Over the past eight years, the general contractor Swinerton went through an up and down growth trajectory that was limited by where it operated and the products it focused on.
In 2018, the company—which dates back to 1888—came out with its March to 2030, a blueprint for future growth that emphasizes product and geographic diversity. Since that plan came to light, the firm has expanded into Texas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh. And now, it is making its boldest move by opening its first office in New York City, which Swinerton envisions becoming its hub for the Northeast.
That’s a tall order, given that the company had virtually no presence in that part of the country outside of some work in New Jersey by its renewable energy group. But the COVID-19 pandemic created what Swinerton’s CEO Eric Foster calls “an opportunity in crisis.”
“We feel the need to answer the call to build back better and stronger in post-pandemic New York,” says David Callis, Swinerton’s president and COO.
Running the New York office is Andrew Pearl, a 14-year company veteran who grew up in northern New Jersey but had spent his entire career, until now, with Swinerton in San Diego and San Francisco. “I never intended to stay in California,” Pearl tells BD+C, and he’s been pushing the company to open a branch in New York practically since he joined the firm.
After the coronavirus hit, Swinerton’s executives approached Pearl in the spring of 2020 about accelerating the company’s growth plans for the Northeast. Swinerton officially opens its New York office today at 292 Madison Avenue with 10 fulltime employees.
HOMING IN ON EXISTING ACCOUNTS
Andrew Pearl, Swinerton's New York division manager, has been urging his firm to expand into New York City for more than a decade. Image: Swinerton.
Pearl, whose title is Vice President and Division Manager, says that for the next 12 to 18 months, the New York office’s strategy is to serve the firm’s 75-plus accounts with which it has master agreements. These include technology companies, big banks, and insurance companies. Indeed, the first job the New York office booked is a “small” project for one of its tech clients.
“Many of these clients have been asking us to expand east to do work for them, and now we can finally say ‘yes,’” says Pearl. He adds that the types of projects Swinerton’s New York office is focusing on initially are corporate interiors, aviation, and healthcare/life sciences.
The New York metro area is the largest and one of the most competitive commercial construction markets in the U.S. Prior to the pandemic, the value of commercial and multifamily starts in the area stood at $30.9 billion in 2019, according to Dodge Data & Analytics estimates.
To get the word out about its new office, Swinerton has hired a local P.R. agency, Cathy Callegari Public Relations, whose client list includes several other construction and engineering firms. Pearl is also in the process of joining a nonprofit that specializes in community building and neighborhood revitalization, and that Swinerton is part of in nine other cities.
And while Swinerton is the new kid on the block in New York, Pearl believes that this $5 billion company, with 20 offices in nine states, can leverage several “differentiators” when pitching new and existing customers. For example, earlier this year Swinerton launched its Timberlab brand for mass timber delivery and integration. Its renewable energy group is active in 28 states. It has a real estate redevelopment business, and a design-build collaboration called Perq with the engineering firm Walker Consultants.
Pearl says the company also has operations in Philadelphia and northern Virginia that now fall under the New York office umbrella.