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January 08 61 W.G.MillsInc. Executive vice-president Tim Hensey explains to Gary Toushek why W. G. Mills, Inc. is one of the leading construction firms in Florida Managingtherisk The number of schools in the portfolio of Sarasota, Florida-based W. G. Mills, Inc. is close to 300, and growing. So far the prolific construction management general contracting company has designed, built, and/or retrofitted public schools in 22 of the 67 school districts in the state, and is currently at work on at least a dozen. Since it’s mostly repeat business, it’s fair to say that the pubic officials who make decisions for those districts like the work of Mills. The company, founded in 1972 by chairman Walter G. Mills, who’s very active in the business, also does “practically everything commercial,” says Timothy Hensey, executive vice president, including retail, office, medical office, healthcare (including retirement and assisted living housing), churches and golf course clubhouses. With offices in Clearwater, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Palm Beach Gardens and Kissimmee, Mills has 225 employees and an average annual revenue of $350 million. The company believes in promoting internally, and most of the 15 executives, including the regional office managers, are graduates of the University of Florida’s School Building Construction (founder Mills is a 1962 alumnus, president Lemuel Sharp III is 1973, and Hensey is a 1980 grad), and are equity partners in the firm. Golf clubhouses are fun to build, says Hensey, mainly because some of the owners try to outdo each other with amenities to attract members. Mills has taken advantage of this aggressive climate and so far has renovated or constructed about 50 clubhouses. There are a number of outdated facilities (older than 20 years), so when the club down the road builds a new clubhouse, or a new

club is constructed, older clubhouse owners are almost forced into the position of having to protect their investment by updating their facilities. “We’ve built some fabulous clubhouses with high coffered ceilings, crown molding, stain grade imported Honduran mahogany,” says Hensey. “One particular clubhouse has eleven different types of flooring. So these facilities are enjoyable to design and build, as a contrast to high schools, which have a fiduciary responsibility to construct cost-effective learning institutions.” The company has certainly found a lucrative niche in Florida schools, however, which need to be constructed for resistance to severe weather, especially hurricanes; these educational institutions can range from $50 million to $100 million each, depending on what the client wants. Almost all school districts in Florida deliver their facilities by construction management at risk, explains Hensey, so a builder is responding to a publicly advertised request for proposal, and submits credentials (similar projects completed, the project team, resumes and references). “A selection committee will narrow those written proposals to a short list of three or four, and they’ll conduct face to face interviews where you typically have 20 to 30 minutes to tell them why they should select your firm. It’s become very competitive and sophisticated, and there’s a tremendous amount of intelligence gathering, research and creativity that goes into these presentations to win the job. It’s become a major part of our business; I spend a considerable amount of my time overseeing our response to submissions, choreographing presentations, and gathering information by talking to clients to understand their needs and their hot buttons.” Where has the term “construction management at risk” come from? Traditionally, general contracting used the hard-bid process, and anybody could bid the job as long as you could show up with a payment and performance bond and meet the requirements of the bid package. Selection was made on the basis of the lowest price. “Many school districts and municipalities saw the consequences in that delivery approach, such as the winning contractor not meeting schedules, producing poor quality work, and having contentious relationships, because in that scenario, the contractor only bid on what he saw in the plans and specifications. If he tried to read between the lines for details, he would add too much to his bid and not be competitive enough. So you were forced to bid only what was on the bid documents. And if something else was missing or required, he could say that it wasn’t on the drawings, and would request a change order. That put the architect in a defensive mode, because the owner would ask why the detail wasn’t clear or complete. So you had a cat fight going on, and at the end of the day, no one was happy.” With construction management in its purest form, called “pure agency CM,” the construction manager has no risk, is simply an agent of the owner, and is paid a fee to manage the construction process; and the subcontracts flow directly to the owner. The hybrid of these, which has become the preferred delivery method in the industry, is construction management at risk. The construction manager is typically hired at the same time as the architect, at the conception of the project when there’s no design. They work together to design the project as cost-effectively as possible, to keep it within budget and on schedule. “We comment on what elements might be missing,” he says, “and we work together as a team. When the plans are at the point where they’re considered bidding documents, we bid “When the plans are at the point where they’re considered bidding documents, we bid it out competitively at the subcontract level, then as a team we put together a guaranteed maximum price” 62 January 08