Case Studies

Urata Concrete Inc.

Solid foundation creates an unforgettable legacy

Four decades ago, Charles and Frank Urata came together to form a small concrete services company in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The duo began with less than $100, an old pickup truck and the wise words of their father, Sofia Urata. Now, all these years later, the company is known as Urata Concrete Inc. (Urata Concrete) and boasts approximately 160 employees.

Much of Urata Concrete’s growth can be credited to the determination of Charles and Frank. At the start, the duo worked tirelessly to build a reputation for success and quality – and they put a huge emphasis on earning a client’s trust. The brothers believed that trust and loyalty are not easily earned or given, and thus strove to impress every client by completing projects beyond expectations.

Overtime, the company’s services expanded. What began as purely two brothers helping people with concrete foundations and driveways eventually grew to include budgeting, pre-construction planning and value-engineering, in addition to various comprehensive services based around those three areas.

“We don’t necessarily specialize in a single thing,” says Kelly Urata, daughter of Charlie and CFO of Urata Concrete. “We have been in business almost 40 years and have continued to change and develop. We also have a large bonding capacity, which helps us be able to bid larger projects.”

Working as a diversified concrete subcontractor allows Urata Concrete to embrace numerous clients from varying backgrounds. “We work with a lot of public works projects but we do a lot of private work, too,” says Kelly. “We have seen the private work picking up recently, which is nice. We have noticed pretty much everything picking up in 2014.”

Large-scale portfolio pieces

Currently Urata Concrete features three offices, including Oakland and Sacramento, Calif., as well as Las Vegas “We do most of our work in northern California and Bay Area” says Kelly, “But we will travel to southern California if a client wants us to.”

The company has also been known to take on projects outside of California. In 2007, Urata Concrete had a major hand in helping construct the new Las Vegas City Center project. “City Center was a notable project for us,” says Kelly. “It was one of the largest private projects we’ve done and we had a full time staff of 200 employees on the project.”

Other noteworthy projects include a new state-of-the-art power plant in Stanford, Calif.; the Stanford McMurtry building, a 96,000-square-foot structure for art programs; and the Pier 27 Cruise Terminal, an intricate project involving construction over open water, placing concrete under existing docks and meeting deadlines for the 2013 America’s Cup Event.

Of course, these are only a few of the hundreds of projects included in Urata Concrete’s portfolio. “Things keep getting busier,” says Kelly with a laugh. “It’s a great thing, and we’re doing some hiring in response. We want to expand the Oakland office to accommodate more clients.”

Urata Concrete prefers to perform as much of a project’s construction in-house as possible, though the company has been known to subcontract out caulking and rebar. Moreover, the company prefers to use the same vendors. “We have a core group we work with,” says Kelly. “We have worked with many of our same vendors for years and have built excellent relationships with them.”

However, even a company as successful and respected as Urata Concrete has felt a fair amount of stress from the economic upheaval over the past few years, leaving the company in a state of reactive change to each new financial challenge.

“During the downturn in the economy it was a challenge to stay busy,” says Kelly. “We had to do a lot of layoffs and had to downsize.” She admits that these actions led to the company’s survival.

Repeat clients and respected employees

Kelly says that the company has been able to weather economic storms in large part because of repeat clients. “About 90 percent of our clients are repeat clients,” she says, reinforcing the fact that Charlie and Frank’s focus on client trust is still integral to the company’s structure. According to Kelly, clients come to Urata Concrete because the company delivers quality work on time.

Having the capability of delivering respected work comes in large part from the company’s employees. “We have a lot of long-term employees, so it feels like a family,” says Kelly. “We’re pretty easygoing and try to make it an easy environment to work in. We used to run a day care, before all the kids grew up, and we do monthly appreciation luncheons for the employees. We also offer employees Kings tickets and baseball tickets to take their families or kids. We want employees to like where they work and have it be a lifelong career not just a job.”

Although the concept seems simple on paper, providing employees with respect and an enjoyable work environment is easier said than done. However, the family-operated organization has done it all the same. Clearly what Charlie and Frank began is still alive and well with Kelly at the head of Urata Concrete Inc.

Published on: July 9, 2014


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