Jonathan Shively is the co-founder and president of Central Construction Group and Southland Building Materials. Prior to joining CCG, Shively was a managing director at Stephens Inc., a financial services firm, where Shively was the head of the institutional equity sales teams for both Europe and the Southwest United States. Shively holds series 7,63, & 65 licenses with First Financial Services in Little Rock. He is currently on the board of Our House, a shelter for the working homeless in Little Rock. He and his wife, Valerie, are members of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church and have two children, Collins, 4, and Hendrix, 2. Shively is a 1992 graduate of Little Rock Central High, and a 1996 graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he majored in International Business.
1. What advice can you give a first-time developer when looking for a general contractor or individual contracted skill?
After opening up the bidding process and always checking references, my main recommendation would be to look for a company with a reputation and skillset specific to the project at hand. There are intricacies with every different type of construction that only come with experience. A contractor knocking out strip centers may not necessarily be the right fit for a ground-up apartment project, whereas apartments can be a good transition into the hotel industry. As you can imagine, restaurants or service stations have specific requirements due to regulations. In my experience, historic renovations are a different beast than regular construction, yet with great risk comes a great reward. Be careful not to just check the boxes or choose based solely on the lowest bid, take the time to research and really consider the external factors at play. It is possible the contractor has only built in rural areas or urban sprawl and may not have the tools to work through some of complications that come with building downtown in tight spaces or working through street closures. Construction projects are partnerships and although it can be daunting to do your research inevitably it will work to your project’s benefit.
2. Why do walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods matter and what can cities and towns do to make it easier for New Urbanist projects to be developed in their community?
“Assuring the core of a city is healthy is like a body having a healthy heart” my good friend and visionary for downtown Little Rock development, Jimmy Moses said. As you know Little Rock experienced downtown decay over decades, and we are proud to be a part of the revitalization effort. Safe, well lit, and walkable streets mean people are spending more time and money in the footprint of where they live, work, and play. Their tax revenue stays in the community and generates revenue to encourage more development. Our partners look within a certain radius of well-populated restaurants and shops to build condos or apartments, allowing people the opportunity to save on transportation costs and time commuting. Communities looking to revitalize their own downtown can look no further than the likely abandoned Main Street for historic charm and space for condos and lofts. Abandoned warehouses are an opportunity for a mixed-use building with an industrial style. Investing in safe sidewalks and cross walks, bike lanes, and street lights are extremely simple things to show that city leaders are committed to New Urbanism.
3. With an estimated shortfall of over 3 million people in skilled construction trades, what are some actions companies like yours can do to help fill the gap? What impact is this shortfall having on your industry?
This industry is encountering a structural problem. The recession caused skilled workers to leave the field and younger workers never filled the void. Students are learning computers, which are great, but they do not have access to woodworking shops or hear the value of skilled trades. Programs like the Arkansas State Chamber’s “Be Pro, Be Proud” are reaching out to younger generations to change the perception of skilled labor. There are great public/private partnerships providing workforce training and we are committed to making our salaries competitive, as well as providing OSHA training, healthcare packages, and 401k matches when hiring so we can recruit and retain skilled people. As with all industries facing a shortage of skilled laborers there are higher costs associated with delayed projects and we work to combat this by utilizing construction management tracking software that helps us stay on track with our goals, identifying baseline trends and carefully watch budgets. Kids interested in computers can still come work for a construction company and be involved with cutting-edge technology.
4. From a construction company perspective, what are the top priorities to be considered when a municipality wants to prepare for downtown development?
Construction projects are partnerships between the contractors and developers, as well as the end-consumer and cities. Mayors and city managers need to be in support of the overall goal of developing the downtown and be prepared for growing pains associated and keep the end goal in mind. Prioritize providing flexible code enforcement or rapid plan approval for downtown development. Infrastructure repairs make projects viable for developers and contractors. Trust me, no contractor is intentionally trying to take up parking spaces or cause street closures, and old water and sewer lines or poor storm drainage can wreak havoc on project’s success. Look back through the city’s ordinances and laws for unintentional consequences encouraging urban sprawl or destruction of historic properties and proactively reverse the trend by working with economic development groups to incentivize downtown development.
5. How has the emergence of smart building technology affected your industry and do you see it having a significant impact on future construction?
Smart Building Technology is changing the way a building communicates with those that inhabit it. Smart devices are now being installed into systems and devices that have been around for years changing outcomes. Heating controls, sensors for lights and water are reducing consumption. Behavioral adaptation and predictive maintenance are now firmly entrenched in new buildings allowing centralized dashboards to control them. Visionaries and those who prioritize sustainability have led the smart technology emergence and now consumers are coming to expect it in their offices and homes. Smart building infrastructure is most easily installed during construction, so architects and engineers have a duty to push these technologies where it makes sense. On the construction side, using smart technology saves time and money for contractors and developers and creates a better, longer lasting, more-cost efficient product. Project maintenance and communication tools streamline processes keeping developers and architects up to date in real time, increasing precision and efficiency. We are already seeing the benefits of detailed 3D BIM modeling, prefabrication, 3D printing, robotic automation manufacturing, site drones, and even technologies impact on safety making jobsites less dangerous.