By: Eric Wright
They say, “experience is the best teacher,” though some have challenged this maxim and suggest instead that “the experience of others is the best teacher.” Both are, in fact, correct and when it comes to finding a firm that can handle something as complex as a construction project, no one wants to pay the price to learn from a bad experience. Therefore, a contractor’s track record and background becomes paramount, as the ramifications both in capital and time are simply too high to afford the smallest margin of error.
Perhaps it is his experience that gives Ken Welsh, the president and CEO of Welsh Construction, the kind of demeanor that puts both clients and employees at ease. He has earned a reputation for exceeding expectations in projects that impact not hundreds, but thousands every week, with a sense of purpose and alignment with his clients, which has resulted in the vast majority of his work to be with repeat customers.
Welsh was the co-owner of G & S Contractors for 15 years, which then merged with BRPH to form BRPH Construction Services. There he served as director of operations and company qualifier before forming Welsh Construction five years later in 2003.
“It is the quality of the team that really undergirds our company’s reputation,” Welsh is quick to point out. “Gary (Goodwin) has been in the construction industry for 40 years and has worked all over the southeastern U.S. and in the Middle East.” Before joining Welsh in 2012, Goodwin owned and operated two construction companies, which gives him a depth of industry knowledge few could claim. Goodwin’s major projects include work for NASA at Kennedy Space Center, Harris, and the U.S. military, along with major retail and hotel chains.
He also points to Chris Norton, who recently joined his team as business development director. Norton served as the planning and economic development director for the city of Palm Bay for over 23 years, during its most remarkable period of growth. Before that he served the city of Boston in the same capacity for nearly a decade.
UP TURN IN A DOWN TIME
When other contractors were scrambling for work as the jaws of the recession closed around the industry’s new business pipeline, Welsh’s company maintained its momentum. “We were fortunate to have a fair backlog of work going into the recession. We have been involved with Calvary Chapel Melbourne from the time they were looking at a cow pasture on Minton Road,” Welsh recalls.
Today, Calvary’s main campus includes over 300,000 square feet of meeting, classroom
and recreational space, along with the largest auditorium in the county. Welsh has been constant in all their projects at every stage. “We had the design-build contract for Calvary Chapel’s over 70,000-square-foot Viera campus, which was a $10 million project. That, along with other projects like the Ocean Club Marina in Cape Canaveral, Life Care Centers of America and our specialization in constructing commercial storage facilities, kept us moving,” Walsh said. “We also diversified by purchasing a franchise called Paul Davis Restoration, which my son operated, that handles any kind of insurance claim for damage to a building due to fire, water, storms, etc. Now Phil (Welsh) runs that independently.
To Norton, Welsh Construction was the best kept secret in the county, with projects reaching all over the state. “Our company’s expertise transfers the burden for design and delivery from the client to us,” Norton said. “I suppose that next to our experience, our design/build capabilities are the most important factors in bringing value to the customer,” Walsh said. “Our more sophisticated clients understand this and, for our newer clients, we want to get involved as early in the process as possible. By putting the design and contracting responsibilities under one roof, everything is streamlined. We have had clients tour buildings we completed who were surprised at our cost. Because our processes are more efficient, that value is passed on to them.”
The synergy between team members is also an obvious advantage. Welsh worked for Goodwin early in his career, then Goodwin worked for Welsh at BRPH. Knowing his expertise, Welsh recruited Goodwin in 2013. “We have so much confidence in each other’s abilities and complementary strengths that working together is quite easy,” Welsh said, adding, “most of the time,” which triggered laughter in both men. “Ken is very even- tempered,” Goodwin observed, “where I am more expressive. We’re a good balance and we both respect and accept each other completely.”
The low profile that Norton pointed out is starting to change as Welsh Construction’s brand grows and their new headquarters on the south side of Eau Gallie Boulevard moves towards completion this summer.