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ABC Houston Opens New Facility to Meet Needs of the Houston Construction Industry: Part 2 of 2

In a previous entry, I wrote about the grand opening event for ABC Greater Houston’s new office, training, and meeting facility in northwest Houston.  The gathering of ABC members enjoyed the chance to tour the renovated building and to meet and network with each other.

After the group had been given a chance to sample the bountiful spread of complimentary food and drinks, Russell Hamley, President of Associated Builders and Contractors Greater Houston Chapter, greeted the crowd with a few welcoming remarks in which he recognized the elected officials who were there and the donors to the New ABC Office Building Fund, who had made the purchase and renovation of the facility possible.  He offered special thanks to Burton Construction and to PDG Architects who had worked so hard to bring the building into its now beautiful and functional reality.

Darlene East, President and COO of Holes, Inc. and 2015 Chairperson for ABC Greater Houston, next recognized the Planning and Design Committee, the Construction Committee, and the Fundraising Committee – each comprised of ABC Members who had given so much of their time and effort toward bringing the new facility into being.  Russell Hamley concluded the presentation before returning the guests to their socializing.  He said:

“I’d like to remind everyone that our facilities have rooms available for rental.  Feel free to contact us for more information.  We have a couple of door prizes to give away.  As we conclude this evening, I’d like to make a toast.  Please raise your glass as we dedicate this new space to better serve our ABC members and community.  Thank you all for coming!”

Later that evening, I had a chance to talk with Janet King-Rogers, Director of Business Development at PDG Architects, about her involvement with the building renovation.

PDG Architects was involved with not only the remodel of the building, but in the purchase of the building before that.  I asked King to tell me what work her company did on the project.  She told me that ABC President Russell Hamley approached PDG when ABC was considering purchasing the property.  PDG was asked to look at the original building to check for defects to be sure that the building was sound even before any remodeling began.  Representatives from PDG inspected the building and recommended that the building was indeed sound – in need of renovation, but that the structure was good.  Following that recommendation, ABC purchased the building and began to determine what renovations should be made to best use the space, which up to that point had been a multi-tenant facility.  King described how the building looked when ABC bought it:

“It was like a maze in here.  It was a maze, and it was kind of a dark, dingy set of suites.”

Now that the renovation is complete, a large central area opens to meeting and training rooms that line the edge of the building, each letting in plenty of natural light from their large windows which reach from high on the walls to the floor, making the facility appear anything but dark.

King shared that when Russell Hamley first came to her to discuss the remodel, he had many preliminary ideas about how to use the space.  After sharing his thoughts, Hamley said to King “I wish I hadn’t given you that, because I am afraid that you will think that that’s the way it has to be and get stuck on that [idea].”  King replied “Just say the word, and let me go at it on my own and we will see what we come up with.”

For example, he pictured that the main entrance would be located on the east side of the building rather than the street-facing south side.  The original building with its many tenants had many entrances, but the architectural team felt that the new ABC facility would need a clearly “defined entry” facing the street.  After placing the new main entry at the crook of the “L-shaped” building, the rest of the design began to take shape for the PDG team.  You can hear King talk about these and other design details in the 3½-minute video below.

Finally, after the event was over I sat down with Russell Hamley, President of ABC Houston and the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), in one of the new classrooms where he shared his thoughts about the new facility which was premiered that evening, from his perspective of 19 years with ABC and the 15-year search for this new ABC Houston home.  I asked how the Planning and Design Committee decided to buy and remodel this particular building in this location.  He said:

“We selected this building because we wanted to have a permanent location to do our training programs, have our meetings for our members, and to just carry on and conduct business.  We want a permanent location and to establish an anchor in the city and also in this neighborhood where [contractors] know that the Association will be here for decades to come.”

Hamley explained that classrooms at this new facility will now be available for ABC members to use for their own training programs in addition to the ABC/CMEF training programs which will be offered here.  He said:

“Primarily we have community training programs: different types of seminars we put on from management to craft training and everything in between.  We try to educate the construction industry so that they can perform their work better.”

As a not-for-profit organization, CMEF charges fees for these trainings to cover their own costs; however the cost to train each employee is much less for Houston companies because there are no hotel, convention center hall, parking, or other travel fees incurred for those who live in the area.

I asked about the logo wall in the central gathering/break room.  These are logos of ABC members.  Hamley told me that part of what ABC does is to promote ABC members.  In addition to that, there are several opportunities for companies to sponsor the organization, as many have already done.  These sponsors are having rooms named after them, bricks named after them in the outdoor entryway, and signs posted for the major sponsors who “donated for the cause here.”  Hamley continued:

“What ABC does is help businesses promote their own businesses.  The construction industry is filled with contracts and connections.  You cannot build a building like this without numerous dozens if not a hundred different companies participating – making things, supplying things, and providing the labor to put it all together.  It is a collaboration of probably a hundred companies that put this building together.  And that type of connection is very important in this industry.  That’s one of the things that ABC does – is to help companies make those connections with potential clients and also subcontractors they use to build buildings. … I bet you there was more business here [today] than social – people making connections.  Because of the immense number of contracts and contractors that need to work on this building, they have to meet different people to make sure that they are getting the best deal for their clients. … It’s all about getting the right deal at the right time at the right price, and those ideas are germinated at events like this.  I am sure there was plenty of business going on today.”

Watch the interview in the following 3½-minute video.