Inspiring True Stories Rooted in History

Now that a new year is upon us, everyone at Powers & Sons Construction looks forward to meeting new challenges with spirits of innovation and excellence.

These recommendations are provided by CEO & Chairman Mamon Powers, Jr.

The winter months are some of my favorite times of the year to enjoy interesting books, especially those based on the true stories of men and women who overcame unimaginable obstacles and challenges along the path to success.

Author Michael Crichton has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

Here are a few stories rooted in both fact and history that have inspired me. I hope you find inspiration in them, too.

This is the compelling story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose airplane crashed in 1972. My wife read the book first. Later, I heard a survivor of the crash speak in person and was inspired to read the book myself. I marvel at the will human beings have to survive even in the harshest of conditions. These survivors took each negative circumstance and turned it into a positive.


Written by Chicago native Nathan Thompson, this book fills an important gap in Black history. It is a remarkable testament to the inventive, entrepreneurial spirit of African Americans at a time when all other doors to economic prosperity were closed to them. Without Thompson’s research, most people would never have known today’s modern lottery system was invented and perfected by an African American.

This is the true story of eight young Black college students who would go on to play pivotal and leading roles in America’s civil rights movement, including the 1959-62 Nashville Student Movement. They protested the segregation they saw at Nashville’s lunch counters. They led similar protests in cities like Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. Their courage and vision changed history. It demonstrated that well-organized, nonviolent protest can change the course of a nation.

These books document the life stories of two women who overcame astonishing odds to achieve their dreams of success. The first is about Sarah Breedlove, a self-made entrepreneur who would become known as Madam C.J. Walker. She built a business empire centered on cosmetics and beauty products for African Americans. Parallel to Walker’s story is that of Annie Turnbo Malone, another pioneer who is believed to be one of the first Black female millionaires in America. Rumor has it that Walker stole one of Turnbo’s formulas while she was a Turnbo employee. While that may or may not be true, what I find inspirational about their stories is that both women were innovators and entrepreneurs who did not follow the “normal” societal and business rules of their era. They inspired countless other women (and men) to pursue their dreams. Walker and Turnbo both devoted their later years to philanthropy and political and social activism, causes that I deeply admire.

C.J. Walker and Annie Turnbo were, in my opinion, precursors to Samuel Fuller, founder of the Fuller Products Company. Fuller also utilized a business model that began by selling products door-to-door and created a wildly successful company. Through the 1950s, Fuller employed a sales force of 5,000 “Fullerites” with sales averaging $18 million a year. With tenacity, an innovative spirit, strong work ethic, and penchant for eschewing many of the prevalent social and political views of the era, Fuller was the first African American inducted into the National Association of Manufacturers. He, too, inspired future generations of successful entrepreneurs. They included John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, and George E. Johnson, founder of Johnson Products which manufactured products Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen and was exclusive sponsor of the Soul Train television program in the 1970s. I found this book inspiring because Fuller believed that nothing could stop the right product or the right idea whose time had come.

Video Commemorates 55th Anniversary

In 2022, Powers & Sons Construction celebrates 55 years in business. We are grateful for the successes we have experienced and the growth we have achieved.

To document some of our key accomplishments over the years, we created a short video to help tell the Powers & Sons story. It features team members sharing thoughts about how much we have achieved since the company was founded in 1967.

As we prepare for the next 55 years in business, Powers & Sons Construction would like to thank the clients, subcontractors, business partners, and supporters who have contributed to our longevity in the general contracting and construction industry.

We look forward to new challenges and new opportunities for building strong communities and better tomorrows today!

Click the graphic below to watch our video and learn more about our story.

 

 

VE and Procurement Strategies Save Millions and Keep Work Moving

Powers & Sons Indianapolis is leading a massive CMc project to build a new 207,000 SF middle school in Nora that will serve Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Washington Township sixth through eighth graders.

The $72 million new Northview Middle School replaces an aging existing facility co-located on the North Central High School campus. That school will remain open until the new school is completed in 2024.

The Construction Manager as constructor (CMc) project will provide a modern, secure facility for teaching and learning. It will feature event venues with separate entrances and green space with heritage trees and walking trails.

Project Executive Les Carroll says the team is making steady progress.

“Procurement has been a focus. Buying essential materials like concrete, cement, steel, lumber, insulation, drywall, and HVAC equipment since the pandemic requires long-lead strategies, constant monitoring of supply chains and deliveries, and adjusting sequencing when needed.”

Bidding & Value Engineering Strategy
Chris Kerns, director of estimating, led the preconstruction effort to make value-based decisions. “We began issuing bid packages a year after the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The market was volatile, and costs began to rise so the team focused on outreach,” says Kerns.

Powers & Sons will self perform one of the general trades packages. In total, about 60 firms will participate in the general trades work.

Community engagement partners included Winston Terrell Group and Nubian Construction, who helped the project team with a virtual outreach session, phone calls, and talking with dozens of subs in all the trades.

Nearly 140 bids on 27 bid packages were received, averaging five bids per category, which Kerns notes is nearly unheard of in a post-pandemic construction world Many first-tier subcontractors have one or more second-tier subs working for them.

When all scopes were purchased, Kerns says the final GMP was millions below what had been allocated. “The owner was able to shift those funds to mitigate cost over-runs and escalations that were happening as conditions grew more unstable.”

Little did the team know how volatile the market would become. The same school today would cost over $85 million.

Design Approach
Led by Schmidt Associates, the project includes four design firms. Key design factors included flexible spaces, dedicated collaboration spaces for teachers and for students, intentional safety zones with planned entry points, technology infrastructure, and lots of natural light.

The new middle school will feature a music suite with band, orchestra, and choir support spaces and practice rooms adjacent to a performance platform located in the cafetorium.
  • Efficient parking design separates bus and passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicles have a dedicated student pick-up and drop-off spot.
  • The building is organized into zones that provide clear definition and control between academic spaces and event/community spaces.
  • A main public corridor connects interior spaces, which are organized along a path that can be locked down for security.
  • Teams of students will learn in grade-specific pods. Teams within the pods will share school and building resources.
  • Grade 8 students will be housed in a two-story wing on the east side of the school with students in other grades in a single-story wing on the south side of the building. Project Lead the Way will have classrooms near the pods.
  • A high-tech media center with library and maker spaces is at the heart of the building.
  • With retractable seating for 500 and special acoustical treatments throughout, the cafetorium has a separate event entrance and corridor.
  • On the opposite side of the school, the main gymnasium can accommodate up to 500 spectators and includes full-size basketball and volleyball courts. The auxiliary gym will have similar courts with seating for 400.
  • Throughout the building, the decor will celebrate the neighborhood and reflect a palette that includes the school brand and colors.

Project at a Glance

The Powers & Sons team includes Project Executive Les Carroll, Project Manager Casey Parsons, Senior Project Engineer Kayden Rivers, and Project Engineer Seth Mickle.
  • Practicing equitable procurement and including a diverse workforce is a priority for this CMc project. The XBE spend to date is $13 million or 27 percent of subcontracted work.
  • MEP systems are Energy Star Certified, with indoor air quality standards and low water usage key design considerations. Energy-efficient LED lighting will be installed inside and out.
  • HVAC features include single- and multi-zoned VAV systems, vertical unit ventilators, air-cooled chillers, and boilers.
  • Approved through a 2020 Washington Township tax referendum, the Northview Middle School project is part of a larger $418 million initiative to fund district-wide capital improvements and increasing operations costs.

Summer Interns: Maliq Cherry and Zahra Malik

Powers & Sons has had some great student interns over the years. Internships are a win-win: they give us extra hands during busy summer months and provide students with real-world experience. When the first year goes well, we invite them to come back. Here are two of their stories.

Chicago Office:
Maliq Cherry, Ball State University

Maliq Cherry is an architectural design major completing his second Powers & Sons internship. Interested in a career that positions him to be the change he wants to see in the world, Cherry is passionate about repurposing abandoned properties and improving quality of life for inner-city residents.

“Abandoned buildings still have potential, from my perspective, which drew me to architecture. How can we redesign these properties to boost local economies, provide access to fresh food, and bring jobs to the neighborhood? Those are the kinds of projects I ultimately hope my career will focus on,” reports the Merrillville, Indiana native.

Cherry says his Powers & Sons internship has provided unique opportunities, like working on the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) project and meeting the nation’s former chief executive.

“I got to introduce myself to the nation’s first Black president, which seems surreal,” says Maliq Cherry (pictured bottom left) of his 2022 Powers & Sons summer internship experience.

“I couldn’t believe I was on site when President Obama visited this summer. He took time to meet the crew, shake hands, pose for photos, and thank us for the work we’ve done so far. It was a little overwhelming, but I was smiling from ear to ear,” Cherry says. “It inspired me and encouraged me to believe in myself and my dreams.”

Also interested in commercial and industrial architecture, his 2022 internship is focused on the foundations of project management and engineering. Responsible for managing, completing, and tracking subcontractor submittals and RFIs as part of the preconstruction process, Cherry is learning about the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) components required in the project specifications and design drawings.

“In the classroom, I learn to create building structures and select the appropriate building materials. In the internship, I am seeing intricate systems as they are installed and hidden in walls, floors, and ceilings. Working on the job site helps me correlate conceptual design with actual context. I’m gaining experience in a range of areas that will help me be a better architect,” says Cherry.

Indianapolis Office:
Zahra Malik, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

A senior majoring in construction management major with minors in interior design and business, Zahra Malik is also completing her second internship Powers & Sons.

“I wanted to come back because the first internship blew my expectations out of the water,” reports Malik.

“As a student, I had heard some construction firms don’t really value interns. From my first day at Powers & Sons, I knew I would enjoy the experience. As a family-owned business, I felt like they cared about me, each other, and doing quality work.”

During her first summer with Powers & Sons, Malik worked in the Indianapolis estimating department for several weeks, then went to Chicago and worked on the Friends Health job site. “That on-site experience was my favorite because I learned a lot about how things are executed on the job—not just how they look on the specs and floor plans,” she says.

This year, Malik is serving on the MSD Wayne Township K-12 school improvement program team. She supports the project manager and engineer with managing construction documents, drawings, and samples.

“I’m interested in the details and complexities of construction. I like the flexibility of the field because there are so many different options. I’m a hands-on person, so construction fulfills that side of me.” She is also interested in residential construction. “Growing up, I would help my dad renovate and fix-up old homes so that he could rent them. I would love to somehow get back into that and start buying houses and fixing them up.”

As she prepares for a career in a largely male industry, Malik sees good things for women who want to join the field. “Honestly, I was surprised by the number of women I’ve met in the field and in the office. I think we have come a long way and the future for women in construction only looks up from here.”

Rebuild Foundation: New Life for a Historic Property

Powers & Sons was selected by Rebuild Foundation as the general contractor to transform the dilapidated former St. Laurence Elementary School into a new community arts center.

Located at 1353 East 72nd Street, the three-story brick structure with Art Deco and Prairie School architectural influences had been shuttered since 2002. The building was slated for demolition before it was rescued by the Rebuild Foundation. The parish church was razed in 2014.

The Design Vision

Created by artist and social innovator Theaster Gates, Rebuild Foundation is an artist-led, community-based platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation.

It provides free arts programming and amenities to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods. It also helps artists scale creative ideas to build income and operate arts-based businesses.

Gates combines his expertise in urban planning and art to preserve Chicago history. Rebuild Foundation also operates the Stony Island Arts Bank, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, and Kenwood Gardens.

St. Laurence School has been a South Shore landmark for decades. Many of the original materials, finishes, and architectural features are being preserved in the Muller & Muller design.

When completed in the fall of 2023, the $10 million St. Laurence Arts Incubator will span 40,000 SF of artist’s studios, classrooms, and co-working spaces, including a research lab with an archival collection on Black culture.

“The design reflects the building’s historic character,” explains Project Manager Rob Kennedy.

The gym will become an art exhibit space. Original plasterwork around the stage and decorative brick wall veneers are being repaired and restored. Ceilings will be left exposed.

The Rebuild Foundation’s Construction Project Manager is Shirin Shahin. “Shirin is onsite daily and is our go-to contact as we execute the work,” notes Kennedy. The foundation’s eyes and ears, Shahin has been integral to the project since its inception.

Project Management Approach

Renovating a structure that has been vacant for 20 years can come with a few challenges. According to Kennedy, the bones of the structure are strong, with sturdy concrete beams, decks, and masonry exterior. Structural repairs have been minimal.

New building components, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems, are being installed along with new exterior windows, flooring, and other materials. The entire building will be updated and modified for ADA compliance, including a full elevator system to reach every floor.

Project Manager Robert Kennedy (shown on far right) joined Rebuild Foundation Founder Theaster Gates (on left) and Governor J.B. Pritzker and Illinois’ first lady (middle) at a groundbreaking event on May 3, 2022. Financial support includes State of Illinois funding and a $1 million gift from the Clayco Foundation.

Preconstruction services began in 2020 followed by the start of construction in April of 2021, with Powers & Sons self-performing some of the carpentry and interior demolition.

In total, about 25 Chicago subcontractors representing all trades are expected to be utilized on the project. At least 50% of the on-site workforce will be City of Chicago residents. In addition, the work will meet 35% MBE and 15% WBE participation goals.

Powers & Sons Superintendent Chitan Bibbs and Project Engineer Megan Andres are also on the team.

Indianapolis Update: A Productive 2022

The first half of 2022 has been productive for Powers & Sons Indianapolis. Our leadership team is always exploring new avenues for projects and partnerships that expand our opportunities. We continue to be active in the education sector and have a good mix of exciting GC and CM projects in our pipeline.

  • The Powers & Sons Indianapolis team has high-level experience, knowledge, and insight that positions us to effectively manage large multi-phase, multi-year projects, especially those using CMc and CMa delivery models.
  • Our preconstruction managers continuously navigate changing regional and local conditions that impact cost estimating, budget development, bidding, procurement, and schedules.
  • Despite current economic indicators and forecasts, in my opinion we have entered a boom time for the construction industry. Local governments, corporations, educational institutions, and organizations of all types are investing in capital construction. These projects, some of which are landmark in nature, will enable our clients to advance their missions and better serve the community.

  • So, while the global economy and stock markets struggle, local and regional investments offer opportunities for family-owned firms like Powers & Sons. In my view, the construction market looks strong through the next five years.
  • The Indianapolis leadership stepped up in a big way when the pandemic struck to ensure we were positioned to operate from a position of strength and support. These efforts helped us win a number of awards, including Best Place to Work in Indiana for the last two years. This recognition is meaningful because is it based on direct feedback from our team about our team.
  • We continue to engage and mentor diverse small businesses and local subcontractors in all aspects of our operations. Our team reflects diverse staff at all levels of the organization. I’m proud to report that Powers & Sons Indianapolis was recognized at the Mayor’s Celebration of Diversity Awards with a 2022 Diversity in Leadership Award.
  • Hiring in Indy remains strong. Open positions are listed on our website, where prospective applicants can upload resumes and cover letters. Having a highly skilled team has enabled us to attract more and more talent over the years.
  • The people at Powers & Sons are what sets us apart. They are the reason for our growth and success. Our reputation for excellence and standing behind our work enables us to maintain and expand long-term relationships while building new ones. I feel incredibly blessed to have this team by my side.

As we plan and prepare for the second half of 2022, my focus remains supporting our project teams to ensure they are successful and ensuring Powers & Sons does our part to help build strong communities.

Mamon Powers, III is a third-generation company principal who is responsible for executive oversight and strategic direction. Active in the industry and the community, he serves on a number of boards for professional and civic organizations.

New Milestones: Celebrating 55 Years in the Construction Business

Anniversaries are opportunities to pause and reflect, recall our accomplishments, be grateful for our successes, and prepare for the future.

Vice President Kelly Powers Baria shares key management responsibilities for the company’s operations in Chicago, Northeastern Illinois, and Northwest Indiana.

As Powers & Sons completes 55 years in business, Vice President Kelly Powers Baria discusses the firm’s longevity, current and future projects in the pipeline, and adding value to the client experience.

Q: How has Powers & Sons endured for more than five decades in the construction industry?

The diverse markets we serve have helped us weather economic ebbs and flows that naturally happen as conditions change over time. Powers & Sons has clients who cross most major sectors of the economy and operate in different industries, so that breadth has been key for longevity.

Flexibility and capability are other factors. Our project managers and superintendents are agile and work successfully in multiple market sectors, but many specialize in healthcare, education, affordable housing, restaurants/retail, and public works projects, which positions us to offer higher-level service.

Over 75% of Powers & Sons clients are repeat customers, many of whom have been with us for decades. The stability these relationships offer gave us the capacity to grow. We also have stability from team members who have been with us for decades—we would not be where we are today without them.

Q: What trends do you expect to emerge in the next three to five years?

COVID made the industry more open to working remotely, a development I believe will continue. Technology is now much more accepted to facilitate bidder outreach and information sessions, interviews, and project team meetings—all of which improves flow, delivery, and cost-effectiveness. The rise of virtual tools enables us to work on projects and serve clients across greater geographic areas. For clients with national operations spread across the region, we can be even more responsive.

We have also seen the business and corporate worlds show greater sensitivity and prioritization toward inclusiveness in recent years. It is my hope that we will see construction clients and companies continue to be intentional in the ways they support equitable growth for diverse suppliers, subcontractors, and partners.

Q: What markets will be most productive in the future?

While the environment is competitive, it has offered us once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like the Obama Presidential Center. In addition to that project, which is scheduled to be complete in 2025, we will be very active in affordable multi-family housing. While affordable housing has been a priority in urban communities for a long time, we are seeing increased awareness for the need in the suburbs.

Overall, we have a good mix of current and upcoming projects for banks, casinos, colleges and universities, hospitals and healthcare providers, real estate development firms, and public clients.

Q: Can you share a progress update on the Obama Presidential Center?

Construction on this new national landmark is well under way. The project reached a major milestone in May with the completion of site excavation, which created the garden level of the museum, forum, and library buildings.

Assisted by two tower cranes and what will be an eventual third crane coming later this summer, concrete operations are ongoing. Building concrete will be placed through the end of 2023. Currently, we are placing grade beam and foundation walls. Geothermal heating and cooling, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and underground utilities and systems are being installed through the end of 2022. The Lakeside Alliance Resource Center at 63rd & Stony Island will reopen soon and we look forward to hosting in-person events again. This fall, the tower will be visibly rising out of the ground.

As founding members of the Lakeside Alliance, Powers & Sons is setting new standards for local hiring, local subcontractor and supplier utilization, and providing opportunities for local diverse and small business owners. It has been amazing to see something that Powers & Sons created the framework for come to fruition. Our dream of bringing these leaders together and sitting in the same room to build this historic landmark is happening!

Q: How is Powers & Sons preparing for its next 55 years in business?

The team is focused on maintaining our existing client base and building new connections. We are remaining flexible in our project management approaches and pursuing continuous improvement in operations and delivery. In addition, we are staying current with new and emerging technologies, exploring new ways to maximize value, and seeking to raise the profile of the industry and its professional opportunities in under-served communities. We are also recruiting new team members with broad skill sets.

As the third generation of Powers & Sons moves up to the helm, we plan to explore these and other areas of opportunity. For now, we are grateful for the clients who changed the trajectory of our success. We have not forgotten those who took a chance and put their faith in us.

Kangaroo Crossing: Zoo’s New Exhibit Now Open

Those visiting the Indianapolis Zoo this summer can experience the zoo’s new Kangaroo Crossing. Powers & Sons Construction delivered the design-build project, which opened on Saturday, June 18. It is the first time since 2009 the zoo has had a dedicated kangaroo exhibit.

Project Manager Jeremy Sadler (center) with Assistant Project Manager Dylan Etheridge (left) and Senior Project Manager Randy Swinford were on hand for the exhibit’s opening day.

The new habitat for the red kangaroos provides visitors with an interactive experience with free-roaming kangaroos and other unique Australian species. There is no fencing or barriers between the seven female and six male kangaroos and visitors. The exhibit includes an aviary with cockatoos that fly overhead.

Visitors follow a paved walking path through the exhibit. Some may be able to gently pet the ‘roos on the back (never near their face or ears). Guests can snap a selfie or two just feet away from the animals while learning about the threats they face in the wild.

According to Project Manager Jeremy Sadler, the kangaroo’s home is waterproof inside so zookeepers can easily spray it down and keep it clean. The 3,000 SF concrete-block structure features a water retardant in the mortar and a water sealant on the block with very little regular drywall anywhere in the holding area.

The caging system is unique with sliding doors that open and close via a pulley system rather than door handles, which could be opened by the animals. Metal columns support stainless steel welded-wire mesh netting that forms a canopy over the aviary, which is attached to the building on two sides. Net sidewalls come down to the fence to keep the birds enclosed.

Learn more about the exhibit on the zoo’s website at indianapoliszoo.com/meet-our-mob.

OPC News: Former President’s Surprise Visit

Lakeside Alliance team members, including representatives from Powers & Sons Construction, who were working on the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) site last week received a surprise visit from the man himself, President Barack Obama.

What began as a typical June 24 work day became more exciting when a Secret Security detail rolled up. The nation’s former chief executive visited the Jackson Park job site for the first time since its September 2021 groundbreaking.

President Obama spent about 30 minutes walking the site, saying hello, and posing for dozens of photos. He observed ongoing work to build the concrete foundations and core walls for the massive museum tower and parking garage, then took a few moments to thank everyone for their efforts.

Maliq Cherry (shown on far left at bottom) had not imagined he would meet the nation’s 44th president during his internship. “It was a little surreal,” said the Ball State University senior who is majoring in architectural design.

College student Maliq Cherry, working his second summer as a Powers & Sons intern, said the experience was moving.

“I was smiling from ear to ear. We couldn’t believe President Obama was actually on site and took time from his busy schedule to thank us. It was inspiring—and it encourages me not to give up on my own dreams and the things I want to accomplish in life,” said Cherry, a native of Merrillville, Indiana.

Obama noted the importance of their work on the surrounding community, which includes Hyde Park and Woodlawn.

“The way the project is being managed and designed will help the community flourish. The OPC will provide local residents with improved access to information, knowledge, and cultural experiences. President Obama is determined to leverage the project as a means of helping people who live on Chicago’s south side thrive,” Cherry noted.

About 100 team members were present during the visit. They now have a memory to last a lifetime. Watch the Obama Foundation’s video on YouTube.

For construction news and updates, visit obama.org/the-center/construction and lakesidealliance.com. Page photo credit: Obama Foundation.

Northview Middle School: Project Update

Located at the corner of 91st Street & College Avenue in Indianapolis, the new Northview Middle School is starting to take shape. Powers & Sons is a construction manager on the project.

When complete, the $72M Washington Township facility will replace the existing middle school located on the North Central High School campus.

  • The two-story building will be built around a central core with a main public corridor that connects administrative areas with academic/activity spaces.
  • Academic areas are designed as pods on the first and second floors, and include shared teaching/learning and student collaboration space.
  • A special education suite with a separate building entrance will located central to the pods.

  • A baseball field, softball field, and six tennis courts will be built west of the school. A six-lane all-weather track for field events will also be installed. Athletic fields will be fenced for security and ticketed access, with an adjacent stand-alone concessions building with restrooms.
  • A majority of the existing heritage trees on the site will be preserved. An efficient parking layout design maximizes the amount of open green space. The campus will include public bike parking and walking path connectivity. Exterior lighting will be designed to eliminate light spill to adjacent properties.

The Powers & Sons team, which includes Project Executive Les Carrol, Project Manager Casey Parsons, Project Manager Emily Lucas, and Senior Project Engineer Kayden Rivers, is making good progress.

  • Concrete has been poured and structural steel is being put into place.
  • Construction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2023.