As president and CEO of Sundt Construction, Doug Pruitt is responsible for landmark building projects in the United States and abroad. As he prepares to retire in September after 45 years with the Arizona-based company, it’s the little things, he says, to which he’s looking forward.
“I’ve had a great career and fortunately I have enjoyed getting up every day and working,” says Pruitt, who steps down Sept. 29. “I hope to spend more time with my lovely wife (Becky) of 43 years and have our kids and grandkids join us often. I plan to hit a few golf balls, as well. It will be very different for both of us, but we are looking forward to it.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting that on his 45th anniversary and final year with the firm — he joined the employee-owned business in 1966 — Sundt is the nation’s 45th largest construction company, according to Engineering News Record. Sundt reported revenues of $1B in 2010. It has Arizona offices in Tempe, Phoenix and Tucson, plus offices in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.
But it’s the leadership and direction of Pruitt, who prefers to take a low-profile approach, that have put Sundt on the map as one of the top general contractors in the nation. Asked what he’s most proud of, Pruitt doesn’t hesitate in his response: It’s the Sundt Foundation that was started about 10 years ago.
“The Sundt family had a long history of contributing to our society in many ways, but we hadn’t created an environment that encouraged our employees to get involved in charitable giving and volunteerism,” Pruitt says. “The Sundt Foundation has given them that opportunity. They have really risen to the occasion, and through a combination of their gifts and the company’s matching funds, the foundation has been able to award grants totaling more than $4 million. Employees have also volunteered thousands of hours. I’m extremely proud for what they have done.”
Pruitt’s retirement comes at a critical time. The commercial real estate industry continues to grapple with the aftermath of the Great Recession. However, Sundt has been able withstand the economic downturn better than other general contractors, but it isn’t immune to the industry’s peaks and valleys. The industry was flourishing when Pruitt served as executive vice president and manager of the building division, as well as in 1992, when he assumed the position of president and CEO.
“Construction is a very cyclical business and as the economy cycles we are usually hit a lot harder than most industries,” Pruitt says. “In this recession, the general economy saw an unemployment rate at approximately 10%. However, in the construction industry it hit 24%.
“Sundt has had its share of ups and downs during the many years that I have been there. I have now been through six recessions and Sundt has been very resourceful at adapting to the different markets, and moving around the globe to keep our revenue up and survive.”
These days, it’s rare for one person to spend more than a handful of years — let alone an entire career — in one place. Besides running the company, he has authored articles and chaired national and state committees. Pruitt is a board member with the Arizona Commerce Authority, and in 2009 was president of the Associated General Contractors of America, the trade organization for commercial contractors.
“My theme for my year as president was, ‘Dare to Challenge — Dare to Change,’ ” Pruitt says. “I chose that theme because our industry has seen very little productive growth compared to other industries, and I really wanted us to challenge our industry to change.”
Pruitt’s retirement this fall marks a new chapter in terms of his role with Sundt and in the community. He will remain a member of the board of directors at Sundt, and he will continue serving as a board member of the Arizona Commerce Authority.
He offers these parting words: “Think about it. There is nothing that goes on in our society that doesn’t go through our industry. We build the homes you live in, the streets, highway and bridges you drive on, the hospitals you are treated in, the schools and universities you are educated in, the power plants that generate your electricity, and the list goes on. What an awesome job.”