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Rebecca Green | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Lee Loveall

CEO and Co-owner, Creative Modular Construction LLC

Posted online

What’s the basis of prefabricated or modular design, and how does the concept work?
The idea with conventional build, there’s a lot of challenges with weather and other conditions, site conditions. So, it just gives you an opportunity to build something offsite. While the dirt work and concrete work and all those scopes are being performed, you’re able to produce a building offsite. There’s a lot of opportunity cost benefits to it.

What are the drawbacks to that type of design, or what types of structures can’t be made this way?
There’s a lot of challenges with modular in general, but there’s also a lot of benefits. Let’s say you’re an electrical contractor; you just have to be really good at electrical. If you’re a modular builder, you have all different facets of trades that you have to perform. So you have to have a very large group of people to do it. You have to have master electricians and plumbers, and you have to have architects and engineers. True modular is actually done without tape measures and sawing and cutting, it’s all CNC fabricated. If you’re just building one or two small buildings that are similar, it doesn’t really make sense. If you’re building 10 or more, then it starts to make a lot more sense to do something modularly because it’s repeatable.

You have been working with 7 Brew nationally to build their roughly 500-square-foot buildings since 2020. Tell me about that partnership and how many you’ve created.
That partnership came about from a phone call from the founder of 7 Brew to me, and he’s my 50% business partner in Creative Modular Construction, Ron Crume. He was looking for ways to build a better mousetrap and save costs. And of course, modular can save significant costs over a conventional build, if it’s repeatable. We’ve completed about 50 to 60 of these buildings at this point, and we’ll probably have 100 this year that we’ll complete. It’s again the same building over and over. It’s really considered the future of construction, with those limitations. Shipping-wise, you can’t ship large buildings, so it doesn’t make sense for large projects unless you have something that has, say, 100 rooms that are similar, like a hotel.

Other franchise groups are looking at this type of building, such as Little Caesars. Are you seeing growth opportunities in your industry?
It’s not something that is an easy type of a startup. But yes, if you have a lot of CNC fabrication experience, you’ve got a big enough group that can handle a complete design from the ground up, and then you’re able to install these components.

Your business has been involved in state and national programs to hire formerly incarcerated individuals, utilizing grant funding to cover training costs through programs like APPLIE and Reentry 2030. How has that worked, and how has that allowed your business to scale?
Our motto is we build people, we build buildings. We consider ourselves a for-profit Christian ministry. About 75% of our employees are people who’ve been formerly incarcerated or felons. We do Bible studies every week, so we’re a lot more than just a construction company. For about 1,040 hours, about half the employee’s salary is covered [by state and federal programs]. After that, your goal is to have them become long-term employees. You do have to have people that are willing to pour into people’s lives, and we call it leading with love. Our core values are based on the acronym CHRIST, which is creative, honorable, respectful, innovative, synergistic and total ownership. At the end of the day, our biggest thing that we want to accomplish is having made a real difference in people’s lives and having an eternal impact sharing the Gospel message.

What’s your employee size, and what’s your vision for growth?
Right now, there’s approximately 140 employees. Our limitation to growth is our ability to manage everything, and we don’t want to grow too fast, but we are growing and we are providing a great product. Sky’s the limit, really.

What percentage of your work is for 7 Brew?
It’s mostly all 7 Brew. We’re in the process of building a new facility, and until we get that built, we’re a little bit limited on what we can take on. So, that’s part of the growing pains process is really having the room. That’s why we are working out of five locations now. Our goal is to be able to get under one roof, and then the growth can really start. When you’re building things modularly, you have to have enough area for all these materials and a place to put the modular buildings when they’re done. And so it does require a bigger footprint in your manufacturing facility to do this.

What’s the size of the new facility and the timeline for completion?
It’s got multiple phases. It’s about 160,000 square feet. It’s out by the airport and it’s off of Highway E. We have 65 acres and we’re hoping to utilize a chunk of that. That’s our future home of CMC. We’re probably at least a year away from having that facility operational.

Is the next step in growth finding another franchise to partner with on modular buildings?
That’s pretty much what it does look like.

Do you have a franchise in your sights? Ready to share?
Yes, we do. Not at this point.

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