G.W. Mitchell Construction
Founded in 1921, G.W. Mitchell Construction (GWM) has steadily grown to become one of the San Antonio, Texas, area’s premier commercial general contractors. Now in its 90th year, the business is still owned by the Mitchell family, and continues to build on its longstanding strengths as a general contractor in the corporate, education, medical, church facilities, manufacturing and retail sectors.
“We got our start in the 1920s building cottages and smaller buildings,” explains Lane Mitchell, vice president. “In the late ’20s and ’30s we built a few mansions here and there, but by the 1940s we were primarily a commercial contractor, which we have been ever since except for the occasional large-scale private residential job.”
From its head office in San Antonio, the firm provides pre-construction and construction services, including conceptual estimating, master project scheduling, site planning, value engineering, permit coordination, on-site supervision, project cost control, progress reporting and more. GWM works for clients throughout the area and maintains strong working relationships with subcontractors to assure attention to detail. “The name of the game is trust and communication. Without it, you just can’t succeed in this industry. If any member of the team doesn’t do what they have promised, then our crews and other members of the team can’t do what they’re supposed to,” asserts Mitchell. “Clear communication of rolls and execution of schedules are the vital keys to a successful project.
“Performance on our projects is what makes GWM a successful contractor and builds our reputation,” continues Mitchell. “Most of our work is in the managing of specialty contractors and scheduling of materials to arrive on the projects when needed. We will most often self-perform all of the hardware, miscellaneous carpentry and specialty item installation. We also always price out concrete, steel erection and millwork to assure our owners have competitive pricing on their projects but this work is most often performed by specialty contractors.”
GWM has played a vital role in constructing some of San Antonio’s most known and respected buildings. “One of our milestone projects in the recent past was the headquarters for Clear Channel Worldwide Communications in San Antonio that we built in the late ’90s,” affirms Mitchell. The building was designed by Overland Partners Architects and was recognized by the American Institute of Architects in 2001 for excellence in design.
“The building is a piece of sculpture with high-end decorative finishes, including structural steel sunshades coated with automotive paint,” explains Mitchell. “All the construction and expansion joints align with each other to add to the artistic feel of the building. The inside is all slate and book-matched wood paneling on both the walls and ceilings. It is visible from Highway 281 and adjoining the Quarry Golf Course. It’s a good looking building and a new landmark for the city.”
Another of the firm’s recent projects includes the construction of a new Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified fire station in San Antonio. “In this very competitive environment, this was the only open bid project we landed last year and we were excited and grateful to have it. It also builds our resume with city work and LEED work,” says Mitchell. “This project will fill the areas’ need for a new fire station with a modern energy-saving design. The new fire station will feature a solar hot water system, solar photovoltaic panel system and a number of other green applications, which is exciting for San Antonio.”
Focusing on the Positive
Though the company holds its impressive portfolio of completed projects and remains optimistic about the economy’s recovery, the past few years have been tough for everyone at GWM. “Last year was a disaster and the little bit of work we had to look at was being bid on by up to 40 other general contractors,” explains Mitchell. “It was a big drop off from where we were a couple of years ago when we were on track to do $50 million in revenue. The challenge for us at the moment is that the market has invited in maybe a dozen billion-dollar contracting companies who hadn’t been very active in the area before. So now we’re not just competing with the local companies for relatively small jobs, we’re fighting off huge corporations who you wouldn’t normally expect to be bidding on a $2 million renovation job.
“We are optimistic that things are getting better though and we have readjusted out staff to a more efficient size,” continues Mitchell. “Our No. 1 priority is still to make the client happy, delivering high-quality projects on time, in budget with no lost-time injuries, all while making a profit.”
Mitchell sees GWM as having the strength, fortitude and experience to make it through these challenging circumstances, based both on its capabilities and its background. It was started by a former World War I soldier and currently employs third-generation workers. There is little the company hasn’t already seen and conquered. That’s why optimism remains among the Mitchell family and the GWM team.
“My father, Melvin, will be 80 this year, but still comes into work every day. My brother Bill is the president of the company and my brother Andy is the secretary/treasurer. We bring different perspectives to the table because of our different interest and passions. We all worked for other companies before coming to work at GWM and work together as a team to cover all the bases,” explains Mitchell. “So in the next few years we’re going to be looking for ways to grow in the industry. The market has changed, new tools and techniques are now available, and we are working to change with it and be successful as prosperity returns to the country and the industry.”
With three generations of excellence, affiliations with strong social and builders associations, and firm ties to its subcontractors to build upon, G.W. Mitchell Construction is poised to continue building with integrity well into its 100th year and beyond.
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