Spotlight Series: Alex Colas of Colas Construction

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Colas Construction has extensive building experience across public, private and nonprofit sectors, and several factors make us the best choice for your next construction project. Their in-house structural concrete offers a unique advantage to our clients to regulate pricing, enhance quality control and safety, and reduce schedule impacts. Long-standing relationships with Subcon create a team-oriented, collaborative approach to resolving project issues. Lucky for us, Project Manager Alex Colas let us pick his brain on some interesting topics.

Now for the Q & A...

Q: Thank you for being a part of our spotlight series Alex, can you tell us what you do for Colas Construction?

A: Thanks for having me be a part of your spotlight series! Currently, I serve as a Project Manager at Colas.

Q: How did you get your start in the construction industry?

A: I’ve been around the construction industry since my father began the company in 1997. I would say that’s how I got my initial start. He owned quite a few properties during that time so my brother, cousin and I were sort of a built-in “maintenance crew.” I was definitely the worst laborer on the crew.

Q: What makes Colas Construction different than other construction companies?

A: We truly value the people in our company and the clients we work with. We place a heavy emphasis on creating a diverse company because we know that it’s ubiquitous in providing positive change for all of the communities that we do work in.

Q: What trends are you seeing in the construction industry and how does that affect your day-to-day? How do you stay up to date and trendy, but also original?

A: You don’t... (laughs) Right now, the construction industry in the city of Portland is in a very interesting place based on a lot of the upcoming regulations. There’s a huge shortage of labor and we are seeing material costs climb on a national scale. Day-to-day that means educating our ownership and design teams that the costs of yesterday just aren’t a reality and accurately guiding projects to their required budget based on the feedback and information that we get. Sometimes telling your stakeholders the truth can be a painful process but there’s nothing better than getting all the potential obstacles resolved prior to any actual construction starting.

We stay up to date and trendy based on having smart individuals to our company. Most of our systems have been created internally based on internal suggestions. We are fortunate to have a wide range of people with different experiences and backgrounds and I think we’ve blended the two to create some very balance systems. We don’t like to get things too clunky when it comes to systems. There is an overabundance of communication and various aspects to juggle during the course of construction, it’s important to have a salient way to process information internally.

Q: Where do you go for inspiration—on the web, in print or in the world?

A: I read the DJC to see what’s going on in the local building community. Every now and then I’ll read some Project Management articles, but I’m a music guy and if I spend too much time online, I can end up on Youtube checking out the latest and greatest music production tools pretty quickly.

Q: You produce and write music. Do you think that influences your work?

A: Not at all. Contracting is very formulated and precise work. Music is precise as well, but music is art and the building portion of construction just isn’t.

Q: What goals do you have for Colas Construction in 2018?

A: We always strive to create the best company culture. We’re growing a lot as a company right now. Certain companies just a natural “feeling” or “magic”. Sort of an intangible aspect about them. I know at Colas, we’ve always had that “intangible” and it shows based on the projects we’ve landed, the people who have joined our team and our reputation in the community. As we continue to grow as a company, I want to continue to grow that intangible aspect of our company culture.

Q: What has been one of your biggest wins for you at Colas Construction, and what did you gain or learn from it?

A: Maintaining a strong pipeline and a diverse project portfolio moving into 2019. In this industry, you never really know when the next big dip might be. We learned during the last recession how pivotal it is to maintain several project types to ensure security for all of our employees.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: You’d be amazed to know how far a good ol’ fashioned “good job” goes in this business.

Q: What is the most useful tech tool that you are obsessed with and why?

A: Bluebeam Studio 2018. I don’t know how to do half of the new functions in it, but seeing the folks in our estimating department work through it, there seems to be limitless potential for what it can do. Fortunately for me, Bluebeam hasn’t figured out how to emulate the sheer charisma that I bring to the table as a PM, so they still have quite a bit work cut out for them.

Q: How do you help Colas Construction win the hearts of its clients?

A: See reply above “sheer charisma.” (laughs) - I truly like to help clients feel at ease. I’m very upfront and certainly not the most smiley person in the world (the charisma thing was a joke.) I know a lot of the time in the construction process, that can be the case for clients as well. Construction can be stressful for a lot of people. I think that focusing on the sun at the end of the horizon and reminding them of the tremendous reward they will have upon completion by following the process really goes a long way.

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