Case Studies

Duncan & Thompson Construction Services LLC

Building on Enthusiasm

Tommy Duncan and Curtis Thompson started Duncan & Thompson Construction Services LLC (Duncan & Thompson) in 1997, building upon a wealth of contracting experience already under their belts. “My partner and I worked for almost 20 years with different contractors and various companies that are a lot bigger than we are,” says Thompson. This hard-earned experience – on projects ranging from hospitals, warehouses, churches and hotels to manufacturing facilities and office parks – has given Duncan & Thompson the tools it needs to create solutions for building needs of any size.

“When we decided we wanted to go into business ourselves, one of our big strengths over the competition is that we have large project experience to offer, because both Tommy and I worked on projects up to $100 million. Until we started our business a small project to me was under $10 million,” reveals Thompson.

Duncan & Thompson is a small to medium general contractor, doing mostly between $1 million and $6 million projects, which generate $18 million in average annual revenue. However, because of the small size, the company is able to offer more hands-on experience. This combination of large project experience, with the attention and devotion of a smaller company, gives Duncan & Thompson the edge over many in its market.

Providing a Hands-on Approach

Based out of Birmingham, AL., Duncan & Thompson provides general contracting to primarily commercial projects around the southern United States. “We have completed projects in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana,” says Thompson. The firm provides full design-build services, in addition to the ability to operate from completed plans and specifications. Whether working on pre-engineered metal building systems or conventional construction, Duncan & Thompson established itself as a firm that holds experience, quality and reliability above all other considerations.

Duncan & Thompson keeps a number of craftsmen as full-time employees to perform concrete, carpentry and other specialty work. However, the vast majority of laborers needed are brought in from the outside. “Our employment varies between 15 and 20 people. In the past, general contractors had a core group of craftsmen, and would hire people for a larger project for a short time. We still do that to a certain extent, but there’s a lot of labor pools out there today. So if we need 20 workers tomorrow we can get them. They might not be the people we want to keep, but they can work for a short period of time,” says Thompson. In addition, Duncan & Thompson has a network of subcontractors to pick from in order to match specialized trades to a specific job.

What sets Duncan & Thompson apart is undoubtedly its ability to manage large-scale construction without ever neglecting the attention to detail of a smaller operation. “We’re small enough that we can promise the client that one of the owners will be involved on every project,” says Thompson, outlining the advantages to being a compact firm. “That way, a decision can be made on the spot, and we don’t have to wait for the decision makers to get back from out of town or something.”

Always Looking for a Challenge

Much of Duncan & Thompson’s work comes from working with chains as they open new locations. “In the past, when Starbucks did a lot of work, we did a lot of Starbucks structures around our area of the country. Rite Aid is also one of our big clients, so we follow them around right now,” Thompson says. In addition, the company has done work with Buffalo Wild Wings, Kohls, Newk’s Express Café and Thai Emerald. Duncan & Thompson also does work for recreational facilities and worship centers, including a Hindu temple, renovations to the Hoover Met stadium, which is the home of a minor league team plus the host of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament, and the Bryant Denny Stadium, where the firm laid deep foundations to support a long and respected football tradition.

Bryant Denny Stadium, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is located in close proximity to one of the firm’s biggest and most difficult recent project: renovating the chemistry building for the University of Alabama. “Some of the original classrooms were converted into a food court, one of the first ones on campus. It’s been a really big hit with students,” says Thompson, referring to a popular common area that houses a Boar’s Head, Java City, Chick-fil-A and Pizza Hut.

“However, within a week they realized they didn’t have the storage capacity for refrigeration, just because of the number of customers,” Thompson continues. “This portion of the project had to be completed in five months, which was definitely a challenge. We had to take out existing walls, some built in the ’20s, so we had to build special foundation systems and support existing floors. In addition, there were classes going on above us, so work was restricted to after classes were completed to avoid noise for students. It was definitely a challenge.”

Challenges like those, however, are what keep Duncan & Thompson going. The firm can handle nearly any type of project for any customer. More of a challenge lately finding the work in the depressed economic climate. “We are a ways away from full recovery, and right now we’re in survival mode,” says Thompson. “First, the economy needs to turn, then people will start getting confidence, then they’ll start building. So we’re at least one to two years away from getting back to where we were in 2008.”

Regardless, Thompson remains optimistic and excited for the future. “I am very optimistic that our industry will recover as it has in the past. I try not to let things worry me that are out of my control,” he says, drawing from a deep well of experience, optimism and appreciation for his industry. Thompson describes his life-long affair with the industry, “I’ve always enjoyed building things, and it’s what I always wanted to do. I’ve enjoyed all the challenges and opportunities that it has brought me.”

Enthusiasm imbues every aspect of the work for Thompson and all those associated with him. Such a passion for contracting, combined with management’s expertise, its hands-on approach, and its commitment to exceeding client expectations, will help Duncan & Thompson Construction Services LLC survive the present and continually prosper in the future.

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