Phillips Hardy Inc.
Founded in 1995 as Phillips Grading and Construction, Phillips Hardy Inc. has grown to become a leading general contractor with a specialty in heavy construction projects, including roads, bridges and utilities. With offices in both Columbia and Boonville, Missouri, Phillips Hardy completes projects across Missouri and the neighboring states with licenses to work in Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois.
After 15 years in the family construction business, Lee Hardy decided to strike out on his own following a merger in 2001. Hardy joined forces with former subcontractors and family friends, Wyatt and Kathy Phillips, and Phillips Hardy was born.
The company sets itself apart from its competitors thanks to a wealth of experience and passion, according to Lee Hardy, vice president and co-owner of Phillips Hardy. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and nothing has really changed except for the size of the contracts. I also think passion takes you a long way in life and is a good way to avoid complacency,” he says.
Managing rapid growth
Over the last decade the company has carved out a name for itself in Missouri’s heavy construction market, as well as in neighboring states. The partnership was founded a year before a prolonged recession and Hardy actually credits the economic downturn to instilling the venture with a sense of grit and determination. “In easy times, people get complacent and relaxed, whereas if you feel like it’s a hostile marketplace, you’re more focused and working toward your goals,” he says.
That growth has been particularly pronounced over the last two years, a period during which the company has experienced growth of more than 20 percent. Hardy credits this rapid growth in part to the departure of several large competitors from the region.
“Timing is everything in this world. They decided to fold up a couple of divisions here in Missouri and that left a couple of voids we were able to fill,” he says.
While Hardy isn’t about to complain about the company’s 20 percent year-over-year growth, he can’t help but feel that the same period could have been even more lucrative. “That growth could have been even larger had we had funding here locally that would allow us to work in a smaller radius and keep our labor force closer to home,” he says.
Hardy is referring to the funding engines that drive capital improvement projects across Missouri and neighboring Midwestern states, which he finds lacking. The issue has become so pronounced in Missouri that he says the state is at risk of losing matching federal funding and the local chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC) has stepped in to help.
“We’re trying to stay cognizant of the funding engines they’re running under so we know a little more about their infrastructure improvement plans. Here in Missouri we have none, currently, so we are lobbying for a gas tax right now that will help address that,” he says.
While construction industry lobbying groups helped to get a sales tax initiative on the ballot in 2015, the measure was not passed. Hardy will continue to advocate for an improved infrastructure funding engine for Missouri, but he is now forced to pursue jobs elsewhere. “When your home state lacks the funding for infrastructure improvements, you look to neighboring states for work,” he says. Though state infrastructure projects have slowed down due to the lack of a robust funding engine, the private sector is still alive and well in Missouri.
As the nation’s third-largest home improvement center, Menard’s has been developing several stores across the state in recent years. Phillips Hardy recently landed the contract to build a new Menard’s location in Belton, Missouri; a project that came with its share of challenges. “Any time you go into a building project in the fall and they want the concrete pad to be ready for winter construction, it’s a challenge,” says Hardy.
The company handled all grading and utility construction on the project and expects to complete the effort on time and under budget. “We’re nearly done at this point. They’re working on building construction now and when summer comes we’ll start parking lot construction and be able to complete it by fall,” he says.
Phillips Hardy has made a concerted investment in technology as a means of staying competitive in the market. “We feel that we need to invest in technology to maintain an edge, whether that’s in equipment or software or GPS for grade-control,” says Hardy.
As the company continues its rapid growth trajectory, Hardy is looking to further expand the Phillips Hardy customer base. “Whether it is railroads, Menard’s or some other private entity, we just want new owners outside of the state DOTs to help add to our new work,” he says.
With a market niche in heavy construction, a strong backlog of projects and an impressive record of growth in recent years, Phillips Hardy Inc. will continue to deliver quality projects to clients throughout the Midwest.
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