'Our plans are for measured growth'

Messer VP Tom Lampe discusses company's Nashville region goals

Tom Lampe is Messer Construction Co.’s recently promoted vice president.

Lampe, who will lead daily operations for the Cincinnati-based company’s Nashville region office, has more than 23 years of experience at Messer, having joined the company in 1991 as a project engineer. He most recently served as project development vice president, providing leadership and strategic counsel to business development team members in each of Messer’s nine regions.

Lampe and Post Managing Editor recently discussed Messer’s goals for the area.

WW: Messer wants to establish a stronger Nashville presence. What is your strategy?

TL: Messer is a foundationally and financially strong company. We’ve been in the business for more than 80 years and have a proven employee stock ownership structure and a business culture centered on building better lives for our customers, communities and each other. Our strategy to strengthen our presence is to continue focusing on our customers, not projects. We work with our customers to hear their needs and are committed to   investing in the latest ideas and technologies that add value to what we offer. Our customer-driven approach paired with our commitment to innovation allows us to bring much more to the table than just our construction management expertise. This strategy isn’t new for us. In fact, it allowed us to succeed during the recession and be poised to take on the recovering construction market. I’m proud to say that we didn’t lay off any of our workforce during the recession. Instead, we invested in their growth and new technologies. When the economy turned, we had the capacity to service our customers and take on the recovering construction market.

WW: In what states does Messer do work?

TL: Messer operates in the Southeast and Midwest. We’re located in five states — Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio — with offices in Nashville, Knoxville, Charlotte, Louisville, Lexington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. Each office has the autonomy to manage projects and operations independently and invest in their individual communities, but we share best practices, knowledge and corporate resources across the company.

WW: How long have you had a presence in Nashville?

TL: We formally opened our Nashville office location in 2006, but our presence in the community dates back to the 1930s. In fact, Messer built one of Nashville’s great historic landmarks — the former Main U.S. Post Office, now home to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

WW: Do you have any specific goals as to elevating your presence in the market?

TL: Our goal is to achieve 10 percent of the complex commercial construction business in the Nashville area. We are working to grow our $70 million annual revenue of business to $200 million per year in our specialty market segments: health care, higher education, life sciences and industrial markets. We are confident that the opportunity is there, especially with the private sector.

WW: How many employees do you have in the Nashville office and how will you grow?

TL: We have about 40 employees, which we will grow in direct parallel to revenue growth. Our plans are for measured growth at an 8 percent annual increase, both in revenue and employee growth.

WW: What are some notable local projects Messer is currently undertaking? 

TL: We have a solid book of work in this region, especially in the higher education and public sectors. A few notable projects underway and recently completed include Meharry Medical College’s Cal Turner Family Center, the Bellevue branch library, the Midtown Hills Metro Police Precinct, Volunteer State Community College’s fine arts building, Nashville State Community College’s new academic support building and work at Vanderbilt University. Additionally, we recently received a 2014 Build Tennessee Award from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Middle Tennessee for the renovation of the Madison Police Precinct and Crime Lab. Last year we received Awards of Merit from the AGC of Middle Tennessee, for construction management of the West Police Precinct and Middle Tennessee State University Student Union Building.

WW: What is Messer’s approach to using woman-owned and minority-owned businesses?

TL: Our company succeeds on reflecting the diversity of our communities in which we live and work through a three-prong approach to economic inclusion: workforce diversity, supplier diversity and community engagement/outreach. One of the ways you can see our commitment to economic inclusion in action is through the purchases we make as a company. Last year 15.55 percent of our purchases as a company, valued at $118 million, went to certified minority-or women-owned businesses.

WW: What is your take on the local labor shortage?

TL: Our industry is facing labor shortages and that, no doubt, has a direct impact on contractors. That’s why over the years we have invested in the continued development of our own craft force with training workshops and mentorship programs. Our employees contribute their time, talent and dollars (through our foundation) to community organizations dedicated to workforce development in the construction industry. In 2012, we provided a $25,000 grant to the YMCA of Middle Tennessee to benefit the Y-Build program in Nashville, which provides construction and workforce skills training for young adults between the ages of 18-24 to better prepare them for viable employment.

WW: What types of trends are you seeing as a common thread throughout the construction industry? What trends are you seeing in the market sectors on which Messer focuses?

TL: We are seeing a move to more public-private partnership-financed projects, rolling Contractor Controlled Insurance Programs and subcontractor default insurance, which is raising the bar on prequalification requirements for everyone in the construction industry.

As for Messer’s specific market sectors, the health care industry continues to be our biggest market. We’ve seen our customers in that market continue to focus on reducing costs in a world of ever-reducing reimbursements. Higher education (our second largest market segment) continues to show growth as state funding for public higher education projects increases and public-private partnerships develop. Life sciences workflow has been steady, and makes up our third largest market segment. These are complex facilities and operations, and there is constant innovation in this industry to have facilities operating at peak performance. Finally, we are seeing a continuing flow of industrial project opportunities, allowing our Messer Industrial Builders division to experience sustained growth. These are fast-track, design-build projects that allow safe operations to continue while construction takes place.

WW: Messer has a focus on the life sciences, health care and higher education sectors. Are those specific to the Nashville market or a company-wide focus? How have industry advances affected the construction process?

TL: Messer is strong in those industries company-wide, but Nashville has a strong presence in each of those industries, making it an ideal market for our company and our expertise. We have a commitment to innovation. And as these industries advance, so do our processes.

WW: Are there other sectors you are focused on growing?

TL: In addition to the health care, life sciences and higher education industries, Messer has a strong portfolio of projects in the public/institutional, senior living, commercial and industrial arenas. We have developed our reputation for outstanding value and strong construction expertise across all of these industries, and we have numerous award-winning spaces that reflect this work.