by Marty Cook
Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
The new office is bare bones with just a scattering of furniture, lots of empty desk space and plain walls, but VCC has set down roots in northwest Arkansas.
The general contracting firm, based in Little Rock, generated $525 million in revenue in 2012 — the second-best in the state behind Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway — and hopes a physical expansion into northwest Arkansas helps add jobs to the hopper. VCC opened up an office on North College Avenue in Fayetteville in September and currently has a two-person staff led by project manager Justin Couch.
Couch, a University of Arkansas graduate, has lived in Fayetteville the past two-plus years and thinks the firm will benefit from the expansion. VCC is currently working on the $27 million renovation of Ozark Hall and is set to begin work in January on the Student-Athlete Success Center, a job expected to be between $18 million and $23 million.
“We just felt this is a unique kind of area,” said Couch, 37. “Arkansas has been a good market for us. In northwest Arkansas, the sky is the limit, honestly.”
The firm has branch offices spread throughout the country in such places as Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix and Irvine, Calif. Couch said establishing a base of operations in northwest Arkansas has several benefits.
The first, clearly, is having an office in a community the company hopes and expects will have a bounty of work projects, especially with the University of Arkansas as shown by its two current projects either in construction or in pre-construction phase. The second benefit is the ability of the northwest Arkansas office to oversee projects in eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri and even Kansas City, Couch said.
Previously, the Dallas office supervised projects in Oklahoma, but the Fayetteville branch can now alleviate strain by taking over projects that come up in Tulsa, for example.
“It’s important for us to be up here,” Couch said. “Northwest Arkansas is a strategic location for us on multiple fronts.”
It’s northwest Arkansas itself that is the No. 1 attraction. VCC has rebounded after a shaky economy caused a three-year dip in business that bottomed out in 2010, when the company had $400 million in revenue. That was a far cry from the high of $710 million in 2007.
Even during the tough economic times, Couch said, northwest Arkansas was still a solid construction bet. Now that times appear to be better — revenue was $450 million in 2011 and the company saw a $75 million increase last year — Couch thinks northwest Arkansas will be the place to be.
“I really think northwest Arkansas, and Arkansas for that matter, haven’t been affected in the construction business as much as the rest of the country, but that’s not to say 2008-10 wasn’t terrible,” Couch said. “We feel the northwest Arkansas area is really going to explode in years to come, and we want to be a part of it.”
Couch said the best way to be a part of something is to be in it. The construction business, much like any other business, relies a lot on personal connections and old-fashioned hard work, he said.
“We’ve got some irons in the fire,” Couch said. “This is a long-term commitment.
“You have to be out there networking with people. It’s a lot easier to do it when you are in the community.”
Couch said the addition of the Fayetteville office will allow the firm to be more aggressive in the projects it pursues. Couch said a manager can generally handle two or three projects a year if the projects are staggered so that each is in different phases.
As the firm’s footprint in the area grows, Couch said, VCC’s staffing will as well. Couch said VCC plans to be methodical in adding staff as the workload demands it.
“Within a year, we’d like to have three or four [managers],” Couch said. “Within three years, we’d like to have five or six. There’s so much that goes into deciding which projects we’re going to actively pursue. It’s the nature of having two offices in Arkansas that we’re going to be more aggressive.”
VCC Northwest Arkansas Projects
|Athletic Academic & Dining Facility,|
|University of Arkansas Ozark Hall,|
|J.C. Penney Shops Rollout,|
|UAMS Northwest Campus,|
|Washington County Courthouse Parking Deck,|
|The Chancellor Hotel,|
|J.C. Penney Shops Rollout,|
|Fort Smith Pavilion,|
|The Sheraton Inn,|
|Woodland Hills Mall,|
|J.C. Penney Joe Fresh Rollout,|
|Eastland Retaining Wall,|