Most of the WonderWorks indoor amusement park in Branson was actually created in Nixa.
Subcontracting firm EPI Construction premanufactured the framing and wall panel structure about 30 miles north of the project site in its warehouse – a business model that EPI Construction adopted five years ago.
Vice President Josh Manning says the model has been a major time saver for the company, especially as commercial construction has surged in the Ozarks over the last few years.
EPI Construction provides general contractors with metal framing, sheetrock, insulation, drywall and acoustical paneling services, says Manning.
“We’re typically the largest scope of a project,” he says. “We do what’s seen by everybody – the structure, finished walls and paint.”
The company generated $8.4 million in 2019 revenue, and Manning says he anticipates a 25% jump in 2020. Last year’s revenues were up 79% from the year prior because the firm didn’t bid as many projects in 2018, he says, adding the company doesn’t typically record steady revenues because of the fluctuating size and scope of projects each year.
The Nixa-based company was founded in 1986 by Fred and Libby Stewart. Before that, the two owned Stewart Drywall for nearly a decade in Houston, Texas, says Manning, who now manages the company.
The team of 130 currently is working on the Homewood Suites planned off South National Avenue and a renovation of Springfield Grocer Co. Past projects include the Heer’s building renovation, Hy-Vee and mixed-use developments Magers Crossing and Farmers Park.
Manning says the firm already has locked down $6.2 million in projects for 2020, with another $10 million out for bid.
Manning says the company began premanufacturing off-site after noticing the technique by contractors in larger metropolitan areas.
“I think it’s something that will be huge in the next five to 10 years,” he says. “It speeds the process up a lot.
“We send it out on semis, and they erect it in place.”
EPI recently contributed to the Russell Cellular headquarters, Hotel Vandivort’s second building and the Innovative Dental campus underway off of U.S. Highway 65 and Evans Road.
Manning says when the firm worked on Hotel Vandivort, EPI was allotted 40 days to complete its work, but building off-site at the company’s warehouse – which is down the street from its office on Red Hawk Court – cut down the installation time to six days. On average, Manning says panel premanufacturing saves roughly half the install time.
Shane Dennis, EPI’s senior estimator, says the WonderWorks project was a curveball for the team. Dennis says the building, which is designed to look like a house flipped upside down, was the most intricate project he’s seen in his decadeslong construction career.
“It was probably the most complicated,” he says, noting the many angles that engineers aren’t used to accommodating. “We had more of our personnel on that project and worked double shifts in order to complete it on time.”
A market report by construction analytics firm Dodge Data & Analytics Inc. predicts that 59% of paneling construction nationwide over the next three years will be prebuilt off-site. Also, almost half of the surveyed trade contractors indicated premanufacturing cut project time by more than 10%, according to the report.
Manning says EPI’s goal for 2020 is to bring in roughly $10.5 million in revenue. He’s also planning to consolidate the company’s office and warehouse spaces into one building this year.
Dennis, who submits project bids, says he anticipates a busy year for the firm. Declining to disclose service costs, he says the company generally earns $2 million-$10 million per project, which is about 10%-12% of the overall project cost.
“There will be several projects out to bid here in early spring,” Dennis says.
The Springfield area has seen a boom of construction recently. In 2018, the city of Springfield’s Building Development Services Department recorded 2,066 commercial project permits, which was up 70% from the year prior, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Last year, commercial permits more than doubled to 5,300 recorded, and since January, the department has issued nearly 1,000, according to city spokeswoman Melissa Haase.
Manning says he anticipates development will slow down soon.
“In the past, it’s been build, build, build – slow,” he says. “I don’t think it will stay as busy as it has for the next five years, but I don’t know when it’s coming.”
David Foreman, board president for the Springfield Contractors Association, says there are several factors that could impact development in the next year, such as the 2020 election and the potential of a national coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s anybody’s guess,” Foreman says of the future of local development. “I’m hoping that it doesn’t slow down.
“With the election coming up, you just never know what will happen. There’s a lot on the horizon.”
Developers say city needs a variety of housing types to meet demand.