Celebrating Our Legacy & Focusing on the Future

As Powers & Sons celebrates its 55th year in business, COO & President Claude Powers shares thoughts about the changes he has experienced in general contracting and construction management—and what he expects in the future.

“We have reached 55 years in a competitive industry because we stand on the shoulders of our founder and early leaders. We continue to evolve and adapt to new opportunities as we consider our most productive areas of service,” Powers says.

Claude Powers is COO & President of Powers & Sons Construction, a position he has held for nearly 20 years. The Purdue University graduate is active in the industry. He is working to develop the next generation of construction talent in Northwest Indiana through apprenticeship programs.

Continued Trends
Demand for multi-family housing throughout the region is strong as the need for affordable apartments continues to grow.

  • As of 2021, Powers & Sons has built about 2,600 housing units across Indiana and Illinois. The company will continue its legacy of producing quality multi-family housing to meet community needs.
  • In addition to housing, Powers sees continued growth in the life science and healthcare market as well as opportunities for hotels and entertainment venues like casinos.

New & Emerging Trends
Powers points to emerging trends he expects will become even more important in the next five to ten years.

  • Some corporate owners are moving toward invited bids from prequalified pools of preferred contractors. Contractors who are prequalified can reduce variability in quality and outcomes. These relationships facilitate a more collaborative environment, resulting in partnerships that are a win-win for both parties.
  • Integration of lean business principles with construction best practices will continue to grow. Lean approaches require constant analysis, evaluation, and implementation on the part of contractors for best-in-class construction production and delivery. Finding more ways to apply lean approaches is a focus area for the firm.
  • As construction technologies and methodologies evolve, skills training for team members to update and gain new skills is critical for growth. Taking advantage of training opportunities is a priority across all levels of the company.

Focus on Customer Care & Service is Unchanged
Despite an ever-evolving industry, Powers says one thing remains the same. “We want to be the firm of choice for both existing and new clients, so our focus on building strong relationships is unchanged. We have always taken the time to understand client needs and will continue to remain client-focused. We will deliver quality projects that enable clients to achieve their goals because this is what makes future opportunities possible,” he notes.

Powers points to a recently awarded project as one example. “We were chosen over another firm who submitted a lower bid based on our reputation and past performance.”

What Would the Company’s Founder Think of the Industry Today? 
While Powers says his father and company founder would not have imagined some of the changes that have taken place in recent decades, one thing is certain.

Powers & Sons’ founder Mamon Powers headed north by train during the Great Migration. He settled in Gary Indiana, where he and wife Leolean raised four sons. He started Powers & Sons Construction as home builder in 1967. By 1979, he had built his last home and diversified the business to focus on commercial projects.

“He would understand that adapting to changing markets, continued versatility, and diversification is essential for continued success and survival,” Powers says.

  • Contractor responsibilities to meet rigorous safety, environmental, and other requirements have expanded. Competence in areas like infection control when working in hospitals is expected. Safety training and certifications for superintendents are more stringent than in the firm’s early years.
  • The firm’s founder also might not have imagined the technology changes that have streamlined processes and enabled the team to be productive working from home, in the field, and the office with fewer people. Real-time virtual communication with instant access to construction visuals and documents was not something he and other contractors probably envisioned.

When Powers looks ahead to the future of the company and the industry, he is optimistic.

“As we continue to hire staff who more technologically adept, they will help us continue to grow and take our operations to the next level. I think our founder would be excited by the possibilities.”

Reflecting the Community: U.S. Bank Chinatown Square

Powers & Sons has relationships with a number of banks and financial service firms. Over the past decade, we have partnered with U.S. Bank and their representatives at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to deliver about one dozen new construction and major renovation projects.

Our most recently completed U.S. Bank project is located in Chinatown Square. More than one third of Chicago’s Chinese population lives and works in and around this cultural quarter.

Project Manager Rob Kennedy (left) and Superintendent Kevin Sparks were the primary leads for the Powers & Sons project.

Unlike other metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and New York, residents of Chicago’s Chinatown often remain in the area for two, three, or more generations.

The neighborhood has drawn immigrants from China and other parts of Asia for over 100 years. Census data from 2020 show Asian-Americans comprise about seven percent of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents.

Powers & Sons was excited to modernize this busy, high-volume bank with renovations that represent the heritage of the community. Signage, graphics, and artwork on the interior and exterior reflect the Mandarin language and Asian culture.

“It was important to U.S. Bank and their design team for the bank to fit the culture of their customers and the identity of the local neighborhood,” explains Project Manager Rob Kennedy.

Work on the two-story, 3,175 SF bank was completed over about four months. During construction, safety signage in and around the bank was posted in both Mandarin and English.

Kennedy says the renovations were completed in three phases because the bank remained open during the project period. “We met with the owner’s team weekly to sequence our work around their operations and business hours,” he adds.

Superintendent Kevin Sparks oversaw installation of new MEP and HVAC systems and new flooring, wall panels, ceilings, LED fixtures, sliding and hinged glass doors, and updated finishes. Kennedy and Sparks coordinated IT and security work with the bank’s direct subcontractors.

The renovated facility is now positioned to serve Chinatown Square and local residents for years to come.

Governor Park: Affordable Housing Development Nears Completion

Powers & Sons is nearing completion of Governor Park, a new three-story, 71,880 SF apartment community in southern Indiana. Located in Ellettsville, the housing is designated for low-income seniors and adults with special needs.

Apartments include 70 one-bedroom, one-bath units at 675 SF each and 20 two-bedroom, two-bath units at 857 SF each. Some units are ADA compliant, with others adaptable for residents with mobility challenges.

Two wings connect to a central common with fitness center, community room, laundry, and business/computer center. Surface parking accommodates 100 vehicles.

Although not a LEED project, the development utilizes energy-efficient appliances and meets other green building requirements, including above-average insulation in the roof and walls.

Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis (top), Superintendent Tom Kimmel (bottom left), and Project Engineer Tyler Moffat (bottom right) have been integral to the project’s success.

COVID-Related Delays and Price Increases
Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis says preconstruction planning focused on value engineering to keep the project within budget.

“The original budget and design, completed before COVID caused price increases and supply chain challenges, called for exterior balconies and a cost-prohibitive central heating and cooling system. By recommending alternatives and design modifications, we reduced costs substantially and brought the project within budget,” Lewis notes.

While there were significant material delays, the Powers team worked around them.

“Lumber availability was a serious challenge with a delay of about 45 days. Delivery of roofing material from the manufacturer was also delayed. When framing was complete, we installed a temporary roof to shield the interior from water infiltration, which kept work moving until permanent roofing materials were available,” says Lewis.

Creative Solutions Kept the Project on Track
Other creative solutions were implemented to make progress.

“We normally build apartment buildings one floor at a time in sequence. Because of material shortages, we took a different approach. In analyzing the structural design, a central firewall provided a natural demarcation point. To avoid having to shut the job down until supplies arrived, we proposed working in halves. The owner approved, so we built the right side first then the left side. This enabled us do the rough-ins sooner and kept us from losing more time.”

Site work included removal of existing infrastructure on the property, which was a former mobile home park. An underground storm water detention system to collect run-off and release it slowly was installed.

Although not a requirement, local Monroe County subcontractors were utilized when possible. Lewis says developing smaller scopes of work for local firms whose companies are based in Southern Indiana also kept costs down. Powers & Sons has managed over 30 subcontractors, not including material suppliers, for the project.

Powers & Sons Among “Best Places to Work in Indiana” for 2022

For the second consecutive year, Powers & Sons Construction Indianapolis was recognized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as one of 125 Hoosier businesses named to its annual “Best Places to Work in Indiana” list for 2022. The company was also recognized by the chamber on its 2021 list. Businesses are selected based on feedback collected from employee surveys and reports compiled by the Workforce Research Group.

From golf outings to chili cook-offs, office game days, recognitions of birthdays and service anniversaries, departmental dinners at local restaurants, and free snacks and drinks in the company kitchen, Powers & Sons employees say they value the company’s culture.

According to Indiana Chamber Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brinegar, this effort not only recognizes outstanding employers around the state but it encourages other companies to realize the importance of evaluating their own workplaces.

“It is clear that a positive work environment that makes employees more engaged in their jobs and the company, which is what every employer wants and can greatly aid in employee retention, is something on the minds of many businesses right now.”

Honorees are divided into four groups: small, medium, large, and major companies. Powers & Sons is among 53 companies listed with the small business group, which is the largest of the four categories.

Representatives from the companies recognized in 2022 are invited to an awards event that will be held in Indianapolis on May 12.

Indianapolis Team Participates in Citizens Energy Service Project

Powers & Sons Indianapolis once again joined Citizens Energy Group (CEG) as a partner company in their annual Sharing the Dream program to benefit Indy Parks & Recreation.

This year’s effort, led by Senior Project Manager Keith Shanklin and Project Manager Rob Pinney, included Curtis Alexander, Jeff Davis, Brad Holland, Brent Klemme, and Matt Robinson.

Keith Shanklin has served as a senior project manager at Powers & Sons since 2016.

Shanklin said Powers & Sons donated materials and labor to improve Watkins Park Community Center, an inner-city facility located at 2360 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street in Indianapolis. The park’s family center was originally built in 1939. Over the years, it has hosted weddings, family reunions, civic meetings, and other gatherings.

“The goal was to get this community resource back to its usable and functional state,” Shanklin explains. “Our task focused on removing the existing ceiling and installing a modern new grid system with tiles throughout.” Matt Robinson, project engineer, notes conditions were poor. “Our team installed over 65 boxes of ceiling tiles. This minor improvement made a big difference.”

Shanklin also played a key role in a Sharing the Dream project for the city’s Frederick Douglass Park Centennial Celebration in 2021.

The 43-acre park opened in 1921 to serve the Martindale neighborhood’s African American community. In 1926, its historic golf course opened as the nation’s only course named for an African American. Powers & Sons renovated and updated the golf course club house, with the team installing new ceilings, lighting, and carpets and adding fresh paint throughout.

Many nonprofit programs that serve inner-city residents continue to struggle with obtaining the resources they need to serve local adults and youth. Shanklin says Indy Parks & Recreation facilities are vital for members of the minority community, especially children. “Kids need safe spaces where they can spend time outdoors and participate in athletic, educational, and other programs.”

Supporting programs that serve local youth is a core Powers & Sons value that has long been a focus for charitable and service activities.

2021 Holiday Message: From the CEO’s Desk

Mamon Powers, Jr.
CEO & Chairman Mamon Powers, Jr. is a noted Midwestern business and civic leader.

As a new year dawns, it is a good time to reflect on what we achieved in 2021.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and its variants, supply chain delays, rising prices, and related distractions, Powers & Sons Construction is looking ahead to a bright 2022.

Preconstruction planning for 2022-23 is well underway, with ground broken and work started on a number of exciting projects.

In the spirit of the season, Powers & Sons Indianapolis is adopting a family from the Edna Martin Christian Center. The mother is a survivor of a workplace shooting that happened earlier this year. The Indy office is also making charitable contributions to One Simple Wish, a nonprofit organization that serves children in the foster care system impacted by abuse, neglect, and trauma.

Powers & Sons Northwest Indiana and Chicago participated in a 20th Ward Holiday Giveaway Event in which grocery gift cards worth $50 and fresh produce were distributed to local residents. Powers & Sons is one of several businesses and nonprofit organizations, including Fresh Start Foods in Chicago, who joined forces to help provide food for neighbors on the south side of the city.

We wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2022. Let us celebrate our blessings, cherish our friends and loved ones, and take care of each other.

Powers named a 2021 Notable Black Leader & Executive

This week, Vice President Kelly Powers was named to Crain’s Chicago Business 2021 Notable Black Leaders & Executives list. Powers leads multimillion-dollar new business initiatives and shares key management responsibilities for general contracting and construction operations in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Over 70 individuals representing professions including banking, education, and real estate were recognized.

The honorees work tirelessly to lift their communities. They lead initiatives and programs that improve best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent. They boost the next generation through service focused on helping youth succeed.

With broad experience, Kelly Powers co-leads the Lakeside Alliance’s Leadership Community & Citizenship Work Groups which ensures the JV brings transformative, sustainable change to Chicago and the industry.

In this role, her responsibilities include maximizing equitable and inclusive contracting opportunities for small businesses. She strengthens the apprenticeship pipeline through partnerships with groups like Chicago Women in Trades.

Active in community, business, and civic circles, Kelly Powers is a 2021 graduate of Leadership Greater Chicago’s Class of LGC Fellows. She is a trustee for the Chicago Architecture Center and a board member for the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Find the full 2021 Notable Black Leaders & Executives list at chicagobusiness.com.

 

Celebrating Success: Baron Waller & Culver’s Restaurants

Powers & Sons had a great 2021 serving client Baron Waller. To date, we have built four Chicago Culver’s restaurants for Waller with the most recent being Culver’s Pullman Park and Culver’s Ravenswood. Previous projects include Culver’s Joliet and Culver’s Bronzeville.

The Pullman Park grand opening was well attended. Pictured from left: Owner Baron Waller, Project Manager Robert Kennedy, Culver’s CEO Rick Silva, COO & President Claude Powers, and Vice President Kelly Powers Baria.

Culver’s Pullman
Located near the Pullman National Monument, Waller’s 4,300 SF restaurant on South Doty Avenue has created 70 jobs. With outdoor patio seating, inside seats for over 120 diners, and drive-through ordering, it is the first new casual sit-down restaurant in Pullman in 30 years.

It was funded in part by a grant from the City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, and New Markets Tax Credit equity.

The investment brings much-needed food and beverage options to the area, which has seen investment by new businesses including an Amazon fulfillment center, Whole Food Midwest Distribution Center, and other retail shops and businesses.

Culver’s Founder Craig Culver (center) was joined by Owner Baron Waller (far right) and others to recognize the opening of Waller’s Ravenswood restaurant.

Culver’s Ravenswood
Waller’s new 100-seat restaurant on West Montrose features the brand’s first pedestrian friendly design. Located near a CTA Brown Line stop, the restaurant has a walk-up ordering and take-out window with inside seating for 100. It employs about 50 people.

With six restaurants, Waller is the franchise’s largest minority owner. Chicago’s ABC 7 news covered the opening, which was attended by civic leaders. Waller’s two sons are among the Ravenswood employees, making it a true family-owned business success story.

 

 

New & Improved K-12 Facilities in Lawrence Township

Since 2019, Senior Project Manager & Project Executive Dustin Thalmann has led five Powers & Sons CMc projects for the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Lawrence Township.

Powers & Sons is a leader in delivering large public Construction Manager as constructor (CMc) projects, including those for K-12 and higher education clients.

This year, we partnered with MSD Lawrence Township for an improvement program at several properties:

  1. Sunnyside Elementary School
  2. Winding Ridge Elementary School
  3. Winding Ridge Early Learning Center
  4. Amy Beverland Early Learning Center
  5. Mary Castle Early Learning Center

Currently, Thalmann is putting finishing touches on the new construction of a 42,500 SF transportation building to open in early 2022.

Strategies for Success
Planning and executing detailed construction schedules with multiple phases and good communication are among Powers & Sons’ keys to success, Thalmann reports.

“In Lawrence Township, each of the schools was open and occupied, so temporary walls, fencing, and other barriers isolated work areas. The district’s COVID-related protocols were followed. Educators and students were able to go about their daily routines outside construction zones,” he explains.

 

Team Effort is Required
A collaborative, cohesive management team with shared goals and objectives is the primary goal.

“Because we assign PMs, PEs, and site superintendents to proactively identify issues during daily walk-throughs, we can document, photograph, track, and resolve above- and below-ceiling concerns throughout the process. Any issues are immediately communicated to subcontractors and tracked to ensure concerns are resolved. When we walk a site for the final time with architects, city inspectors, fire marshals, and owners we want a zero-item punch list,” Thalmann adds.

Thalmann credits a strong team effort from Project Manager Emily Lucas, Superintendents Don Smith, Shawn Hernson, Brent Klemme, and Brad Holland, and Project Engineers Kayden Rivers, Jose Valdez, and Alivia Naus for making the Lawrence projects successful.

Estimating and pre-construction planning will begin in the first quarter of 2022 for a new Lawrence Township middle school improvement program. It includes facility upgrades and improvements to be completed at three local schools in 2023.

 

Support for Local Apprenticeship and Skills Training Programs

National Apprenticeship Week is a great time to consider how your industry can support local workforce development initiatives. Apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and skills-based certification programs are tools that enable labor, education, business, and civic leaders to join forces in their efforts to hire qualified workers and strengthen local economies.

COO & President Claude Powers is at the forefront of a Lake County initiative that will make accurate, comprehensive information about post-secondary career resources in Northwest Indiana.

A member of the Gary Chamber of Commerce (GCC) Education Committee, Powers and a group of local leaders have launched a Schools2Careers program with two initial areas of focus:

  1. Building a web-based clearinghouse with links to existing regional training programs and resources.
  2. Developing supplemental after-school programs for K-12 youth.

"Today's career paths are less linear. A college degree is no longer necessarily a dividing line or barrier for job applicants who seek meaningful careers, especially in construction. Often, it is a matter of guiding students and job seekers to the resources for learning new skills and knowledge, so we support approaches that combine education with hands-on work experience," Powers reports.

Pathways for Greater Opportunity
Apprenticeships can serve as the first step in a career journey that includes continued growth and advancement. Despite the availability of good jobs and wages with paid employment, OTJ training, and classroom instruction, less than one in ten apprentices are women. Groups like Chicago Women in Trades, the California-based Tradeswomen Inc., and the U.S. Department of Labor through its WANTO grant are helping to increase construction opportunities for women.

Some of the most in-demand construction jobs include construction project managers, with a projected growth rate of 11 percent growth through 2030. Others include first-line supervisors of construction trades workers, electricians, architectural and engineering managers, plumbers, carpenters, drywallers, and painters.

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh published a video explaining the critical impact registered apprenticeships make in America. They are available in hundreds of occupations that touch nearly every major economic sector and aspect of daily life.

Building a Strong Local Talent Pipeline
Powers says the GCC committee's work strengthens the Lake County economy by connecting employers with skilled job seekers who are trained to meet 21st century needs.

Programs available through the Construction Advancement Foundation and We Build Northwest Indiana are examples of what he expects to be links to 25 independent partners who share the same workforce development objectives.

  • The GCC website, slated to launch in the first half of 2022, will connect users with direct links to information about programs, services, resources, and benefits.
  • It will serve as a go-to platform for guidance counselors, educators, parents, high school students, young adults, career-changers, and those who have experienced challenges like job loss, homelessness, or incarceration.

Learn how you can support Northwest Indiana apprenticeships and the GCC Education Committee by emailing gccschoolstocareers@gmail.com or calling the Gary Chamber of Commerce at 219.885.7407.