IBJ: Tell us a little about your background coming into this office.
Tindall: I worked at H.H. Hall Construction out of East St. Louis for nine years … as an estimator/project manager. They basically went out of business in 1985, and I was forced to look for work as a carpenter again. From ‘85 to ‘87 I worked as a carpenter/superintendent for people like Poettker and Korte-Plocher.
In ‘87 I got the opportunity … with Sanford Brown school of business out of St. Louis, which was wanting to expand to this side, to do some renovation work. It basically grew into an 8,700-square-foot building addition.
Quite frankly it was like a snowball. That was probably a $300,000 to $400,000 job — still a nice job these days — but now our single aggregate is like $12 million and our total aggregate is more like $20 million. We’ve got projects going in the range of $5 million, down to the smaller projects.
We don’t do residential any more. Now, 25 percent of our volume is probably industrial. As of March we’re 26 years in the business.
IBJ: For a builder to be in business that long any more is pretty good.
Tindall: You know, I’ve had young people come to me and ask, ‘What is it to have a business?’ And I say it’s a lot of hours. It’s not easy. But as I look back I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It’s been very rewarding, and I’ve been very fortunate with a lot of subcontractors and suppliers that I’ve managed to team myself with over the years.
IBJ: Is that how you got to be involved in the SIBA group? Knowing a lot of the players?
Tindall: It’s very helpful. H.H. Hall was very involved. Howard Hall, my old employer, was a president of SIBA at one time. I became president in December of last year and will serve until December 2015. Our board is a composite of general contractors, some associates and affiliate members. From there, there is a secretary, a first and second vice president and the president. The past president serves for another two years (to help in transition).
A few weeks ago we had our every-two-year planning session. All the board members are invited and we go through one day of planning, to see what board members want to do. We’re taking the things that are important to us as builders and members and trying to provide focus and direction for the organization to our CEO and COO.
IBJ: Tell us about the recent conference you went to.
Tindall: The Associated General Contractors of America (national) convention (in Las Vegas); they do it every year. They have classes and programs on all kinds of topics all day long. You can pick and choose.
IBJ: What were some of the concerns you talked about?
Tindall: As far as employment, the West Coast is doing a lot better than the dear old Midwest that we have here. I sat in some project labor agreement programs where they discussed what they’ve done in places like Rhode Island. We’ve talked about it internally, but I don’t know if the unions would accept it here.
A lot of the contractors I talked to out there, similar to us, said their private work is doing well, but they are still seeing a real flux of many bidders on public work. It’s been like that for years. On a public job here, if you’ve got any less than 12 bidders it’s almost like, great. I can remember years ago you might have six or eight bidders.
IBJ: Hard times drive the interest?
IBJ: What’s your personal take on the direction of the industry?
Tindall: In the last year, including this one, we’ve done OK. But I haven’t seen great improvements in the economy yet. We feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to keep all of our current employees busy. With three buildings that we’re trying to get out of the ground and some other private work we’re working on currently, we’re looking forward to a better year than last year.
A lot of our projects we go into areas like O’Fallon and Granite City, and they allow us to move our work force. And the business agents, they’ve been great. The sad thing is, I’m hearing the same story every place, they have so many people in their halls because of the lack of work. They just wish we could hire more. Without the money flowing from the state, it’s not going to ever get better.
IBJ: What do you offer to members? What are some of your goals?
Tindall: We’re looking for things to improve our electronic plan room, an online plan room where members can go in and look at physical (project) plans. Rather than burn gas to drive to various offices, they can go on line and get their information. (Tindall is chairman of the IT committee that oversees the plan room.) It’s something that came about four years ago. Some of the bigger contractors were setting up their own plan rooms. We really feel having our own is an asset to our members. The number of plans is way down so far this year.
We also have a very good safety program that provides safety training and CPR training. Our safety director will come to each member’s job site and give safety talks.
We have a long-standing educational committee that developed a program two years ago where we’re actually giving out scholarships to people in the construction field, which we think is a real plus of SIBA, giving back to the community. We’re giving back to the industry, to the young people who really need financial assistance.
We have a lot of social outreaches, trying to unite all our membership. One of the suggestions that came up was to have less of them but make them have more value, such as meeting with legislators. Making it more defined than just having the social.
Bill Tindall is president of Tindall Construction Inc. in Pontoon Beach. SIBA is a trade association of 500 commercial and industrial, building, highway and utility contractors in the 39 Illinois counties south of Springfield.