CalHar Construction Inc.
Founded in 1992 by Don Callaham, CalHar Construction Inc. (CalHar) received its name one year later when Don, president and CEO, brought on a partner to help bring his dream of a booming contracting business to life. Don and his partner took a creative approach to naming the company and merged the first three letters of their last names to create CalHar Construction Inc. (CalHar).
CalHar, which generates $23 million in annual revenue, specifically works as an underground utilities contractor with a focus on sewer drainage and water piping systems. The company also performs light development work, such as excavation and concrete, as well. CalHar’s underground water retention systems are essential in urban areas and development parks where flooding is a potential issue due to concrete because they provide a storage vessel for the excess water.
Developing properties rely on retention systems like those built by CalHar, because many are required to control the rate at which rainwater leaves the property, and in most cases it cannot leave faster than before it was undeveloped. “With property values at record highs, we build all of our systems underground so business developers and owners get dual usage from their space,” Don explains.
The company has built a business that has name recognition and is associated with quality and integrity. “We do very high-quality work and have a growing list of repeat customers to show for it,” Don explains. “Utility work is all underground and it’s impossible to see if it’s a good job until problems show up. When the system starts failing, everything fails. We are the foundation and it needs to be quality; we believe in that.”
Breaking records in Texas
Growing up in Dallas, Don has strong ties to the Northeastern and north-central regions of Texas, where CalHar completes most of its work. The company, which has its own trucking, concrete and excavation equipment, completes most work in-house; however, the company hires subcontractors for large water caps and bores. With $5 million in backlogged contracts, CalHar has crewmembers working on projects year-round.
Don, who also serves on board of National Utility Contractors, takes a personal approach to business and tries to visit each job at least once a week. “We’ve been in business a long time and have built a strong client base,” Don continues. “We love to challenge ourselves and take on difficult and specialty projects.”
CalHar recently completed a $9 million underground retention system for a 1,300,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at Tradepoint Business Park in Coppell, Texas, which clocks in as the largest underground retention system ever built in the United States. The Tradepoint project required an excavated hole measuring 7 acres across and consumed 5 miles of large pipe with the capacity to hold 7 million gallons of water.
“No one had ever built a system this extreme before,” Don says. “Limited access to the 7-acre hole forced us to move all materials by crane, which was a challenge. Logistically it’s hard to fathom—and we completed it in just four months.”
The system, designed on a 100-year flood rate, resembles a large balloon and collects water from the warehouse and adjacent areas, releasing it from one point at given rate to help control downstream flooding. The company is also in the final stages of a $4 million water sewer and storm drainage channel for a large warehouse.
Like most businesses in the construction industry, CalHar leaned out its team of workers during the recession, but has begun to bounce back. “The industry has been good to me, but it ebbs and flows harshly with the economy,” Don details. Don attributes the company’s ability to persevere despite of the downed economy to its experienced managers, who have an average tenure of 15 years, and its reputation for quality workmanship.
“Integrity is what got us through the hard times,” he continues. “People knew we were going to do good work so they came to us. When the economy is bad, it’s a buyers’ market and general contractors can’t afford to redo work from inexperienced subcontractors.”
With the company’s 23-year anniversary on the horizon, Don is only looking to continue to grow. “North Texas is very vibrant and resistant to the valleys of the economy,” he explains. “It’s an affordable place for developers to work, it makes it competitive and it’s great for our economy.” Since its initial downsize during the recession, CalHar Construction Inc. has continued to expand and now employs 110 team members from headquarters in Melissa, Texas.
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