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Morelock-Ross director sees diversification as key

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Since joining Morelock-Ross Builders Inc. in 2003, David Ross has worn different hats with the company. His favorite, however, is no hat at all.

Shortly after earning his bachelor’s in finance from the University of Arkansas, his father and co-founder Kenny Ross and his business partner Wayne Morelock, put the young graduate to work on job sites. While he said he was pleased to have those two years of experience learning about the business in a hands-on way, he was glad to trade in a hard-hat for an office chair.

I think it was important to see how everything was actually built and be able to develop a rapport with those guys in the field,” Ross said. “I think I learned as much in that two years as I did in the four years in college.”

Ross, now the company’s director of operations, was the featured guest July 12 at Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to Know monthly breakfast series held at Hilton Garden Inn.

As a project manager, Ross is responsible for all phases of commercial construction projects with budgets ranging from $200,000 to $8 million.

During the last eight years with Morelock-Ross, he’s seen the company diversify to protect itself from the recent economic downturn that has meant hard times for so many in the construction industry. For example, the company began its Qdoba franchise in 2004, and today has 11 locations in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, with No. 12  planned for Joplin. It’s that flexibility that Ross said kept Morelock-Ross’ bottom line healthy. Its 2010 revenues were $115.1 million, up 33 percent from 2008, ranking the company No. 9 in SBJ's 2011 Dynamic Dozen.

Following one round of layoffs in January 2009, which Ross described as making the contractor more lean, the company has added employees where needed.

The biggest key has been our diversity,” Ross said.

Ross said he would like to see construction in the area return to 2005 and 2006 levels, but acknowledged that greed in the industry during that time may have contributed to the tough times many are experiencing now.

As for trends, he said he believed green construction is here to stay.

"I don’t think ‘green’ is a buzz word anymore. It has sort of withstood the recession,” he said.

Ross himself has been a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-accredited professional since 2009. He said the company is waiting to find out if the $1.7 million Houlihan’s restaurant at 2110 E. Republic Road it constructed would be LEED silver or gold certified. Morelock-Ross also has built green for Arvest Bank’s 730 N. National Ave. branch, and Ross said he feels residential projects also could lean more heavily on green building practices in the future.

Ross said he spends his spare time involved in the community when he’s not with his wife and two children. His activities include serving as chairman of The Network, a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce organization of young professionals, and Ross is a board member of the Springfield Public Schools Foundation.

"That’s something that’s very important to me,” Ross said. “Luckily, I have good bosses and an understanding wife that allow me to do those types of things.”
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