Our “Inside Live Oak” blog series offers an insight into our business and all of the professionals who are integral to our success, as well as the success of our client’s projects. This week, we sat down with Chris Foster, Director of Construction.
Tell Us a Little About Yourself. How Did You Get into the Construction Industry?
I gained a first-hand understanding of how construction worked as a teenager when my family built our homes. We built two homes and it gave me a bird’s eye view of how general contracting worked. We hired our own sub-contractors and were able to bring a finished product together.
I am originally from Birmingham, AL and I went to college at Auburn University, enrolled in their School of Building Construction. Throughout college, I interned at a small construction firm to gain first-hand experience in the field.
After I left college, I worked for a series of contractors throughout the Southeast. I was privileged to be involved in many different projects including an entire YMCA campus. I continued to grow my knowledge working on commercial spaces including doctors offices and banks as well as completing a special project for the State College of Florida. Later, I started working on larger commercial projects including multifamily housing, HUD housing projects, and conventional market-rate projects.
What Is One of the Biggest Challenges in Your Role?
I feel our biggest challenge in the current construction industry is labor. With the last recession, thousands of tradesmen left the industry due to the lack of work. Many of them have not returned to the workforce feeling that there is still instability in the market. Getting qualified labor can be a challenge and it’s important that we have the best workers in the field.
What Is Your Favorite Part About Your Role?
I think the most exciting aspect of construction is starting out with a rough idea or concept from the project owner and helping them develop that idea to a completed project. I see myself as an important part of the larger team. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill our client’s vision.
Where Do You See the Future of Multifamily Construction Going in the Next Few Years?
In the past few years, I’ve really seen the multifamily industry grown. People, especially young professionals early in their careers, want the flexibility of maintenance-free living. They want the flexibility to easily move within their industry in order to advance in their careers. They don’t want the ties and costs of home ownership. The market has evolved accordingly with a drive toward urban living. Also, with more people working from home they want the flexibility of being able to work anywhere. They can live and work near the beach or the mountains and not be tied down.
Are You Excited About Any Upcoming Projects?
We have a 45,000 square feet industrial warehouse here in Jacksonville, FL that we are working on. It’s a tilt-wall project, they go in and pour the concrete slab foundation, and the walls are constructed there on-site. Then you lift the panels into place and install the roof.
We have several projects that are for repeat clients. We are breaking ground on a site at the Atlantic at Grand Oaks in Charleston, SC along with a number of other jobs. We’re in the design-assist phase for a project that is a common owner of the Solana project. We are excited to be doing second and third projects with repeat client groups. It enables us to learn what drives them and their personality, we are better able to facilitate their projects.
What Has Contributed to Your Success at Live Oak?
I’m not so much of a me-type person. I’m much more of a team person. I like to empower the people I work with. I don’t look at myself as the boss. I’m just another member of the team that helps us get to the end results our clients are looking for. I enjoy collaborating with the group to get to our end goals.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the client: obtaining their end result with the highest quality and the most direct schedule at the best price.
Anything Else You Would Like to Add?
We have a great culture at Live Oak with a mix of seasoned professionals and younger guys to the industry. We have a great vibe here at Live Oak. It’s an exciting company doing great things.