The Future Looks Bright: Robins & Morton Featured in the Current Issue of Alabama Construction News Magazine

Robins & Morton Introduces New Division

By Hugh Rushing

Full Alabama Alabama Construction News Magazine article here.

Robins & Morton has built its business to the point where it was listed as the number-one healthcare builder by volume in 2010 by Modern Healthcare Magazine’s survey. In addition , the firm has been consistently named as one of the best mid-sized companies to work for in America due to its worker-and family friendly practices.

Now, the company has announced a major expansion effort with the establishment of a power and industrial division. And within just a few days of the announcement, the division also introduced an $80-million membrane conversion project for Olin Chlor Alkali at the firms’ Charleston, Tennessee, facility.

The power and industrial division will be headed by former top executives of BE&K and KBR, Bryson Edmonds and Ed Cassady, and staffed with a number of other executives who have worked with those firms. Edmonds, named senior vice-president of the division, previously was vice-president of sales and marketing for the global power and industrial business unit of Houston-based KBR, Inc. He joined that firm when it acquired Birmingham’s BE&K, Inc. where he was vice president of sales. Cassady, the firm’s new CFO and senior vice-president, was previously with The Martin Companies, a venture firm in Nashville, Prior to that position, he was executive vice-president for BE&K, with responsibilities for strategic planning, sales, and marketing. He also served on a number of boards of BE&K subsidiaries.

Bill Morton, CEO of Robins & Morton, explains that his firm actually got its start as an engineering firm designing large, heavy industrial projects. “So, in one way, this really is just a return to our roots, bringing our 65 years of experience back to this area of the construction industry,” he says. “We aim to diversify in bringing our leadership in healthcare and commercial construction to the industrial construction area.” Morton points to major projects the firm has completed in the past, such as the Kankakee Electric Steel Mill in Illinois in 1961 and a large consolidation project for Alabama Power in the early 1970s.

Edmonds says the initial focus of the division will be power generation, chemical, minerals, pulp and paper, and hydrocarbon projects. “Robins & Morton’s culture and its reputation for high-quality work will translate into the type of construction firm sought by leading industries when it comes to upgrading and building new facilities for the 21st century,” he observes. Cassady points out that the high degree of direct work required in many of Robins & Morton’s healthcare projects meshes well with the requirements of heavy industrial construction. “We already have some 350 gifted craftspeople in the firm,” he explains, “and we will be hiring more.” Cassady says that Mittie Cannon has joined the division as director of training and will be responsible for craft training and career development.

Edmonds ads that industrial construction has changed in recent years. “I doubt, for example, if you could get permits to build a new paper mill in a green field,” he says. “Consolidation in many heavy industries means that existing plants need refits and expansions in order to meet growing consumer demands.” The new division will also offer full-service engineering, procurement, construction, and industrial maintenance to its customers.

Cassady agrees that the areas the new industrial division is focused on will be engines of growth in the coming years. “Take pulp/paper, for instance,” he says. “This industry is converting to more tissue production. At the same time, the explosive online growth of consumer product sales means more demand for corrugated medium, so plants that produce kraft paper are seeing increasing demand. Then there’s the whole growth of a larger middle class in countries such as India and China. These people will be demanding products which the paper industry does not yet have the capacity to produce.”

Despite economic statistics by the U.S. Census that say capital spending dropped to a five-year low in 2009 to $1,090 billion, observers see spending on the horizon. In the past decade, mining, utilities, and healthcare were the all-growth engines for capital expenditures on equipment and structures. Even with the recession, economists say that rising commodity prices have ignited extractive industry development. Utilities are facing retrofits to produce cleaner and more efficient use of resources, and healthcare growth is expected to continue as Baby Boomers age into their retirement years. With these predictions, the future looks bright for Robins & Morton—and for the industry as a whole.