Innovative Heavy Civil Construction Solutions

COP Construction

COP Construction is a heavy civil contractor that builds infrastructure in both the public and private sectors of the market. The company’s mission states that, “Through safe, innovative and quality solutions, we are building infrastructure in the communities where we live and work,” and it certainly lives up to that mission.
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In the heavy civil infrastructure market, COP specializes in underground utilities using both open cut and trenchless technologies, bridges, dams, concrete structures, water and wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, tank foundations, containment ponds, subdivisions and earthwork. For the underground utilities market COP specializes in water, wastewater, sanitary sewer and storm drain utilities, and in the Industrial market, COP specializes in refineries, terminals and pipelines, oil and gas, demolition, maintenance and process piping.

COP Construction recently established a new division, called COP Trenchless, for boring underneath the surface via the jack and bore method also known as auger boring. This method entails jacking casings and boring tunnels underneath highways and railroads to install pipelines. COP Trenchless also uses horizontal directional drilling, sectional slip lining, pipe bursting and hydro excavation. COP Trenchless provides services to independent clients as well as COP’s own projects.

“My philosophy as a manager is really looking at our company and seeing where we can vertically integrate,” says Glen Perry, the Chief Operating Officer of COP Construction. This philosophy is the reason for the development of COP Trenchless, as the company had to hire contractors for trenchless work in the past. As COP grows, it would rather expand its capabilities as a company to gain more control over projects and more market share.

“If we can self-perform more work and take more control of our projects in-house, that allows us to not only control the schedule but also be more competitive from a pricing standpoint and expand our scope of offerings as a company,” Glen elaborates.

COP Construction was founded in 1947 and is now in the process of a major transition. Its current president and majority owner, Ed Bedell, is gradually transitioning out of the company and Glen Perry, the Chief Operating Officer, will be transitioning into Ed’s role over the coming months and years. The remainder of COP Construction is owned by a group of the senior management of the company, encouraging the company to work together and as a team for the overall good of the company.

COP has three locations in Montana, Utah and Wyoming that employ approximately two hundred and fifty full-time employees with a diverse range of expertise. COP treats its people fairly, provides good benefits and always attempts to make the work environment inviting and enjoyable for everyone.

“Safety is the number one priority that we have as a company,” explains Glen. “We have an extremely strong safety culture that allows us to not only be competitive in our market but also opens up opportunities with clients such as refineries and those type of entities that require a structure with a high standard of safety.”

COP is a growing company and is structured to transition from one generation to another. It strives for long-term, stable profitability and growth to ensure its longevity. “I want to grow the company over time, but I want it to be in a controlled structure so that it can be profitable growth,” says Glen.

COP has won multiple awards for outstanding projects in 2016 and 2017. Utah Construction & Design awarded COP the 2016 Highway Project of the Year under $10 million; the Montana Contractors’ Association awarded COP with the 2017 Industrial/Commercial Project Award in the $1 million to $5 million range; and Utah AGC awarded COP for the Improvement Project Civil/Public Works Project of the Year and the Rural Highway Project of the Year for 2017.

The single biggest challenge that COP must confront is the availability of qualified labor, and specifically, qualified craft labor. There is more construction work to be done than there are qualified people to build it. This is an industry-wide problem that will not disappear anytime soon. Glen feels that the industry has really suffered from the lack of a qualified labor force over the last several years.

“There has been so much focus put onto young people that the only way to be successful is to get a college degree. The concept of construction as a career has really been overlooked, and we are now paying the price for that: a severe shortage of craft construction workers in the US.”

COP places a high priority on its Human Resources department to promote the concept of construction as a career and to promote the building of a company culture centered around COP’s Mission Statement and Core Values. COP understands the importance of a worker-friendly culture that will attract and retain qualified employees. In addition to its own internal efforts, COP has utilized Jacques & Associates as a consultant to help the company build its internal teams, partner with the owners on their construction projects and work with local career centers, trade schools and the Associated General Contractors in Utah, Montana and Wyoming – all to attract young people to the industry who are genuinely interested in construction as a career. COP promotes from within as much as possible to provide people with a growth path from entry level positions into management.

“We want to show people that construction is a viable career where you can make a good living, with good stable income, good benefits and a high quality of life,” says Glen. The ability to work outdoors and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day through skilled craft are rewarding bonuses to construction work that should not be overlooked.

COP Construction has structured its equipment department with an organized approach to heavy equipment management. Its modern fleet of equipment is properly managed and maintained, which distinguishes the company from other heavy civil construction companies in the industry. Its preference for self-performance also causes it to stand out in the industry, as many companies try to subcontract out to third parties more often. COP aspires to self-perform as much of its work that it can to gain more control over the projects, the schedules and the budgets. The only downside to this goal is the need to discover and/or develop from within more skilled labor workers in a very limited labor pool.

“The backbone of our company is our people, and I’d take that a step further to say the backbone is really our field staff and those people that build our work,” Glen explains of the importance of its skilled workers. “I always tell people that our money is made in the field. We’re definitely a field-oriented company because that’s where our money is made.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 14, 2019, 9:55 AM EST