Steve Grauer shares how he got started in the construction industry and what he thinks about the future of Hensel Phelps Construction in Arizona.
Q: How did you get your start in the construction industry?
A: As a young boy, I was constantly around the construction business. My father was a vice president of an interior subcontractor in the Northwest. During high school, my brother and I worked part time on residential projects doing laborer work and light carpentry. While attending college (University of Washington), I continued to work on commercial projects as well. I knew from an early age that construction was an industry that I wanted to be part of and that would provide a challenging career. Construction has certainly done that for me.
Q: Hensel Phelps has made its mark in Arizona for more than 30 years, with 30 projects worth an estimated $1.8B. How proud are you of that mark?
A: I am extremely proud to continue the legacy whose foundation was set in 1979. A repeat corporate client, IBM, brought us to Tucson from Colorado. Our continued success with IBM on their projects in Tucson created the opportunity to continue to work together and took us further West to California, where today we have two district offices. The construction market has changed greatly in Arizona since then. With the approval of Alternate Project Delivery Methods in the early 2000’s, the diverse portfolio of project types that Hensel Phelps undertakes, as well as the experience of our people on those projects, has allowed for growth and opportunities with many new owners. Regionalization and establishing a permanent presence here is key to developing longterm relationships with owners, subcontractors, designers, trade associations and the communities our people live in. We are proud to live and work in a community and state as great as Arizona.
Q: How did Hensel Phelps weather the Great Recession, which took its toll in Arizona on the commercial real estate industry?
A: This year marks Hensel Phelps’ 75th anniversary in business. From that first farmhouse in Northern Colorado that Hensel built, we have come a long way and seen many tough and challenging times. The Hensel Phelps organization and the Western District each had their 3 best years in our 75-year history during the Great Recession. We attribute this to our repeat clients that continue to entrust their projects to us, relationships in the Industry as a whole and the unparalleled performance of our people. We are grateful for all of them.
Q: Hensel Phelps is completing its portion of PHX Sky Train this year and embarking on another major project – the Solar Tower in La Paz County. How optimistic are you about Hensel Phelps’ presence in Arizona the next 10, 20 or even 30 years?
A: I am extremely optimistic and confident about our continued presence in Arizona in the future. In the construction industry, change is constant. Market sectors and economic conditions are always providing challenges to change. It is a matter of survival. While we may not look exactly the same 30 years from now, we will be here.
Q: You went to college in Washington and now live in Arizona. How important is the Western Division to the overall picture at Hensel Phelps?
A: The Western District, covering Arizona, Southern Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma, is extremely important to Hensel Phelps. Establishing a local presence, committing to the communities in which our families live and developing relationships is critical to our continued success. Prior to our corporate commitment of establishing a district office in Arizona, these states where covered by other district offices. Our CEO and President, Jeff Wenaas, is from Tucson and attended both UA and ASU. There is a strong commitment from the top. Arizona and the Southwest have been and will continue to be very important to us. We are the local contractor with the national reach!
Q: As Vice President and Western District Manager, what project (or projects) are you most proud of?
A: As a district manager, I am proud of all of our projects, but most importantly our people and performance on those projects. We are fortunate to get the opportunity to perform a wide range of project types for both public and private owners, utilizing a wide variety of project delivery methods. The depth of experience of our people allows them to seamlessly operate on these different projects and exceed our owner’s expectations in the overall construction experience.
- Number of years with HP: 22, with stints in Washington, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.
- Number of years as Vice President/Western District Manager: 4
- Family: Wife Stephanie and daughters Morgan and Skyla; and two Labrador Retrievers, Dakota and Mocha.
- Hobbies: Traveling, fishing, hunting and shooting.
- Favorite sports teams: Denver Broncos – and of course the Arizona Cardinals.