A year ago, you joined Morelock Builders after more than a decade with Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. What are the challenges for you in learning this industry and how has your experience has come into play?
I’ve learned a lot from Wayne Morelock and others in the company about the accounting systems, different safety and (human resources) concerns, and really what it takes to stick to a timeline. Wayne likes to say that a lot of people can start a project, it takes another level of detail to finish one. I have found that to be absolutely true. Completing quality work is a primary goal at Morelock Builders, and it’s been exciting to learn how to achieve that in a way that meets the company’s objectives and adheres to our quality standards. I am a generalist and virtually everything is either HR or project management. Those are two things that I brought the skill set from my prior experience.
Construction was deemed as essential amid COVID-19 closures, but what are the challenges that you faced this year? There has been talk of supply chain issues and materials costs rising. The Associated Builders and Contractors organization just reported a 27% increase in softwood lumber prices.
There have been two pieces that have seriously affected the way that we do business. One is pricing of the lumber market and all affiliated products, such as windows, trusses, doors, etc. At one point, you could have a contract on lumber and anticipate that it wouldn’t change prior to the start of your project. At this point, a price might be good for three days or 10 days. The volatility in that market leaves our lumber suppliers with no choice but to shorten their commitment deadlines. We have seen the price of our projects go up significantly. As you mentioned, that 27% increase on one of the major components of a building has put a big dent in some of our plans. There’s another piece of this and that is job safety. Traditionally in construction, we think of job safety as hard hats and appropriate steel-toe boots, high-visibility clothing. But we now add to that masking and maintaining social distance in an environment where frequently our employees and subcontractors are working shoulder to shoulder to complete work. We want our employees to be safe, and it’s really challenging to keep COVID out of our business. There also was a moment when one could not obtain pressure-treated lumber. Even to go to the local lumberyards, there was just nothing to buy. We have had incredible delays on appliances. What normally might take a couple of weeks to deliver, it was at one point taking 90 to 120 days. Those things that homeowners see when they go to Lowe’s to buy a freezer? Imagine that compounded with a 72-unit apartment complex.
Morelock’s backlog is currently at $18 million. Last year at this time it was $22 million. Has COVID-19 or this election cycle caused some people to hold off on projects?
We did have a couple of projects that went on hold that should have kicked off this year. Retail was very heavily affected. We are building zero retail projects today. This time last year, we were talking to several people who were looking at developing additional retail. How the landscape has changed in 12 short months. When COVID first became a factor, we were concerned that projects would go on hold. Others in our related industry, such as architects and engineers that we work with, were reporting to us that they had projects going on hold and work flows from that direction toward us. Different things have taken the place of that. Multifamily construction is big for us right now. Single-family homes have always been big for Morelock Builders.
What are some of your current projects?
The Crossings at East Cherry will ultimately be 240 multifamily units in east Springfield, just west of Cherry (Street) and (Highway 65). We are in the first phase, currently, building 84 units with Phase II slated for next year. That’s a fun project because of the dog-friendly aspect. Our office is filled with dog lovers. So Wayne had the idea and everyone got behind it. We have Morelock Towers that is going in the Corporate Village condo community. Corporate Village was an office project that Wayne did 15 years ago. Morelock Towers is the four-story, 43,200-square-foot office building that should be completed about this time next year. We just finished Logan Heights, which is 71 units of multifamily apartments in Rogersville. We are breaking ground in River Pointe, which is a subdivision right behind The Rivers in Ozark. We are developing 73 lots and hope to start building houses about mid- to late-April.
What's in store for the future of Morelock Builders? Wayne Morelock is still president of the company, but are you talking about a transition?
Wayne has been in the construction industry for four decades. It is his goal that Morelock Builders continue on for four additional decades at least. He is active in daily operations and spends as much time in the office as anyone here. But I believe that he is interested in sharing all of the knowledge and information about Morelock Builders so that it can have continuity at some point. Wayne is not looking to back away, but I am here in support of his efforts to continue to grow Morelock Builders & Associates and meet the construction needs of Springfield's community.
Crystal Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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