I can find an expert for you and get you what you need. We have talent all over the country, I love to bring it together. We’re about 50 people here in the Dallas office. We’ve got talent here too, but the nice thing is I can really fine-tune the services I can offer to clients now, which is a great way for me to call the fourth quarter of my career. I’m really having fun and upping the game and providing services I couldn’t do before. It’s really exciting for me.
So, everybody out there, Commercial Construction Coffee Talk, B Drake HD design, you know you can email him and he’ll get back to you. If anyone wants to reach me, you can get me at David C at ccrm mag.com. Listen, the publicist sent me a note, that’s how Barton got on here. I didn’t know who he was. If you want to send me something, we post content all day long. Don’t judge it, send me something. It could be a case study, a charity golf tournament you’re doing, a new project, a new personnel announcement. Send all that stuff, we post it all day long, we’re always looking for that stuff. And I always say, if you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you can’t win. If you don’t send me something, I can’t look at it. That’s the way it is. His publicist sent me something and then we had the conversation and here he is today telling his story. Let us be the judge and, you know, it’s very tough getting in the magazine. I’ll be upfront, we’re very… I let my editor decide those things. But bottom line is, we’ve got all other social media channels and we post everything. Our turnaround time: you send it to us, we send the live link, you share it, it’s good for SEO, you find it on Google, it’s a win-win. So, the more stuff that you send to me, and it doesn’t have to be architecture. One of the things I found out over the last three years of the shutdown is that there’s more to life than just work. So we post, you know, the majority of the stuff to do with construction, AEC content, but we also put other stuff on there. How to buy the right cell phone, what’s the best insurance to do. I even have content on there about how to have hair extensions. Half my circulation is female, and there might be some guys out there that want to wear hair extensions these days, I don’t know. But I put that stuff up there to give it a little flare. So, send it to me, we do something with it.
As we finish up here, if there was one positive thought or phrase that you’d like to leave our listeners with, as we finish up 2023 and we roll into 2024 in about a month, what would it be? Well, from my life experience, and not only professionally but even maybe personally, I think I would say embrace teamwork. Embrace teamwork because it makes life much more enjoyable and it’s fulfilling. You can get the best expertise. You just can’t know it all, you can’t be an expert in everything. So embrace teamwork, compose the right team and you’ll have a great time doing projects and probably anything else you do in life. There’s no I in team. Exactly right, no I in team. So I’m all about teamwork and that’s one of my goals. This year, you know, I just hired a person to do a lot of our content posting on the web, that took that off my plate, and launched my digital agency. I want to hire a salesperson and an event person for my magazine so it can kind of keep that momentum. I can take the 40,000-foot macro view and spend my time on my digital agency. But you just can’t do it all. If you want to scale your business, you got to hire people and you got to find the right ones too. Right, and remember, those construction consultants, they can help you hire too.
Awesome quote, take that to the bank. Embrace teamwork. Two things before we leave, number one, we want you to be safe on that construction site. Because we want you to get home, see your kids, your wife, your dogs, and have a nice meal, catch some Z’s and be able to do it the next day. And number two, listen, I know it’s not hot, you know, old man winter is coming around, but you still have to stay hydrated. Bottom line is, drink lots of liquid. I don’t care if you’re on the golf course, on a project, cross field hot, drink whatever. You got to stay hydrated because when you get dehydrated, you get headaches, that’s when mistakes happen, that’s when you get hurt. So drink lots of liquid, stay liquefied all day long. You’ll feel better, you’ll sleep better at night, and you’ll get it done, as they say.
So Barton, play… Oh, lastly, hit the like button too, alright? Because we want the algorithms to find Barton’s story here because I think it was very interesting. You know, we got the horns going and all that. Yes indeed, thank you for that, I do appreciate it. You know, even though I’m AO Denver P, you know, go horns. So with that said, Barton, say goodbye from Big D down there to our listeners out there. Have a wonderful week, everyone, a blessed week, and I’ll look forward to hearing from anyone that needs any help from me in the Dallas area or anywhere in the country for that matter. Don’t be shy. And listen, everybody, listen, you got the holidays coming up. You got Hanukkah, you got Christmas, and the New Year’s, boom, you got a month, boom, we’re going to go into 2024. 2023 has been a wild ride, I still have my seat belt on. I think 2024 is going to be a little wild, so I think I’m going to tighten up a little, but I’m very positive. It’s going to be great, and you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches. It might get worse before it gets better, but at least you’re still in the game. So, Barton, I look forward when I get down there, I look forward to meeting you in person and maybe we’ll go take a look at that project that you’re doing. I’m going to sign off from Sugar Hill, which is about 25 miles north of downtown Atlanta, just below the Buford Dam on Lake Lanier. Everybody, have a great holiday and we’ll see you all next time on another episode of Commercial Construction Coffee Talk. Barton, thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and look forward to seeing you in person. Alright, absolutely, I enjoyed it as well. David, thank you. Alright, everybody, have a great rest of the week, we’ll see you next time.
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