Monday, January 2, 2012

Clash of the Titans.


Having worked for both Bob Clark (Clayco) and Fred Kummer (HBE) as corporate communicagtions director and Vice President of Marketing, respectively, I could not resist the opportunity to see a breakfast panel presentation that included those two giants of the industry along with another guy from Burns & McDonnell (of whom I was not familiar). The event was to be presented by the DBIA-Mid America chapter at the Engineers Club on Lindell.

The Design Build Institute of America, Mid America chapter is ramping up its presence in St. Louis. It’s no secret that the fully integrated approach to architecture, engineering and construction has deep roots in this region with a dozen top contractors and an army of others calling this part of the world home.

Fred Kummer was in unusually good form and quite gracious. Sure he had a few clumsy sentences and his microphone wasn’t working all too well for him, but the room of maybe 150 people didn’t seem to mind. Bob Clark flanked the Burns & McDonnell panelist stage left and FSK flanked him to the right. Bob is always witty and charming and today was no different. The rivals have had exchanges from time to time involving business and personnel, but the format of a “Legends of the Industry” panel brought out the best in all three panelists. Naturally I was focused on Fred and Bob.    

There was agreement that Design-Build was a good project delivery method for any project. Fred stressed his focus on adding value. “There are people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing,” Fred pointed out adding, “HBE sometimes has a tremendous amount invested in a project up front. We think that is as it should be.” Bob Clark suggested that some owner partnership should include both having investment up front. He also stressed that while he admires Fred Kummer’s business model, his is completely different. (Clayco’s offering includes site selection, real estate expertise and a span of business unit expertise. Clayco selects projects carefully from hundreds of opportunities his firm hears of in the course of business each day. HBE has moved away from the hotel business, financial facilities and medical office buildings to be more narrowly focused on Hospital campuses, not the more broad term Healthcare. )

Bob talked about a big project, a plant in Midland, MI for manufacturing batteries for DOW. Fred talked about a $300 Million dollar Kaiser Permanente project that involves a difficult location in Los Angeles and the challenges of working with OSHPD regulators in California.

Fred brought up his early beginnings with a donut shop and a car wash. Bob talked about scary water leak in a project locally that in the end stressed the quality of the building’s design. (Fortunately, he added, the engineering and design of this project contained the problem with minimal damage.) 

Both Fred and Bob got their share of laughs but neither at the other’s expense. Only gentle jabs and polite references to their differences. The Burns & McDonnell guy was kind enough to provide perspective and was actually a great bridge between Bob and Fred. 
The hour and a half flew by and remarkably the great men shared the venue pretty evenly. David Miller of HERA did a commendable job as moderator and the DBIA-Mid America chapter will have a tough time topping this one.

This account is from August 18, 2010 but I thought it worth posting.

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