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Hoar Construction Turns 75

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When Hoar Construction was originally established, company leaders never envisioned the company becoming a major award-winning contractor that does approximately $500 million of construction work each year (with another $500 million of work in construction management). In fact, Richard Hoar, the founder’s son, once said he never wanted the company to take on a project that was larger than $400,000 or bring in more than $1 million in revenue a year. But Hoar Construction has always been a company guided by values and not the bottom line. “That’s just the culture at Hoar Construction,” said Rob Burton, company president and CEO. “And I think that is a credit to all of the leaders that we have had here in the past 75 years. It started with the Hoar family and others who were highly principled with great character and great work ethic. All of them always wanted to do the right thing, and they passed that quality on to others.”

 

Hoar Construction, known originally as F.R. Hoar, was established in the 1940s by Friend Reed Hoar. In the early 1950s, his son, Richard, joined him and the company’s name changed to F. R. Hoar and Son. Rob Burton’s father, Robert, and Virgil C. Handy joined the company just a few years later. In its early days, Hoar specialized in community church construction, building dozens of churches across Birmingham. But in 1959, an opportunity arose that propelled the small construction company into an industry leader: Eastwood Mall. At the time, Eastwood Mall was the fifth enclosed, air-conditioned mall in the world and the third largest in the country. “There are a lot of projects we point to with pride, and Eastwood Mall is one of those,” Burton said. “It was the first mall built in the southeast, and because of that project Hoar became known as a retail expert. After that project, most any mall in the country we were called on to at least be considered if not build.”

 

While the company was known for many years as an expert in mall construction—constructing more than 150 malls all across the country—Hoar continued to diversify over time, creating new divisions and programs, including Hoar Program Management (HPM). Through its various divisions, the company has continued building noteworthy projects. In the 1990s, Hoar began work for the Walt Disney Company. What started with a retail project, the World of Disney, led to the company building indoor rollercoasters (the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which was the largest concrete pour in Disney’s history) and numerous other themed rides. A recent notable project, which HPM is leading, is the $600 million Airbus plant in Mobile, Airbus’ first production facility in the United States. Another significant project that was completed just a few years ago is the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham. “It’s an iconic project that’s one of favorites because it provides great impact to the state and great service to the children and their families,” Burton said. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of projects like that.”

 

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Richard Hoar

 

Burton attributes much of the company’s success to projects such as these in which they work with many of the same clients numerous times. “While part of our success story is longevity, the other part of that is we have so many repeat clients and people who trust us,” he said. “ At the end of the day, without those clients there is nothing for us to build. And we have case after case where we have built 20 to 25 buildings for particular clients, and I think that speaks volumes for the fact that we are not only good partners but also doing a good job.”

 

Many of its clients, including Children’s of Alabama, would agree. “When Children’s of Alabama began contemplating the largest construction project in its history, we needed a partner,” said Children’s of Alabama CEO Mike Warren. “For us, that meant more than just a contractor who could do a big job and do it on a budget and on time. More importantly, it meant we needed a partner who would be at our side every step of the way. A $400 million project is not done every day. We were building a facility that would serve pediatric patients whose mothers have not yet been born. That partner for us was Hoar Construction and its CEO, Rob Burton. The personal interest that Rob and his team took in our project was evident each and every day. The Hoar Construction personnel became part of the Children’s family. Together we made something really special happen. The sense of partnership and personal commitment that Rob Burton and Hoar Construction brought to our project made all the difference in the world.”

 

Since the mid-1950s, Alabama Power has also turned to Hoar for whatever building needs they have had, which includes more than 40 projects. “They have built a data center, control centers and offices, as well as helped us retrofit plants to meet environmental emissions requirements,” said Alabama Power’s Executive Vice President Steve Spencer. “They are currently partnering with us on the Powell Avenue Steam Plant redevelopment in downtown Birmingham. They’re leaders when it comes to moving the industry forward. They are people of great character, and we place a high level of trust in them. Their focus on safety and their detailed preplanning process are two of the reasons we like working with them.”

 

The very reasons clients appreciate Hoar are also reasons other companies enjoy partnering with them on projects. Eldeco has been working with Hoar for more than 30 years as electrical subcontractor and appreciates the company’s consistency. “I’ve seen a lot of generation changes over the years, and through all of the changes the company hasn’t changed at all,” said Eldeco Vice President Randy Murphy. “The company’s philosophy has remained the same. They have always been very fair to subcontractors while looking out for their clients, which is sometimes a tough thing to do.”

 

Marc Tyson, president of Ready Mix USA, has also worked with Hoar for over 20 years and knows with each project they will be treated with respect and trust. “We look forward to every job we do with them,” Tyson said. “They always put safety first and work with their suppliers to make the job go smoothly. We are fortunate to have a company like Hoar in Alabama.”

 

The qualities Hoar Construction offers, whether it’s fairness or a focus on safety or serious preplanning or showing a commitment to building the best, all go back to the basic goal that was created at the company in the beginning and has never changed: be the best in the business. “We want to be great at what we do, not just do a lot of work,” Burton said. “We pride ourselves on being experts in the business, and we always want things done right. So our traditions have been built around systematic ways to make sure we have a process that leads us to delivering a great product. If you want to be principled experts, you have to pay attention to detail and care enough about every detail to make sure a building is built correctly. And everyone here believes in always trying to improve. There is always a better way to do something, and you need to constantly be looking at how to improve. That’s part of the culture at Hoar.”

 

While Hoar will most certainly find ways to continue improving how it builds, the company’s core belief of why it builds will remain the same. “We’re a group of people who care a lot about what they do and love what they do,” Burton said. “It’s really that simple. And that has never changed at Hoar Construction. We want to be great at what we do, build great projects, build great relationships and enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, longevity is more important than size, and consistency and ability to take care of each other is more important than any financial goal. I hope we get to do that another 75 years.”

 

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