Case Studies

Centrex Construction Inc.

Aviation isn’t just a business, it ‘runs in our veins’

Some construction companies will try to build a hangar like they would a distribution facility for semi-trailer trucks, thinking the two buildings will require the same materials.

But an aircraft can weigh over a hundred thousand pounds and that weight is concentrated on very small wheels. Jimmy Severson, director of business operations at Centrex Construction Inc.,  an aviation construction development company, has seen an aircraft’s wheels sink right into the ground outside hanger doors because a construction company didn’t know it had to use a specific grade of asphalt.

Centrex Construction Inc.

“There is a lot of design and thought that go into these buildings, and some of it you can’t just put down on a piece of paper as a specification, sometimes you just have to know that an aircraft owner of a certain aircraft will require different things,” he says.

Located just southwest of Portland, Oregon, in Tigard, Centrex Construction is a family-run company that specializes in designing and building facilities for companies in the aviation industry, such as control towers, jet engine test facilities, aviation museums, and helicopter and airplane hangars.

“We know the questions to ask owners and architects to make sure that their building is comprehensive and is going to be a facility that will cater to their future aircraft needs as well as their current [ones],” Severson says.

‘Aviation is in our blood’

The family’s interest in aviation began in the late ‘90s when Severson began taking flying lessons with his father, James, and his brother, Tom.

Severson’s father had already started Centrex Construction in 1978, but at the time the company focused on commercial construction, building apartments, schools and warehouse facilities.

All three developed a passion for flying and became active members in the aviation community. Jimmy Severson even became a captain for Sky West Airlines in 2003.

Severson says he had never considered joining his father’s business until after he became an airline captain.

“An entrepreneurial spirit was planted in me and I realized I’d like to run my own business and that I’d like to integrate aviation into it somehow,” he says.

In the early 2000s, Severson, along with his brother, Tom, and their brother-in-law Steve Leasure, who had previously worked as an engineer for Boeing on its 787 twin-engine jet airliner, approached their father about integrating aviation construction into the family construction business.

“Aviation is in all our blood,” says Severson. “My brother was one of my first students when I became a flight instructor and he loves aviation. So I think the three of us came together and used our passion for aviation and different points of view to push Centrex into this new area [of business].”

A pilot-first mentality

For the past 10 years, aviation construction has become the company’s focus.

One of the most recent projects is a new 300,000-square-foot campus for Atlantic Aviation, based in Portland International Airport (PDX). Atlantic Aviation is a fixed-base operator (FBO) that provides aeronautical services, such as fueling, aircraft maintenance, tie-down and parking for over 70 airports nationwide.

The campus at PDX, which is scheduled to be finished December 2016, is a combination of hangars for private and company owned aircrafts as well as FBO facilities that will also include a concierge service, conference rooms and kitchens to support executive global travelers. Centrex was also able to help Atlantic find tenants for its new hangers because the company has strong ties with the aviation community.

Severson says Centrex first heard about the job through the community’s “rumor mill.”

He and his partners were already familiar with Atlantic’s FBO facilities because as pilots they had used them for decades and were always impressed with the level of service Atlantic offered.

“The fact that we were customers of theirs and we had been so for years I think counted for something and it showed that we’re dedicated to the industry,” he says.

Centrex pitched Atlantic their design for the campus and ultimately won the project based on, in part, their credentials, but also their history of being involved in local aviation outside of construction.

Severson says Atlantic understood that Centrex wanted to be a partner to the company throughout the project.

“Contractors can sometimes be our own worst enemy because we sometimes think of ourselves as a commodity: ‘if I can come in at the lowest price that’s what will get me the job.’ But we [at Centrex] believe that ultimately the customer experience and product suffers with that kind of thinking,” he says.

For every project, Severson and his partners remember that they first joined the aviation community as participants and, as a result, have more than their company’s reputation at stake.

“If we don’t put in 110 percent and an owner gets a facility that’s subpar it’s not, ‘oh, we did not perform, let’s go back to commercial work and pretend it never happened.’ That’s not our company —we are very vested in aviation and every owner that we work with knows that,” he says. “We’re always going to be a member of this community so we need to serve it well and to the best of our ability.”

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