Jim Winter, Vice President of Double Oak Construction, talks about dirt work and the upcoming infrastructure and drainage projects coming to the area.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. Texasbusinessradio.com is the Web site. We’re talking about construction this hour on Texas Business Radio. And how that industry has adjusted based on hurricane Harvey and the changing needs of the community based on that event. I’m your host Matt Register. As always Jay Curry sitting over there in the co-host chair. What do you think man?
Jay Curry: I think Harvey had a huge impact on the state. And we’ve heard a lot of negatives but there’s a lot of good positive too. We’re a, we’re going to generate a lot of work. And a it’s, it’s, but it’s, it’s devastating. And this has been an interesting hour to hear how the construction companies have been impacted.
Matt Register: No doubt. We have a construction company in here now that does dirt, dirt work. Right? I mean, which is an integral part of any construction project. Double Oak Construction, Jim Winter is the Vice President of it, here in the studio. Jim welcome to the show sir.
Jim Winter: Thank you. Happy, happy to be here.
Matt Register: So tell me about Double Oak. What do you do and who do you do it to? Right?
Jim Winter: Yeah. Well we dig detention ponds, drainage channels. We dig them for the mud districts, developers all around town. Any time you see new construction, detention ponds need to be built in order to properly drain the site and detain water, so you don’t have flooding. So, obviously when Harvey happened, everyone points to us or points to the development and it’s not necessarily the case.
Matt Register: Well, I think if anything, Harvey showed us that we have plenty, we don’t need to do anything to expand that in the Houston area. You know, that’s, that’s a joke, obviously. Right? But, you know, some work needs to be done. Yes, it was a catastrophic storm. However additional work does need to be done. How does this work? You know we were talking very quickly during the break. Essentially, if you’re pouring concrete, you need to build another way for that water, another place for that water to go. Is that right?
Jim Winter: Correct. Yes. I mean, if you just, just picture natural, raw land with trees and vegetation. Once you disturb that vegetation, put down concrete or any other surface, that water is going to hit the concrete and essentially travel faster than it does in grass. So whenever you put up a detention pond, you’re trying to slow that water down based on whatever concrete you can solve.
Matt Register: Who normally do you guys work for? Do you work for like residential developers or is this more commercial, commercial work?
Jim Winter: Both. But residential developers, every time a new subdivision goes up, a MUD district is created. Which is a taxing entity and they typically will put out the project for construction. So we work for, directly for developers, MUD districts and commercial developers.
Jay Curry: So, you’re not designing. You’re actually taking the design that they put together for their particular situation and you’re creating what they want.
Jim Winter: That’s correct. Yes.
Matt Register: No. It’s, it’s interesting because the dirty work is what starts everything. Right?
Jay Curry: That’s right.
Matt Register: How have you, how are you expecting the basic industry to adjust, based on this storm? Are you expecting, you know, business to be booming or are you expecting it to go down or slow down because some of the projects. What is, what is your expectation?
Jim Winter: I wouldn’t qualify it as booming but I mean, it’s definitely an uptick. Just because with all the flooding, people, just reactionary, they’re going to want to see drainage problems or drainage projects going. So there will be a lot of detention ponds and fixes to the drainage issues. But I think that’s just the nature of the business. You’re going to see that.
Matt Register: One of the interesting things, again when we were talking during the break, is you own, you own your equipment, you own your crews. A lot of construction guys, construction companies that sub everything out, are having trouble with subs. And that’s not an issue with you guys, owning all of them. Correct?
Jim Winter: Correct. Yeah. We have a hundred plus employees. So a lot of times if you have subcontractors or fly by night people, it’s, you know, in times of distress they’re going to go, you know, where there’s more projects. So we, their all are employees, so as we need to ramp up, we do.
Matt Register: Well, you mentioned to the guys that go to, you know, run to the next project. Right? Those guys are somewhat, a little bit nomadic. Right? As they go where the work is. There’s a lot of people in your industry. I mean, you know, basically anybody that owns a bulldozer is, you know, a dirt work guy. Why would you hire a larger company versus one of those, one of those guys? Because they’re probably a little bit cheaper. Right?
Jim Winter: Yeah, absolutely. I mean you can always get a, if you have a price to do something, you can always get someone to do something cheaper. I mean, that’s, that’s just, that’s capitalism. But typically in the Houston area, there’s four or five of us that are about the same size, that can do just about any, any project. But you’ve got probably 10 or 20 that say that they’re a premier dirt contractor. So, yeah, I mean that’s, that’s an issue. But in terms of us, we say we don’t ever shy away from a problem, do any project and you stick with it. After 20 plus years, I mean, that’s when you say, you’ve been doing business for 20 years, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.
Matt Register: Well and you also know that, you know, because problems pop up. I mean anybody, you know, nobody bats a thousand. Right? In the, in the majors. When problems do pop up, the ability to sit there and make it right and make sure that it’s worked through is where you kind of separate the, the professionals and the guys who would want to be professional. Right?
Jim Winter: Right. That’s correct.
Jay Curry: And I’m guessing that when you have an issue, it’s not your work, it’s the general project. That sometimes they just get tough, they get not correct, not accurate.
Jim Winter: Yeah. I mean…
Jay Curry: You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to, you know, make it happen. You’re working with the general contractor to get this troubled project finished, behind you, so you can go on.
Jim Winter: Yeah. Contractors just have a stigma of, change order contractor, I mean change order…
Jay Curry: Right.
Jim Winter: Just always has a bad, you know, connotation that goes with it. So, you know, change orders are a necessity. With a lot of contracts, I mean, you bid it a certain way and changes occur. You have to, you know, accommodate it. But typically, the good contractors try to do everything in their power with what you saw at the original bid.
Matt Register: Well everybody does their best. Right? And sometimes it can, sometimes it can’t. Some of the fixes are easy, some of the fixes aren’t quite so easy. Right?
Jim Winter: Right. If we can do, it we will.
Jay Curry: So, given the storm and everything that’s happened, what, what’s the impact? You’re, you’re dealing with new construction, large construction projects where you’re coming in and doing the dirt work and getting it all set up. Is that going to slow down for a while while we repair or are they going to be pushing forward? So many people, you know, the sheet rock people you mentioned ,you know, moving toward repairs and things. I mean it’s just going to be a mess. How’s…
Jim Winter: I think you’ll see an uptick in both. I mean both on like desilting channels, where you’ve got a major erosion on channels. You’ll see a lot of those projects coming out. I mean, pretty much every channel in the city of Houston needs to be reworked, redone…
Matt Register: Sure.
Jim Winter: Reseeded, hydomulch. And so you’ll see a lot of desilting projects that will happen and then you’ll see a lot of new drainage problems come out. Just because people are going to want to see it. It’s an ease of mind. They’ll, “Oh, wow, the county or whoever is taking care of that. That’s good, that’s where my tax money is going”.
Matt Register: Well, I can guarantee politicians are going to at the very minimum give the illusion of doing something about it, at the very most, maybe actually do something about it. Right?
Jim Winter: Yeah. And positive things are going to happen too because of it. I mean it just, is going to be a one to one correlation of increasing drainage for every dollar spent? Probably not but it’s the impact and what people are, perception of what people are seeing.
Jay Curry: That makes me think that, you know, it’s one thing, I’ve mentioned the building and stuff new versus old. But you’re actually out there, if they see that a creek has got a problem, you’re part of that solution. You can come out and you can work the creek, you can work the drainage. You do all of that regardless of whether there’s housing around.
Jim Winter: Yeah. I mean we’re currently working on a lot of rehab projects right now too, that… I mean to say, the developers call you, the MUD districts, HOA’s. I mean all these little neighborhoods, their own little entities. And so they say “Well I’ve got a problem”. So we go out there and tried to help them fix it.
Matt Register: Nope. Fascinating. Jim Winter is the Vice President of Double Oak Construction. Jim what’s easiest way for someone to get in touch with you should they want to learn more?
Jim Winter: Just call our main office, 281-516-0100. Or you can reach us online at www.DoubleOakInc.com.
Matt Register: All right, the Web sites DoubleOakInc.com. We’re going to have it linked right there from Texasbusinessradio.com, if you’re driving and don’t want to take notes. Got it. Well Jim thank you very much for joining us. Interesting, interesting take on it with the dirt side of the construction business. Interesting show today Jay.
Jay Curry: Yeah. I thought it was fascinating. I mean, it’s covered so much, so many businesses, so many people impacted. But the construction industry is in turmoil and quickly coming together. It’s pretty interesting.
Matt Register: Yeah. No doubt about that. Guys, we’re going to be back next week. We got to go get smart on something else. We’ve about told you everything we know about this. We’re going to have to figure out something else to bring in next week. But we’re going to make sure that it’s packed, just like always. In the mean time, every second of this show, in high definition video, there at Texasbusinessradio.com. Connect with us on social media. Same time, same place, next week. Guys, we’ll see you then.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.