Strong as Steel
For LPR Construction, an essential service, the past year’s pandemic has seen the company meet challenges head-on with strength and resilience – executing its steel erection, industrial construction, and plant services projects as ever with professionalism and care for safety.
“We are cautiously moving about our business, doing what we are good at, and focusing on those projects where we excel,” says Nick Miller, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Miller has spent 28 years at this company that’s been setting standards for over 40 years. “We want to grow, but we’re not trying to force growth,” he says. “We’re trying to find the opportunities that make sense for the company with the talent we have, keep doing what we’re doing, and grow as the economy allows.”
COVID-19 has presented the long-time business with some surprises. A year ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, LPR expected the market for medical-based structures to skyrocket – but the exact opposite happened.
Elective surgeries went down, and surgery clinics earned less and so tightened their belts on construction projects. As a result, some projects were delayed or canceled. This saw LPR pivot quickly, and dedicate much of its time to pre-qualifying projects and understanding opportunities.
The company believes that the coming months will be key indicators for next year, and for ’23, ’24 and beyond, and is fielding plenty of questions concerning the immediate future of COVID-19 and construction. One of the most frequently asked is, how are structures being built, with staff working from home?
“We’ve kind of adapted to this,” states Miller, “and because we’re national, we’ve been remote for years, so doing this kind of communication isn’t new to LPR.”
A better kind of client
With over four decades of experience and a passion for building, LPR’s portfolio reads like a Who’s Who of major construction projects.
In aviation and aerospace, LPR successfully erected giant steel hangars to accommodate the air force’s new KC-46 Pegasus at the McConnell Air Force Base, and test stands for NASA, built tough to withstand the awesome power of massive, heavy-lift rockets.
In sports and entertainment venues, LPR projects include the Sioux Falls Event Center, and steel erection for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which opened to great fanfare last July.
Sports stadiums, event centers, and amusement parks and other structures all have something in common – steel. A lot of steel.
The two test stands LPR created for NASA – one of 85 feet in height (25.9 m), the other 211 feet (64 m) – required 3,000 tons of steel, and about eight miles (almost 13 km) of structural welding. Enormous, complex projects are all in a day’s work for LPR Construction.
Another construction – the massive 128 foot (39 m) tall, 800 foot-long (244 m) trusses for Norwegian Cruise Line in Miami, Florida – measures 166,500 square feet, and weighs 7,400 tons, with several columns weighing over 50 tons apiece.
Erected during the state’s hurricane season, the trusses were built in the shop and needed to be transported by barge via the Intracoastal Waterway to Miami. As there was no crane between the construction site and the water, the barges had to be unloaded on the cargo side of the port.
Service and safety
Created in 1979, LPR Construction continues to uphold the collective vision of its founders Larry Boyd, Peter Carner, and Rocky Turner.
Forming “LPR” from the initials of their first names, the three founders were Indiana residents with experience in areas ranging from construction to the iron industry and to teaching shop in high school.
In time, the trio relocated the company to the City of Loveland, Colorado. In October 2018, Rocky Turner stepped down from his role as LPR’s Chief Executive Officer, with his son, Linc Turner, succeeding him as CEO.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished as a company, as community members, as a team,” says Rocky Turner. “We’ve delivered years of consistent growth, led the industry in championing employee safety, and built a strong, enduring culture tied to our values. And, we’ve also developed leadership that can ably take us forward.”
Owned by its employees, LPR today is a non-union shop company, with between 400 and 450 staff and field workers. Recognizing that project schedules and deadlines can be challenging, the company is a big believer in creating a good work/life balance, including time off after large-scale jobs. And since steel erection can present workplace hazards, safety and training is fostered at all levels within LPR.
A core value of the company’s is that employees never walk past potential safety hazards, but report them to the safety professionals present on all job sites. Every week, employees get on a call and talk about any incidents, near misses, and how they can learn. Sometimes, these even include fender benders on the highway, not actual accidents.
“We talk about every single incident, and try to make everybody aware of what’s going on, how to manage and mitigate, and make sure things don’t happen over and over again,” says LPR’s Chief Operations Officer Peter Radice.
With an unwavering focus on safety at all stages – from eliminating hazards during the pre-construction phase to training, mentoring, continuous improvement, planning, and accountability – LPR is recognized across America for its safe work initiatives.
Last May, the company was presented with a Safety Excellence Award from The Steel Erectors Association of America (SEAA) acknowledging its exceptional safety training and practices.
For the past two decades, LPR has been the longest-running steel erector in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) in Region 8, which includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. A designation with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the VPP sees the company adhere to requirements in management leadership and employee involvement, worksite analysis, safety and health training, and hazard prevention and control.
With LPR for almost 21 years, Radice knows firsthand the importance of job site safety. A few years ago, he was approached by a VPP auditor who said he had been on few job sites in this potentially dangerous industry where he saw fathers and sons working together – where the father actually felt safe enough to bring his son to work with him.
In fact, some employees have left the company for other businesses, gotten married and had kids, then come back to LPR “because safety is important, and so is knowing that a company actually cares that you are going to go home safe,” he says. “That’s a huge deal, and something that we offer. I think every company talks about it, but we truly do mean it.”
The company’s reputation for operating with the utmost attention to safety while also providing workplace opportunities for advancement, is why many come to LPR construction, particularly ironworkers.
Taking on projects across America, LPR employees have plenty of opportunity to select the way of life that works for them: stay close to Colorado, or travel to Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and other locations.
“Some people want to stay in one area, and other people want to travel all over the place,” says Radice. “That is something we offer that is probably different from a lot of other steel erectors that concentrate on one area. And when you look at the demographics of how many people have been with the company for over 15 years, and even over 20 years, it’s pretty strong.”
Another factor in the company’s retention of staff, says Radice, is simply that, “We build some fun stuff.”
From soccer stadiums to arenas, and from hospitals to giant towers for some of the world’s best-known aerospace companies, life at LPR Construction is never dull.
One of the company’s projects presently under construction is the Nashville Soccer Club Stadium. Slated for opening in 2022, LPR is playing a key role in the steel structure of the new building.
“It’s going to be a nice addition to a very busy city,” says Miller of the work. “Nashville has had a lot going on in the last several years, and this brings them another element.” On a 38-week long schedule, LPR expects to complete its $8 million portion of the work by September, and ramp up its crew from about 25 to 40.
Once completed, the 30,000 seat stadium will boast 27 suites, seven premium areas, a safe-standing Supporters’ Section, and be the most concert-ready venue of its kind in Major League Soccer.
On the hospital side of the business, LPR’s recent projects include the MIHS Acute Care Replacement Hospital in Phoenix. Having passed the halfway mark in late January, it will cover about 670,000 square feet when completed, and require 4,700 tons of steel.
Another recent work for the company is an addition to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. About 700,000 square feet, the clinic is a design-assist project for LPR, a type of work that’s steadily growing. “They finish the design process, we offer input, and try to help the project maintain its budget and make it more economical,” says Miller.
Stepping in with design-assist
Over the years, designs and briefings provided by clients have tended to become less complete and prescriptive, which is where LPR likes to step in and help. The reasons for the change to design-assist are convincing.
By getting LPR involved in projects at an early stage, their experts can contribute far more and add to the practicality of the design, making it more efficient and more economical than by just having a designer or architect working alone. An example, says Radice, are the steel connections previously designed by engineers. Since steel fabricators are set up differently, they may use different connections – as long as LPR is aware of and able to meet load requirements, other connections can be used.
“We are not designing, or stamping drawings, or anything of that nature. We are helping influence the design and the outcome of the project,” says Radice of design-assist, the use of which has increased over the past decades with rising labor, material and equipment costs. By getting involved early, at the design stage, LPR provides valuable input and asks the right questions.
“What is most important for the owner: speed, or costs?” asks Radice. “If speed isn’t the main point, how can we make it cheaper? You have the opportunity to create your own destiny.”
Along with stadiums and hospitals, the company is busy on other works, including SK Battery Phase II in Commerce, Georgia. A Korea-based oil refiner moving into the electric vehicle (EV) market, the new phase represents a capital investment of some $2.5 billion for SK, and the single-biggest foreign investment in the state.
Sometimes projects are extremely complex, like the new ride for Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah. Literally a mountain of about 8,000 erected pieces, the structural complexity “required our team to build odd-shaped and very light modules,” according to the company. Along with color-coding pieces within modules, the seven month-long job occupies 55,000 square feet, and required 900 tons of steel.
And on the resort side of the business, LPR was entrusted with Gaylord of the Rockies, a massive project of 1,500 guest rooms resembling a Rocky Mountain resort. The project sprawls over a whopping 1,200,000 square feet, which includes 865,000 square feet of convention space and 70 meeting areas. It took 7,150 tons of steel and 24 months to construct.
Looking forward to a post-COVID world, LPR continues to market itself through its website, and through online media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. With sales people in strategic locations in Louisiana and Alabama, they can drive to meet clients, instead of flying.
Welcoming new workers into the company by partnering with Colorado-based MSC Safety Solutions and working with the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER), LPR believes in giving back.
For last year’s National Apprentice Week, the company spotlighted apprentices on social media, and sent thank-you letters to all for being part of the apprenticeship program. Some apprentices went to lunch with company executives who had themselves started and worked their way up at LPR years earlier, proving that at LPR, it’s the personal touch that matters.