Robins & Morton Featured in Construction Executive Magazine

Conquering New Territory: Companies Step Outside Their Typical Markets to Drum up Business
By Jessica Porter

Breaking Boundaries
As Birmingham, Ala.-based Robins & Morton is discovering, a company does not have to travel across the Atlantic to take a bold step. What began as a friendship among three people who worked for competing companies in the same city has grown into an experienced and powerful team transforming Robins & Morton into a more diverse company.

Bill Morton is CEO of Robins & Morton, a 65-year-old firm with roots in industrial construction before it grew into the health care sector, where it has been a leader for the past 35 years. Morton pinpointed Edward Cassady, who previously worked for an investment firm, as an executive who could help the company diversify. In the course of their discussions, Cassady recommended creating a new division focusing on the power and industrial markets.

Then came the third piece of the puzzle, Bryson Edmonds, who had previously left his job with an industrial construction firm. Edmonds was the natural choice to become the new division’s leader. Morton knew their expertise in investing and industrial construction was exactly what the company needed to successfully execute the division’s goals.

“This effort developed over a long period of time,” Morton says. “It is by far our most significant initiative to add other types of work.”

Both new team members were longstanding providers to the industrial and power sectors and brought trusted client relationships to Robins & Morton.

“We have been able to aggregate a team that has an incredible number of years of experience and very strong client relationships,” Edmonds says. “We have been very heartened by the interest shown by clients.”

The division was awarded an $80 million project in June on an Olin Chlor Alkali plant in Charleston, Tenn., which will create 400 new jobs.

“They were impressed with the execution capabilities and infrastructure Robins & Morton built within its traditional business,” Edmonds says. “Operations, safety and execution for construction are superior.”

Robins & Morton executives break ground on an Olin Chlor Alkali Membrane Conversion plant, Charleston, Tenn., The new division has commitments from about 50 new employees and is still growing. In addition to the power sector and chemical and mineral markets in the industrial sector, the division will concentrate on the pulp, paper and hydrocarbon markets.

Coming off long-term careers at other companies, Cassady and Edmonds believe Robins & Morton has the right combination of focus on internal and external relationships.

“They have been arguably the best health care contractor for the past 20 to 30 years,” Edmonds says. “Much of that reputation is built on a culture that supports employees and treats them as family, while dedicating resources to listening to clients and proactively meeting their needs.”

Morton says existing employees are adjusting well to the changes, which have been anticipated for about a decade.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response of our existing people. Many in our new group came from a company very culturally similar to ours, so we’ve been pleased,” Morton says. “All of our people recognized the need for more diversification and sustainable growth, so the transition has been very well received within the company.”

The merging of company cultures and ideas also has been beneficial to breaking old habits and looking at better ways of doing things.

“Everybody becomes set in the way they do things,” Cassady says. “It’s been a great opportunity to stop for a moment and decide what might be the best practice moving forward.”

Read the complete Construction Executive Magazine article.