Brian Coltharp Featured in Dallas Business Journal

Dallas Business Journal interviewed Brian Coltharp as part of their executive profile series, delving into Freese and Nichols’ goals, along with challenges facing the industry.

Here’s part of what he said in the Q&A, “Three questions: Freese and Nichols’ CEO on the company’s expansion plans“:

Q: What are the biggest challenges in your industry today?

The number one challenge is the workforce. That’s not unique to our industry and it’s not unique to Freese and Nichols. But there are a lot of opportunities out there and there are a lot of public infrastructure needs. All the firms in our industry are just about at capacity. So acquiring and retaining talent is the number one issue for us and it’s really the number one issue for our industry. …

The second thing that’s kind of looming out there … is inflation rising. We’re seeing that when we design projects to be constructed. We put it out for bid, construction contractors give us bids back to actually build the projects, and those bids are coming in a lot higher than what our clients have budgeted, which is based on historic costs.

What that means is they’re having to slide projects back … because they’ve got X dollars to spend this fiscal year, and when some of the projects are coming in a lot more expensive than what they had budgeted, they have less money to do those projects. So they’re having to spread things out.

Q: Material pricing escalation is no joke. How is your firm overcoming that specific challenge?

We do what we call value engineering. When we hear about costs going up, and bids coming in at high prices way above historic levels, we start doing this value engineering.

We don’t just do it when this happens, it’s common in what we do all the time. But it becomes more important now, really looking at our projects that we’re planning and designing and asking ourselves ‘Are there alternative materials? Are there alternative methods to accomplish the projects that we are working on, such that we can bring it in at a lower cost?’ …

Q: You jumped into Freese and Nichols right after you graduated from UTA and you’ve stayed there since. How did your previous experiences with the company prepare you to take the helm?

One of the things I feel like we do great as a company, and this happened to me, is we give our employees a lot of opportunities to do different things.

I worked in different technical groups and in different geographic locations. … I had opportunities to do different types of work, work with different people and learn from those people in different parts of our organization. … I got a lot of exposure to a lot of different areas of the company.

Gaining that experience and really knowing the company set me up to have success and gave me the experience and the knowledge to do what I’m doing today. …