“A century strong and counting” is a statement few construction services firms can make. McCrory Construction is proud to be one of the exceptions. Now under fourth-generation private ownership, Columbia-based McCrory is celebrating its 100th year in business in 2018.
McCrory is a full-service general contractor ranked among the Southeast’s largest and most respected construction services providers. The company is known for its expertise in key market sectors — primarily commercial, industrial, retail, multi-family and healthcare construction. After a century in existence, McCrory maintains an exceptionally high level of repeat business — at more than 90 percent.
GroundBreak Carolinas recently sat down with McCrory’s President and CEO, Allen Amsler, whose distinguished career with the company spans over 30 years. Under Amsler’s leadership, McCrory has experienced unprecedented growth, particularly in recent years. In the past decade alone, the company has significantly increased its already impressive list of private and public sector clients. Further, McCrory has expanded its services, market sectors and geographic presence. McCrory is now is licensed in 13 states, and its long-established Columbia location is supported by full-service regional offices in Greenville, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C.
Celebrating 100 years in business is a rare milestone for a construction company due to the industry’s cyclical nature. To what do you attribute the company’s staying power for all these years?
I believe McCrory’s longevity is the result of our long history of satisfied clients combined with a people-focused company culture developed throughout the years. We are proud of the fact that McCrory has consistently been on the list of Top 40 Privately Held Companies in South Carolina. We have remained home-grown and there has been very little turnover in ownership during our 100-year history. We are only on our fourth generation of ownership. Ultimately, construction is a people business. Our customers, our trade partners and our employees are the three critical legs of the stool. We must never lose sight of every project’s true focus – meeting our client’s goals.
How important has your company culture been in contributing to your firm’s success for the last century?
I can only speak to the last 31 years of our 100-year history. During this time, we have gotten away from being a hard-line, hard-bid construction firm, focusing instead on differentiating ourselves on the front end of a project to add value to our clients and their projects. Today, much of our business comes from qualifications-based, negotiated work versus lowest price. We pride ourselves on our preconstruction expertise and our customer-service mindset. We can be a true partner by making investments in relationships – with employees, clients, trade contractors, and service providers.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business today?
Without question, the strained labor market is having a significant impact on us and those we do business with – from the skilled trades who are integral to building every project we build, to municipalities who are short-handed on building inspectors. As a general contractor, we can control our workload based on our people resources, but the labor pool has shrunk for many of our partners because of the last recession and ever-increasing retirements. So, even though overall spending on construction is up, fewer young people are coming into our industry. To offset these factors, we must find ways to innovate – from automation to prefabrication off site. There is a mindset that this can’t be done, but people are figuring out how to make it happen. There is so much going on in this arena… I hope that I get to see the benefits one day.
You feel strongly about the importance of being actively involved in the industry. Tell us about some of your current activities.
It’s important for firms like McCrory to do their part in addressing some of the major challenges impacting our industry. Hoping to make a positive difference, this year I began a three-year term on the Board of Directors for Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Carolinas Chapter. One way that ABC and other industry associations are confronting the increasing shortage of skilled craft professionals is by promoting careers in construction to middle school and high school students. We fully support this strategy and are proud to have members of our management team who are certified instructors for NCCER curriculum. McCrory is also a strong supporter of bringing more women into the industry. Several of our employees hold leadership roles with local National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) chapters and have been recognized for their contributions at the regional level.
For McCrory, is it a competitive advantage or disadvantage that you are a privately held, locally owned/home-grown firm?
Definitely an advantage. There is a sense of pride working for a privately held company and being a part of a firm with strong local roots. We are keenly aware that we need to maintain the culture and the family atmosphere over the long run. Our goal is to be the best, not necessarily the biggest. We believe that a company needs to stick to what it knows and is good at. That’s why we focus on areas in which we excel. Growth is great, but only for the right reasons.
Your personal passion for client satisfaction is reflected throughout the entire organization. McCrory has an exceptionally high percentage of repeat business.
Without question the most satisfying thing for me is when I get a call or email from a client about a successful project outcome or something we did very well along the way. We share this information and look at it routinely with our entire team.
Which project delivery methods do you prefer to work with clients?
We serve many of our clients from concept through completion. When we can get involved early on, working intensely on the front end, we can deliver value throughout the project. Sometimes we do this through design-build delivery, other times it’s construction management. We continue to earn business from our national and international clients because we are competitive and deliver on time. This ultimately leads to repeat work for years to come.
McCrory is a leader in several markets. Where do you anticipate the most growth in the next five years?
While our business continues to remain strong in commercial and retail, we are steadily growing our long-time presence in the industrial market through the expertise of our seasoned team based in Upstate South Carolina in our Greenville office. McCrory has been involved in the industrial sector for 100 years. Now a renewed focus using our strengths and resources is helping us expand our market share. An excellent example of our current success in this sector is a major design-build project we are wrapping up near Charlotte for a subsidiary of the Chinese textile company Keer Group. This significant expansion at Keer America’s 165-acre site is part of a $200 million building program at Keer’s Lancaster County (S.C.) manufacturing complex – the company’s first site location outside of China.
Tell us a little bit about your background. What made you choose a career in construction? How did you end up at McCrory?
After growing up on Lake Erie in the “snowbelt” region of Northwestern Pennsylvania, I chose to head south for college. At the University of Florida, I started out as a civil engineering major and decided that was not what I wanted to do. That lead me to construction. After interning for a local builder as a carpenter’s helper, I knew I had found what I wanted to pursue as a career. Following graduation from U of F with a degree in Building Construction, I accepted a position with McCrory, a highly sought-after employer, in what I considered the perfect location – Columbia, South Carolina. After immersing myself in all aspects of the business — ranging from Assistant Project Manager, to Project Manager, to Vice President of Operations — I assumed the title of President and CEO in 2006.
In a few words, why do you love the construction business?
Like most of my peers, I love building things. Further, this business brings something different every day. Different opportunities, different ways to solve problems. Building relationships with people from around the region and the country, assembling great teams… this is what makes my career choice so enjoyable. Above all, I find it extremely rewarding to see projects go from concept to completion. Seeing a client happy… handing over the keys… that’s what makes it worth it.
How do the people of McCrory give back to the communities where they live and work?
McCrory employees are quick to give back to those less fortunate in the communities where they live and work. Many of our people are personally involved with entities that make a real difference in our communities, and as a company, we annually support a select group of non-profits. These include the South Carolina Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), American Heart Association, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Humane Society of South Carolina, and Habitat for Humanity.
Balancing work and family life can be challenging. Tell us about life outside of the office.
My wife and I enjoy boating, and family time with our three adult children.
Also, I fly around the Southeast for work and pleasure. Flying is something I had always wanted to do, so I finally got my pilot’s license 11 years ago. Once I started to fly, I caught the bug.
What is one of your goals yet to be achieved?
I’ve would love to land a sea plane on Lake Murray, although I have no timeline for making that happen.
Name something most people don’t know about you.
I was raised on a grape farm near Erie, PA. Working on the farm from a young age, I was exposed to all of the big equipment. It was fun. We sold grapes to Welch Foods.
Career advice you would like to give others.
Find something you are passionate about and do it well but don’t let your career consume you. Balance is key.
McCrory Construction: A Brief History: McCrory Construction’s roots date back to 1918 when the firm was originally established in Columbia as the John C. Heslep Company. The company operated as such until 1960 when the name was changed to McCrory Construction under the ownership of Marvin “Mac” McCrory. In its first 10 years as McCrory, the firm’s regional influence grew as it served one of the largest contractors of the era. Visit McCrory’s website to learn more.