Posted 4/28/2014 12:00 am
Updated 3 months ago
Greg Williams, the new CEO of Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway, thinks the construction industry is ready to grow.
"The pent-up demand is there and it’s starting to come out," said Williams, who has been with the company since 1991 and became its CEO on Jan. 1. He succeeded Bill Hannah, who moved to chairman of the board.
“We definitely see opportunities to grow geographically in some of the adjoining states,” Williams told Arkansas Business last week.
Founded in 1949, the commercial contractor’s plan for growth also includes expanding its lines of services and boosting its workforce of approximately 850 employees.
In 2013, Nabholz’s revenue was $389 million, down 27.6 percent from the previous year. It is No. 2 on Arkansas Business’ list of largest commercial contractors ranked by revenue.
Williams said the reason for the decline in revenue was a slowing in health care sector construction. He also said several of the larger projects Nabholz was working on between 2010 and 2012 ended.
Still, Williams said he doesn’t set a revenue target, focusing instead on the bottom line and customer satisfaction.
“We have maintained profitability during the economic downturn,” Williams said. “A lot of peers have not been able to do that. So we consider that a big victory.”
Nabholz currently is handling the largest construction project in Arkansas, the $50.7 million CARTI Campus in west Little Rock. CARTI was one of 14 Nabholz projects on Arkansas Business’ list of the largest construction projects in the state that was published in December.
Plans for Growth
Williams said one of the areas he will target is expanding Nabholz’s workforce.
He said he thinks there will be a shortage of construction workers for positions such as project managers, superintendents and craftsmen in the upcoming years.
“We think those are going to be really tough areas to find all the people that we need,” he said.
He said younger people aren’t “drawn to this industry in great numbers.” Williams said he thinks the millennials would prefer a more controlled environment where they work indoors and have limited travel.
Markets outside of Arkansas also will be a target for growth under Williams’ leadership.
“We definitely see opportunities to grow geographically in some of the adjoining states,” Williams said.
In addition to Arkansas, Nabholz primarily is working in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, eastern Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
Williams said he also hopes to widen the services that Nabholz offers. In 2013, Nabholz added an environmental division, which assesses whether there is hazardous material that needs to be abated at a project.
“We have always wanted to provide our client as complete a set of services as we could so they could look to Nabholz to have their project taken care of from A to Z,” he said.
The company also is going after more road projects. Williams said Nabholz has done some road work in the past, such as building streets in a new subdivision, but now wants to do more. It is currently working on a $23.3 million widening project in Benton County. That project is expected to be finished in September 2015.
From CFO to CEO
In the early 1990s, Williams had been a public accountant and done some audit and tax work for construction companies. When a friend told him about an open controller position at Nabholz, Williams jumped at it. He was hired in 1991.
“I really was impressed with both the company and its people,” Williams said.
He was promoted to chief financial officer in the late 1990s and was named Arkansas Business’ Large Private Company CFO of the Year in 2009.
When it was time for Bill Hannah to step down as CEO at the end of 2013, a position he had held since 2002, Nabholz’s board picked Williams.
“There is no one more deserving or more capable than Greg to fill this role,” Hannah said in a posting on the company’s website. “He has been a key member of our management team for 22 years and has an in-depth understanding of all facets of our company and industry.
“I hope you will … support Greg as he begins his new role and a new era for Nabholz,” Hannah wrote.