By Abby Laub
With big projects such as the Amazon Prime hub and others surrounding Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), increased need for new multiuse options on the riverfront and an uptick in roadwork, construction companies in Northern Kentucky are busy and looking for ways to constantly innovate and improve.
“E-commerce has really continued to drive our business,” said Paul Hemmer, president of Fort Mitchell-based design-build construction company Hemmer. “It’s also driving it through our developer partners, whom we’ve been able to grow our business around. With increased activity, every company is always challenged with people and systems, and because of our success we’ve been able to attract great people. We always continue to try to improve our systems to make the whole experience more predictable and successful for everyone.”
Another category keeping construction companies busy is suburban medical offices, since more physicians are developing specialty groups.
Hemmer said logistics-based projects are what will likely drive future growth for construction firms, especially with traditional retail going through “tremendous changes.”
“Amazon chose CVG for its Prime Air hub, and they’ve tied up 800-plus acres, so I believe that’s going to make this region even more attractive,” Hemmer said, adding that new land needs to be made available for new projects to continue coming online. “The construction can’t keep up, and land positions are difficult. The land that’s available is the land that was passed over years ago … and then add to it the ‘entitlement’ process has gotten to be much more restrictive and time consuming.”
On the plus side, the entitlement issues like storm water and sanitation systems, though more difficult, are providing more quality control, improved capacity and sophistication, Hemmer said.
And growth is still a great thing. Continually adding workforce and speeding up land development will be key to keeping the dollars flowing, he said.
“The building business is robust so everyone in this industry, I would expect, is doing very well,” he said. “We have a really strong position, both in terms of capacity and a backlog.”
Hemmer’s firm and others in the region, he said, benefit from great people. And with Hemmer, which has been in the business for nearly 100 years, it’s also about pride and passion.
“Every time we’ve had a down cycle we’ve re-engineered our business, and each time we come out a better, stronger and leaner company,” he said. “What differentiates Hemmer is our knowledge, skill set, people and value, we can create.”
The Northern Kentucky region is flush with industry knowledge. National recognition came recently to Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Northern Kentucky.
Miller received the Gary Komarow Executive Officer of the Year Award from the Executive Officers Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at its Association Management Conference in Los Angeles. And in September 2018 he was announced as secretary of the NAHB Executive Officers Council.
Founded by 16 residential contractors in Covington in 1955, BIA of Northern Kentucky has grown to become the nation’s 10th largest chapter of the NAHB. The organization’s jurisdiction covers 12 counties including Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Fleming, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Mason, Owen, Pendleton and Robertson with a combined company membership of nearly 900 builders.
All those operations need employees, which is why firms like EGC Construction collaborate with education and workforce development officials to keep adding skilled tradespeople in fields such as masonry, carpentry and concrete to the labor force.
“Our general contracting and design build experience is based on a foundation of collaboration and trust with our specialists and consultants that consistently optimizes project results with a fully integrated team,” said EGC Vice President Greg Fox. “We leverage in-house skilled craft and specialty contractors.”
New projects are on the horizon for Northern Kentucky. Recently completed was the state-of-the-art $105 million Northern Kentucky University Health Innovation Center. The Health Innovation Center is the first new academic construction on NKU’s campus since Griffin Hall, modernistic home to the College of Informatics, opened in October 2011.
Meanwhile, officials broke ground in 2017 on the Kenton County Administration Building, which will occupy a former Bavarian Brewery site in Covington. The $22 million building is scheduled to open in January 2019. Also in Covington is a new $40 million apartment complex in MainStrasse Village called RiverHaus. In February 2018 in Erlanger, two years to the day after ground was broken, the 149,000-s.f. SUN Behavioral Health hospital opened its doors.
At CVG, Amazon’s $1.5 billion international Prime Air hub continues to spur new construction all around. For example, in June 2018 Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated announced it will create more than 430 full-time jobs as part of a $30 million investment to build a sales and distribution facility in Erlanger.
The massive 35-acre Ovation project looms large on the horizon as top regional developer Corporex moves forward with its waterfront plan in Newport. Ovation is a mixed-use development, reflecting up to 5 million s.f. of income-producing structures, including residential, retail, office, lodging, theater, conference center, marina and structured parking. Additionally, the development program includes parks, public plazas, recreational amenities, trails and riverfront improvements that will complement the structures and create a sense of community. Already, public road improvements surrounding the project are paving the way for a smoother Ovation installation.
In the meantime, home builders are working hard to keep up with a hot residential estate market. The Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors (NKAR) and the Northern Kentucky Multiple Listing Service (NKMLS) reported in August 2018 that homes in the region are selling faster than ever before.
In terms of commercial investment, Miller cited BIANKY statistics that show Boone County is leading the way in total investment with more than $300 million in 2018, up from just over $200 million in 2017. By comparison Kenton County had close to $125 million in 2018.
Paul Hemmer Company
226 Grandview Dr.
Fort Mitchell, KY 41017
Paul Hemmer Company is a construction management, building services and real estate development firm that builds Value by Design. With a history in Greater Cincinnati dating to 1921, Hemmer specializes in design/build construction, which enables it to provide the earliest commitment of cost and delivery for its industrial, medical, commercial and retail clients.
30 W. Fourth Street
Newport, KY 41071
EGC is a local privately owned design-builder with over 40 years experience in general contracting (GC) and design build (DB) project Delivery methodologies across several industries including institutional, educational, pharma, religious, industrial, water & wastewater, retail, medical and professional office projects. EGC employees over 120 skilled workers supporting our clients’ projects in carpentry, steel fabrication, steel installation, millwright, electrical, piping and mechanical crafts.
Our GC and DB experience is based on a foundation of collaboration and trust with our specialty contractors and consultants that consistently optimizes project results via a fully integrated team leveraging a “power-with”, not “power-over” strategy. EGC’s integrated team approach creates aligned understanding of all team members to create reliable and predictable results in cost, schedule, quality, safety, project culture and team capability.