Evans General Contractors on economic development: ‘We’re all working for the same goal’
In 2004, German automotive supplier Feuer Powertrain hired an American salesman to help the company enter the American automotive market.
Company salesman Larry Eberhart worked from a home office in Michigan until the company won enough business in the United States to establish a production facility. Alongside the company CEO and a consultant, Eberhart participated in a multi-year site selection and ramp up process that culminated in Feuer opening a $140 million production facility in Tunica County, Mississippi in 2016.
“I was literally employee No. 1 for a brand new greenfield facility,” Eberhart recalls. “I had to figure out on my own: Who do I hire first? Where do I find employees—and how do we train them? How do I develop a benefit plan? What about insurance? There was no manual for that.”
Today, Eberhart draws on that experience for his role as Business Development Manager, North America for Evans General Contractors
The firm has three American offices – Atlanta, Greenville, and Savannah – and one in Friedrichshafen, Germany, that offer design/build and general contracting services to a variety of clients including manufacturing, warehouse and distribution, and they specialize in helping overseas firms looking to invest in the U.S. for the first time.
“The scope is much larger than the bricks and mortar of the building,” Eberhart adds. “It’s about answering, ‘What do we do once the building is finished?’”
While Evans does not offer site selection or incentive negotiation services, the construction firm is happy to take conversations beyond construction costs in order to guide prospective clients through the process.
And the company’s insights are offered at no cost as the company seeks to cultivate a relationship that will result in being awarded a contract to build.
“I’ve been through the whole thing – building a new plant, working for a European company with European vision, trying to bridge any gaps between European expectations and American standards, and learning to import equipment and transfer technical knowledge,” he shares.
“One of the things that we do for our clients is try to take as much work off of their plates as we can. The first thing we do is understand what their needs are, and once we have that information, we use it for an informal analysis of each site for a number of factors – and building cost is only one of those factors.”
In this Q&A, we explore the role that Evans General Contractors plays in supporting #TeamUpstate’s economic development efforts:
What is Evans General Contractors’ specialty, and what drives you to participate in #TeamUpstate?
“If you see an industrial warehouse or manufacturing facility anywhere in our region, chances are Evans General Contractors is building it or quoted building it. That’s the core of our business.
Though we are a regional GC, we have built from California to Pennsylvania, from Michigan to Texas. Much of our work is in the Southeast, with offices in Greenville, Atlanta and Savannah. By and large, this region is booming; it’s a great place to be building.
We build manufacturing plants, so obviously as a company we want more expansions and more people coming here. We also have a vested interest in seeing more plants and warehouses in this area as parents of future workers, as citizens of our community – not just as contractors. We believe that encouraging expansion and recruiting new business is the way to ensure a bright future for every company and community in the Upstate.”
What is your role as EGC’s Business Development Manager?
“Obviously my main goal is to ensure the long-term sales success of EGC, but what might not be as obvious is all the connections I make here in Greenville and the region in general. We have a much broader view of ’business development.’ We also support salespeople in different firms and representatives of various Upstate businesses. We’re all in it together.
I aim to put people together even if there’s no direct benefit to me, in hopes it will come back around eventually. More often than not, the connections I make have great value to our business long-term, and in the short-term it’s a pleasure to get to know our neighbors.
I find that approach is widely shared; the Upstate is a very pro-business, collaborative community. The feeling is that the more successful we are as a group, the greater our chances are of individual success. The group comes first, though, and that creates a rising tide to lift all our boats.”
What’s been your biggest takeaway from getting to know other companies across the Upstate?
“Whatever our disciplines, we’re all working together for the same goal. Each of us wants to build the Upstate into an even better place, to put more people to work and to continue growing our businesses.”
You have a number of deep connections in the Upstate, even though you moved here less than two years ago. How have you been able to become a part of the fabric of this region so quickly?
“For me, the key has been getting exposure to all different aspects of the community – not just meeting potential clients, but also people who do business with our clients. Whether someone works in insurance, banking, brokerage, manufacturing or any other industry, they may one day have clients who need help.
This strategy doesn’t just serve us, either. For example, if a new company comes to town – who should they call for help in developing an employee handbook? Our company has insurance folks we use regularly, and we’d point people that way. Our hope is if they had a customer building one day, they’d refer them back to us. It’s a give and take.
One thing we’ve found the Upstate SC Alliance does well is bringing together a broad array of companies. With the Alliance’s singular vision, we know we’re all working toward the same goal: recruiting business and making the Upstate as strong as possible.
At Alliance events I’ve met general contractors, bankers, engineers, designers, you name it; we’re all a part of it. We’re kind of the living version of the #TeamUpstate campaign and its unifying hashtag.”
From a professional perspective, and as a recent addition to the region, what do you find makes the Upstate stand out?
“Earlier in my career I worked with companies going through site selection; I was on the other end of the process, you could say. I understand that each project is going to be different.
If I’m building a warehouse, I’m not going to need as many skilled positions as if I were building a machining company. I might need more employees for packaging, and fork-lift driving; it would be a different labor draw than someone needing mechatronic engineers programming robots for assembly. Whether it’s the labor draw, capital incentive money, the quality of life, the pro-business climate or something else, the tipping point will vary by project.
In my current role, I have had a chance to receive feedback from companies going through site selection processes across the Southeast. Almost unanimously, these contacts tell me that the economic development entities in South Carolina work together seamlessly, which makes the job of recruiting a little bit easier.
The Upstate does a remarkable job working together, and I’ve found that makes the experience of relocating or expanding here much more pleasant. It’s a testament to the idea that we all have a vested interest in regional success.
From a personal perspective, my family has been in Greenville just 18 months, but we have decided this is where we want to stay, to put down roots. It was clear to us from our earliest days in the area.”
How would you encourage other members of the Upstate business community to support the “rising tide” within our region?
“I’d tell folks to get involved in business recruitment not just for their own companies, but for the Upstate itself. The Upstate SC Alliance was a powerful way for me to get deeply connected – and quickly. I’ve attended all kinds of events, shaking hands and introducing myself. Once you make one connection, it turns into two, four, eight. Suddenly you’re able to connect others as well, and being of use and value to your colleagues across disciplines is when you deepen your roots.
I’ve done three or four sessions of the Alliance’s Investor Roundtable Club, which has taken me beyond shaking hands. You get to know others on a more intimate level – sitting down, having lunch, hearing about their families and interests, what their company does. It’s a valuable program, and I’ll continue to participate; I’m a big fan. I met my best friend this way, actually, so it benefits us in business but has the potential to do a lot more.”
TOPICS: #TeamUpstate, Existing Industry, Global Competitiveness, International, Manufacturing