Introducing the new Construction Wire Podcast
B2B sales professionals are too busy to consume must-have information using traditional means alone.
Which is why we proudly present…
The Construction Wire Podcast
With a focus on how our research and data can empower the business development efforts of manufacturers, suppliers and vendors to the construction space, this show is for YOU.
In the first episode of the podcast, senior researcher Luke O’Brien kicks things off with a segment that we’ll be exploring more of in the future: The Mega Map — featuring the most noteworthy billion dollar projects from our research.
We’ll also hear a short interview with BuildCentral veterans Karen Ericksen, VP of Research Operations and Jonathan Kane, VP of Client Services.
They’ll walk us through how the company began, BuildCentral’s growth, its customer-centric data focus and where the future of the data is headed.
On future episodes we’ll share our unique perspectives on:
-noteworthy billion dollar construction projects in the pipeline
-industry headlines and trending topics
-actionable sales tips that really work
-interviews with industry movers and shakers and more.
Take a listen below and tell us what you think:
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Got ideas for topics we should explore on future episodes? We’d love to hear about them. Send any inquiries or suggestions to Luke directly at email@example.com
Thanks for listening!
And if you want to stay in the loop, subscribe here and we’ll send you our future episodes.
Luke O’Brien: Hello listeners, and welcome to the very first episode of the ConstructionWire podcast, a podcast that twice a month takes the blue pencil to the biggest news in the construction market and makes it accessible to you. I’m your host, Luke O’Brien, and this podcast is made possible by BuildCentral, a Chicago based front runner in construction market research whose data keeps you ahead in the game and knowledgeable to every opportunity available. Whether you are a vendor or supplier, contractor or developer, BuildCentral provides the most recent and reliable data that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Luke O’Brien: Just to give a little bit of background on BuildCentral and why we wanted to start the ConstructionWire podcast, in providing our clients with this construction market data, we interact daily with all facets of the industry. Meaning we research a substantial amount of small to large-scale construction projects throughout the United States. As a senior researcher myself at BuildCentral, I get to throw myself every day into a world where unique individual projects, ideas, companies and people all stand out. Our research and marketing teams and I knew that it would be worthwhile to create a platform at some point where we could discuss a little more at length some of the more groundbreaking trends happening in the market.
Luke O’Brien: From independently branded hotels that offer a unique experience to what is happening in the construction market on a state-by-state basis, we wanted to discuss and inform on some of these topics. We’re also going to leave the door open in the future for our listeners and groups that we’re currently working with to be able to connect with us and potentially come on to discuss their own unique insights and businesses. But to kick off this first episode, I’m going to be interviewing two of BuildCentral’s own MVPs. Our Vice President of Research, Karen Ericksen, and our Vice President of Client Engagement, Jonathan Kane, who have both been with the company a long time, and whose individual roles grant them unique snapshots of what BuildCentral does as a whole.
Luke O’Brien: Before we get to hear from them, I’d like to introduce a segment on our show which we will be featuring in the future, called the Megamap. In the Megamap, we will be taking a brief but deep dive into some of the more ambitious construction projects going on in the United States right now. These are the billion dollar projects, the five star locations, the most technologically adept, and simply the biggest projects happening right here, right now. Let’s take a look.
Luke O’Brien: All right, everyone. Welcome to the MegaMap, the segment of our show where we give you the lowdown on the biggest construction projects in all stages going on in the United States right now. Let’s dive right in with the Lumina project in California. Now, this is a project that BuildCentral first caught wind of in mid-May of this year. It came in the form of a report to the Planning Commission of San Diego, California, and to my knowledge has not been highly reported on anywhere else thus far. We found that it’s already received recommendations for approval from both the Planning Commission and the Otay Mesa Community Planning Group. The owner and applicant entities for this project were both CR Lumina Group, LLC, and CR Otay Canyon Ranch Associates, LLC, both of which are essentially subsidiaries of ColRich.
Luke O’Brien: If you are not familiar with ColRich, to quote directly from their LinkedIn website, “ColRich is a second-generation family owned residential real estate company based in the heart of little Italy in downtown San Diego. For over 40 years, ColRich has been an industry landmark recognized for integrating design and value in creative residential solutions. ColRich both develops and owns single family homes, town homes, mid-rise condos, and they’ve become a leading multifamily owner developer in the western United States.” Just to give you a little bit of the nitty-gritty details of the Lumina project, you know what exactly ColRich is proposing here, this is taken right out of the report to the Planning Commission. “The project is essentially proposing 1,868 residential units.”
Luke O’Brien: Not sure how that’s going to be divided up into single family or town homes or whatever yet. They’re looking at doing over 62,000 square feet of commercial space. They want to do a school, a recreation center, six acres of public parks, and they’re looking at creating a subdivision comprised of 24 lots on a 93 acre site. It essentially sounds like a small little neighborhood within the Otay Mesa neighborhood itself. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Otay Mesa neighborhood of San Diego, it is an up-and-coming sort of manufacturing neighborhood that’s really close to the border of Mexico.
Luke O’Brien: When I was doing my own research on the Otay Mesa neighborhood, I found some market information on it on the Murphy Development Company website. If you’re not familiar with Murphy Development Company, or MDC, they’re their own San Diego based development company. They both master plan and develop multi-phase corporate industrial and technology parks. But for our purposes, they also provide really great San Diego market information right on their website, including market information on the Otay Mesa neighborhood.
Luke O’Brien: Now to quote from their website, “Otay Mesa is strategically located closer to the central business district and Lindbergh Field,” otherwise known as the San Diego International Airport, “than any other major San Diego industrial area. Otay Mesa is also at the very center of San Diego’s largest labor market,” which happens to be South County and Tijuana, which is “a major advantage to all manufacturing and other companies. Otay continues to be the most cost effective solution to the space needs of industrial companies in greater San Diego. Otay Mesa represents 16% of the total San Diego industrial market,” which is essentially 188.85 million square feet. As you can see, Otay Mesa, it’s already the center of San Diego’s labor market.
Luke O’Brien: Being such a hot spot for manufacturing and industrial companies, it’s fair to say that we can expect a lot more residential development beginning to appear there, the Lumina project being an obvious testament to that. Now, you might be asking, why here, why now? Is the Lumina project a timely development for the area? Well, the short answer is yes. To quote again from the report to the Planning Commission, this is in reference to the physical location of the Lumina project. “Airway Road, Cactus Road, Siempre Viva Road, as well as State Route 905 just north of the site, all provide access to the project site.”
Luke O’Brien: Essentially, the Lumina project is entirely accessible on all four sides, and the landscape itself as outlined in the report is basically open space. It’s field, some agricultural uses. There’s some light industrial stuff a ways away as well. You might ask, why is accessibility so important in this area right now? To answer that question, I would like to refer to the San Diego Union Tribune, specifically an article that came out on April 5th, 2019. This was just a month before the proposal of the Lumina project came before the Planning Commission. This article in the San Diego Union Tribune was written by David Garrick, and the title of the article is San Diego Encouraging More Mix-Use Neighborhoods With New Zoning Policy.
Luke O’Brien: To quote at length from the article, “San Diego officials are proposing new zoning policies that would make it easier for developers to build mix-use projects featuring dense housing blended together with commercial and industrial uses. The goal is encouraging more high rise housing projects to be built near jobs in major transportation corridors, preferably ones with mass transit. City officials say the new zoning is most likely to be used in Mission Valley, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, and University City, where many developments have outdated layouts featuring large surface parking lots and only one type of use. But the new zoning policy would apply to the entire city so they could be used in other areas.”
Luke O’Brien: So there you have it. San Diego is looking for more residential development that is accessible via mass transit near more jobs. The Lumina project fits all the above criteria, especially being proposed in the Otay Mesa neighborhood, which again represents 16% of the total San Diego industrial market. On that point, we will conclude our first installment of the Megamap segment of our show. Thank you so much for listening, and stay tuned for our interview with BuildCentral’s own Vice President of Research, Karen Ericksen, and Vice President of Client Engagement, Jonathan Kane.
Luke O’Brien: All right. Today I’m sitting down with Karen Ericksen and Jonathan Kane. Thank you both for coming on for the inaugural episode of the ConstructionWire podcast, and just for backing it and being behind it since its inception. How are you both doing today?
Karen Ericksen: Good. Thanks, Luke, for having us.
Luke O’Brien: Yeah, of course.
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, Luke, appreciate it. It’s cool.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely, guys. Absolutely. Just for our listeners as well, I apologize for the sound quality. Some of us are taking advantage of being able to work from home, including myself, and we’re thus using headsets, but I think it’s going to work for our purposes. Karen, John, the reason why we wanted to get you both on the air today is because we couldn’t think of any better duo at BuildCentral to be able to discuss construction market data in-depth, but at the same time make it palatable and interesting for listeners. I’d like to just start by asking you both what your background was before BuildCentral, and how you wound up in your current positions. Karen, if you wanted to take it away.
Karen Ericksen: Oh, sure. Okay. Before BuildCentral, I worked for a company called Bacon’s Information, which actually is now Cision Media. I started with them as a research editor. For eight hours a day, I was interviewing media contacts on the phone and doing internet research.
Luke O’Brien: That sounds familiar.
Karen Ericksen: Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Luke O’Brien: Yeah.
Karen Ericksen: When I joined them, they were really on the cusp of… because they used to print out media directories, you’d actually have to proof a directory. It really moved to online research. Then after I took over the team, and did that for several years, the opportunity came up here. My background was a really good fit for the research they were doing at BuildCentral. I interviewed with Rick, and started in early 2006.
Luke O’Brien: Fantastic. For the listeners who don’t know, BuildCentral was founded by two brothers, Rick and Jin Kang. When was that? Was that 2004? Do I have that right, or was it earlier than that?
Karen Ericksen: I think it was ’99 they officially started.
Luke O’Brien: Okay, got you, okay. Then maybe we’ve been online for less time than that, or the portal has been online for less time than that. Yeah, no, we’ve been around for a while. That’s cool, Karen. Jon, what about you?
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, so my background, I started in sales. I’ve always been in sales, client facing. I started with a Chicago company called Dearborn Financial. I’ve always worked kind of in that financial services space previously to BuildCentral. What we did is we provided licensing and training for financial companies. I worked with companies like Goldman Sachs, Prudential, MetLife, doing sales to them to get them licensed to sell securities, so Series 6, Series 7 licensing, things like that. That’s where I started, and bounced around a few different companies in that space on the financial side, worked for bank as well. Then kind of took a left turn. Actually, Karen hired me part-time.
Luke O’Brien: Got it.
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, about 12 years ago. I then transitioned over. I was working at a radio station, a local ESPN station here for about a year, and working at BuildCentral at the same time. Karen was, yeah, my first contact here, and 12 years later we’re still together working here at BuildCentral. That’s cool.
Luke O’Brien: Yeah, she’s definitely a genesis point for a lot of [crosstalk 00:13:48]. Karen, I know you hired me two years ago, for which I am eternally grateful for. Just in my time since I’ve been here, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s tangible in the office. You can kind of sense on the research side that the attitude is stellar, the same on the marketing side. I wanted to ask both of you guys if you can just describe in what ways it’s an exciting time for BuildCentral and for our clients. Is it due to maybe a boom that we’re experiencing, or booms in the market?
Jonathan Kane: You want me to jump in here, Karen?
Karen Ericksen: Yeah, if you want to take the first part, yeah.
Jonathan Kane: We are ascending. I think we’re really on the rise, especially the last few years. We brought in a new partner as well, Tim Slevin, who’s led us… Rick and Jin have had the vision of the company, and Tim has helped execute that over the last couple few years. We’re really growing, which is great. I think the construction industry in general has been really strong in the last few years as well. Karen and I have been around. We went through the recession in 2008, which was difficult.
Jonathan Kane: But I think we are seeing just construction in general taking new heights in markets like multifamily, and healthcare, and hotels, and things like that. The company itself, yeah, it’s really exciting. We have a really great team. Luke, you’re part of that. The staff that we have, it’s just always been really consistent. We pride ourselves on saying, hey, the senior leadership has been with the team. Most have been with us over 10 years. We’ve seen a lot. We’re growing, but at the same time I think it’s been pretty exciting.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely, I know senior leadership staying on for that amount of time is unique in any industry, so that is good to see. Upward mobility is always nice to have. So, yeah. No, I think that’s fantastic. That sort of transitions into the next question I had, again for both of you, perhaps more for you as well, Jon. I was curious, you guys have been here for a while now, and I wanted to see if you’ve noticed any changes in the data and in what our clients want from the data. Has that changed over the years? Do they want specific things now that perhaps they didn’t want five years ago? Anything that you can think of off the top of your head?
Jonathan Kane: Well, since I work not only the sales front but a lot of our clients, I think what we see is a more savvy client base that is using the data. Not just from a straight lead perspective, but I think we all witness everyone using data in ways now that I think is probably different than it was 10 years ago. The data itself that they use, and use our data to not only see the scope of things that are going out there. I think it helps to really drive their decisions from a sales standpoint, or even a company standpoint. We have a big manufacturer that uses our healthcare data.
Jonathan Kane: The feedback we got from them is, hey, it’s a really important tool, medical construction data for us. It’s really helping us plan out in 2019, 2020, ’21. To take that and use the data in a way that helps lead and plan their initiatives from not only company point of view but from sales strategy, I think is really important. Again, I think using on that front, I think I’ve seen a change in that aspect, which I think is really cool. I think we all use data in that way as well.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely. I know that one of our current initiatives is integrating Salesforce and making that accessible for clients as well. The more people who do that, it does require a sort of a tech savvy client base, but people are definitely coming up on that. That is good to hear. Karen, I also wanted to hear from you. It’s nice to get that look into what our clients are experiencing and wanting from us. I wanted you to maybe go in a little bit into what the current initiatives of the research department are. What we’re working towards, and what the research team has in the future. This obviously I’m especially interested in, being a senior researcher myself.
Karen Ericksen: Well, I mean, one thing I wanted to say, tacking onto Jon’s last point is, seeing the data and the data side, it’s really changed a lot over the last 10 years. Our focus is more narrow. We used to list almost any type of project that was over $500,000. Now, we’re focusing on really looking at clients, what they’re using, as opposed to what we’re researching, and trying to just put in what’s relevant to them. Our coverage has gotten better as well, and we’ve expanded quite a bit.
Karen Ericksen: The two big initiatives that we’ve been working on the last two years, one is getting more automation in our research, which it helps us collect data, look for updates. We’re slowly improving that process every day as we’re working with new technologies, new software. The other initiative is really updating our data on a more regular basis. As you know, Luke, it’s challenging because no project is exactly the same. There’s no guarantee it’s going to be set in stone of when they say they’re going to start. It could be three years later when it actually happens.
Luke O’Brien: Of course, no, absolutely. Yeah, it’s always in flux. Do you think that trying to incorporate more automation, and looking at the analytics of how our clients are using the data, is true to the BuildCentral style of research? Do our competitors use the same tactics when they’re researching projects, do you think, with automation?
Karen Ericksen: I know they use a lot of automation. Our goal isn’t to get the researcher out of it. Our goal is really to give the researcher more time to focus on the stuff we’re missing, or that needs additional… It needs more verification, it needs calls, contacting these companies to find out stuff that you’re not going to find out online. That’s really our goal, is to free up the researchers’ time to make it better.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely. Absolutely. Jon, I know that when you first started, you didn’t start out as a marketer, correct? You started as a researcher, if I’m not mistaken?
Jonathan Kane: Yep, yep, very similar to what you do.
Karen Ericksen: He was a great primary researcher.
Luke O’Brien: Oh, you were primary as well, all right.
Karen Ericksen: Until sales stole him.
Luke O’Brien: Yes, that’s what I was curious about. You’re in sort of the unique position, being somebody who has worked on both sides of what we do. I was hoping you could describe whether or not being a researcher helped you be a better marketer for the company, or vice versa.
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, no, I think it’s been a great training ground for people on our sales end. I think a lot of our sales team came from a research side, doing the things that you’re doing. Making not only the volume of calls that you make, but extracting data and connecting with people is such a key component of that primary position that you guys do. I mean, it’s really hard to get data out from people, from architects. The challenges that I think anyone would relate to. It’s a real skill to be able to do that. I think it really translates into being able to connect with people, not only in our sales but the client service side too. I’ve had a couple of conversations with you. We’ve got our eye on you, so…
Luke O’Brien: Perhaps, perhaps…Yeah.
Jonathan Kane: No, it’s really important, I think. Rick has always talked about, as we get people who are employees here that stay with us, and those that do usually stay for a long time. I think it’s the company culture, but also we identify people that play to their strengths and use them in the department. I think that translates kind of our philosophy too from the sales and client service side. We really connect with our clients, and we’re very straightforward and transparent in what we do. We like to bring that honesty and transparency to any transaction we make. The data really works for our clients….
Luke O’Brien: That’s good to hear. That’s positive reinforcement for the researchers as well. Going off that, I just wanted to hear from you guys what you both like most about the company. You’ve been here for a while, so there has to be a couple of reasons why you’re still here. I was hoping I could hear just some of the positive aspects of working for BuildCentral that have kept you around for all these years.
Karen Ericksen: Even though we’ve grown quite a bit in the last few years, we still feel like a small company. You know everybody pretty well. It’s a great team, and everybody from the top down is really accessible. It feels like we’re building something together. I like that a lot.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely, yeah, I feel that as well.
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, and I’ll add, it’s the cliché, it’s the people. It is, it’s true. From Rick and Jin, I think top down from the leadership to being a place… When I was working with the company and going, hey, this is somewhere I want to work. We’ve got great office space, great people. I think, like Karen said, the impact of being a smaller company too, your daily activity which you do, whatever role you have, all really contributes to the company. You see that impact. I think there’s always been with our company as well, that if you have ideas or thoughts, you can bring that to the table. We’re pretty good about implementing a lot of changes that come across from ideas, and we take feedback from not only our clients, but also internal people. I think that’s pretty cool to see that at work.
Luke O’Brien: Yeah, no, absolutely. I would feel the same way. I know what most of our clients do, the majority of them. They provide construction solutions. We’ve got a lot of people who are healthcare product manufacturers, doing everything that you would think or expect companies to do within the construction industry. Jon, I was kind of curious to hear about some of the more unique clientele that comes through our door. Who are the outliers that use our data? What kind of unique individuals and companies do you speak with who benefit from our data that you might not normally expect?
Jonathan Kane: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that kind of lends itself to what I really find interesting about what I do as well. I stress this with the research department. Karen’s invited me to meetings, and we’ll sit in with your team. It’s really cool, some of these clients that we work with. We work with smaller companies up through your big Fortune Five companies that you’ve heard and always known about, but it is this unique variety of clients that we deal with and help out on a daily basis. We don’t typically disclose names of the companies, but I will say one thing that I’ve always been amazed by is, there’s a couple of retail chains that you would think, why would they care about where things are being built or construction information?
Jonathan Kane: You may have a retail division on the musical equipment type company, and you go, oh, I could buy a guitar from them or I can buy some drums, but why would they want to do that? They operate in a space from a commercial aspect as well, or getting into that space. As you come in, and see companies like that, or in retail, I’ve got that in my house. What would that be? It’s that commercial aspect where it’s translating not only to the individual consumer, they’re taking it to more of a corporate level, and integrating it into hotels, or apartment buildings, different things. It’s really cool in that space.
Luke O’Brien: Very cool. Absolutely. Yeah, that sort of brings us full circle. I just want to hear a little bit to sort of cap it off, what the future looks like for BuildCentral. How do you see the next year progressing? Are there any new features, any new coverage?
Jonathan Kane: I’ll take that. I think as we’ve evolved, we started with the ConstructionWire, and started evolving into certain vertical markets like hotels, and healthcare, and things like that. We’ve evolved as a company, as Karen mentioned, with data, but I think where it’s moving is it’s now part of the deliverable. You mentioned some of the integrating the data, we have portal access into our database. We have alerts, so a deliverable in that aspect. Rick talks about this all from the start, but people consume data so differently now, just like you consume food or deliveries through different services. We started integrating with Salesforce integration now is one level.
Jonathan Kane: Where we’re continuing to take it I think is really getting that and realizing every company consumes it so differently. Are there ways that we can deliver it through API, through other channels of data matching, things like that? I think that’s where, again, it’s putting data in a format that really works for our clients in a very efficient manner. I think that’s where we’ll continue to see that. I would say, the other aspect is trends in construction, I think is really important.
Jonathan Kane: What we’re seeing now, I think this also talks about, to your question of unique companies using it, the technology companies. You’re starting to see it with smart homes, smart buildings, even healthcare. There’s a level of consumerization with expectations even of checking into a hospital. You want to have the technology associated with that. I think buildings are being developed and constructed in different ways, and you’re going to have whole different companies that are going to get involved with that. So it’s an exciting time. It’s really, really cool. It’s good stuff.
Luke O’Brien: Yeah, absolutely. No, I completely agree. Karen, do you have anything to add?
Karen Ericksen: Just on the data side, we’re going to keep improving our products. On each one, there’s things we want to build out, new features we want to build in. We just have work to do. When we get our updates at a quarterly basis, then we can add some additional features. There’s more to come.
Luke O’Brien: Very cool. Awesome. Well, I think that’s going to wrap it up, guys. Thank you again for sitting down with me today. Maybe we can touch base in the future, further down the line. Thank you so much.
Karen Ericksen: Thanks, Luke.
Jonathan Kane: Thanks, Luke.
Luke O’Brien: Absolutely, take care, guys. Have a good weekend.
Karen Ericksen: You too, bye.
Luke O’Brien: Well, there you have it, everyone. I’d like to thank Jon and Karen again for coming on, and wish a special thanks to all of you for listening. We will be back on a fairly regular schedule with more content, news, and discussion about the world of construction. In the meantime, it would mean a lot to us if you could hit the subscribe button on your chosen podcast platform, whether you’re using the Apple podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, or whatever else, and give us a follow. Also, if you liked the episode, go ahead and leave us a five star review. It would mean the world to us.
Luke O’Brien: Remember, we are definitely looking to connect with our listeners, and even have them on the show to discuss some of their chosen construction topics, insights, and businesses. If you would like to learn more about BuildCentral, please visit us on the web at www.buildcentral.com. Or if you would like to reach out to me, Luke O’Brien personally, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s L-O-B-R-I-E-N @buildcentral.com. [email@example.com] We’re looking forward to seeing you next time. Take care.