John Miller is optimistic – but cautious.
“Sounds cliché,” he admits, “but with tax and regulatory relief and an abundance of new hires, meaningful growth within the construction industry is hard to come by.”
The president and chief executive officer of The Millstone Companies, Miller is no stranger to tough – and good – times. He has weathered multiple recessions, held the reins of the Scaffold & Access Industry Association as president and prides himself – and the company – on its numerous safety awards.
Headquartered in Upper Marlboro, MD, The Millstone Companies is a construction access equipment specialist that serves the mid-Atlantic region. The company was incorporated in 1977 and provides scaffolding, suspended scaffolding, shoring, hoisting and related access products to the market. Millstone and his team will design, estimate, engineer, erect and dismantle a project.
“[We offer] turnkey access operations, self-performed, with an emphasis on safety,” he says.
Miller, whose business philosophy is: “Safely, on time and under budget. Not bigger. Better,” says business at the moment is steady and the company is awaiting its backlog to progress to the point that its access equipment becomes ready to install on site.
When asked what is fueling the market, Miller has a few theories.
“My best guess is that the low rate, cheap/easy money is fueling the current construction trend,” he says. “Downtown apartments are hot right now as young people are moving back into the cities. Retailers are scaling back as sales move online and we are seeing a large quantity of ‘see-through’ office buildings as capacity has far exceeded demand in this market.”
Miller and his team have a number of high-profile and interesting projects happening at the moment. The company is currently renovating the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Building in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The company has just wrapped up a 12-year project renovating The Department of Interior, as well.
Currently, Millstone is at work on The Wharf in Washington, D.C., which has 11 construction hoists, scaffolding and shoring throughout the six-building complex.
The Wharf is a 3-million-square-foot development for the Southwest Waterfront in D.C. The 24-acre area will be made up of $2.2. billion worth of apartments, hotels, offices and retail along a completely new boardwalk. There will be four new piers, a yacht club and 500 boat slips, plus a $60 million indoor concert venue known as Anthem. The first phases of construction have been completed and the second half of the project, which entails 1.15 million square feet, will be comprised of offices, hotels and residential development. Construction on that phase will begin in mid-2018 and be complete by 2021.
Clark Construction is one of the construction firms on site and has been working with Millstone on the development.
“The Wharf Project is a huge project for Clark,” says Bruce Weedon, construction executive, Clark Construction Group. “We bought Millstone in early in the project for planning purposes.
“They designed, engineered and erected all the construction hoists on the project along with the scaffold back structures, shoring and support services. We know what we are going to get from Millstone and we get it safely, on-time and under budget.”
Another company on site is Donohoe Construction Company, which also praised Millstone.
“We have utilized Millstone on numerous projects in the past,” says Jeff Thomas, senior superintendent with Donohoe. “However, at the Wharf Project we knew the construction hoists would be critical in making the projects tight schedule. Continually moving men and materials throughout the building’s two towers with no downtime has been critical to this project’s success.”
While Miller enjoys renovating some of the greatest buildings in American history (his company has worked on The White House, U.S. Capitol, Hirschorn Museum, U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Pension Building and many more), a challenging job is something he greatly enjoys.
“Millstone is always looking for new, innovative access products and services to add to our offerings,” Miller says.
And as he adds to that deep pool of work, Miller plans to grow within and keep an eye closely on market trends. His eldest son, Jacob Miller, joined the company just last year after graduating from the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. Miller acknowledges the challenges associated with hiring, despite adding to his team.
“One of the biggest issues facing the industry right now is, without question, the lack of available talent,” Miller says. “The labor pool of skilled craftsmen/tradesmen has diminished to the point that the future of the construction industry could enter a slow growth period.”
Time will only tell.