Trees to keys

Project management adds value to commercial and industrial construction. By Chris Tilton

The world is filled with clichés, many of which are overused. However, the old adage ‘location, location, location’ is as true now as it ever was when it comes to real estate. Finding the right parcel of land is critical. It plays a pivotal role in a variety of ways, ranging from the ease of permitting to material delivery to the long-term success of the business that will call that site home.

With the economy on the rebound, commercial real estate developers are facing a new reality: demand for land is driving up costs. Despite the escalating prices, companies looking to build aren’t deterred but still want good value for their investment. Knowledge and planning are how to ensure the best bang for the buck in today’s climate.

Andrew DeWitt, my business partner, and I basically grew up together, attending Benedictine Military School in Savannah. After graduation, we headed in different directions with Andrew attending the University of Georgia and earning a degree in real estate, while I went to Georgia Tech to receive a bachelor’s in building construction.

Andrew’s knowledge of the commercial real estate brokers in Savannah and the surrounding counties gives us a leg up on competitors. He knows every broker because he deals with them day to day in the appraisal business. So, we’re able to reach out to a number of the brokers to get not only the land that’s on the market but also a lot of wins off-market.

Knowledge of properties before they’re widely available is clearly a tremendous advantage in securing the best locations, whether they’re prime spots or alternative outside the box’ sites that may not provide the best visibility, instead offering great value.

However, knowledge represents only part of the equation for success. With our full-service commercial and industrial construction services and being able to see the entire scope of the project, we add the best value to customers’ projects either through leveraging our suppliers for improved material and labor pricing or, perhaps more importantly, eliminating mistakes before they happen.

The unprecedented building material costs and labor shortage currently affecting our industry only place a greater value on knowledge and planning. Advocating for clients through that design-build process can expedite the project much quicker with cost-effective results.

As with many other builders, a lot of the material that we use day-to-day, we just can’t get anymore. With this in mind, the minute we finalize a deal, we begin ordering the supplies and materials needed, thus allowing us to secure the best price and ensure the material is on-site and ready once construction begins. This keeps a project on time for all involved, especially when subcontractors are in high demand. Any delay or hiccup could result in a subcontractor shifting to another available job or impact the pricing of that project.

We don’t really shop around much for subcontractors. We have a team of subs that we work with on basically every project and they give us a good price because they know they get paid when they give us a bill.

I recently had a client say he regrets not using our team to handle an entire project because dividing it up in the search for a better price resulted in a much longer time frame to complete the building, offsetting any of the gains they may have achieved.

That mindset of keeping to a schedule is crucial to keeping on time and budget. Our people focus on the day-to-day happenings at jobs as well as those looking at 30 days and 60 days ahead.

We’re always looking at angles where we can actually gain time, and that’s what we do. One of our mottos is ‘We get it done.’ At the very beginning of the design, we try to think of time management skills that can help us in the end. Our goal is to get that job done as quickly as possible because it gets our customers in the doors to start their new business.

We embrace new technology for our business continues to grow too, which helps with the design phase as well as the building phase. Keeping up with the latest technology ensures the customer gets the competitive advantage needed while helping our team ensure the project’s success.

Our company’s strategy, planning, design-building process, time management and technology all come together, but only after a place to build is located. It all starts with the land.

Chris Tilton is president and co-principal of Dewitt Tilton Group, a premier construction firm located in Coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry, which specializes in commercial construction.