Building Success for Thirty Five Years

A. R. Chesson Construction
Written by Claire Suttles

A. R. Chesson Construction has been providing a comprehensive portfolio of construction services since 1981. Over the last 35 years, the company has grown to fill three offices in eastern North Carolina and expanded its operations to cover more than three states.
The A. R. Chesson Construction team has also developed areas of specialization to include general contracting, design/build services, traditional bid services, project management, pre-construction consultation, construction management, and pre-engineered buildings.

Pre-engineered metal buildings are quickly becoming one of the company’s key specialties. Since launching the division less than five years ago, pre-engineered sales have skyrocketed to make up 14% of A. R. Chesson Construction’s business. The company had been selling pre-engineered buildings for decades, but when Kirk Nixon joined the team five years ago, it was seamless to utilize the industry insider’s experience and take things to the next level by creating a specific division for pre-engineered services to advance the business.

“He has a lifetime of experience in pre-engineered operations, so it was a proper fit,” says Regional Vice-President Ed Powell. “When we could have somebody like Kirk at the helm it just made good business sense for us to go forward.” Mr. Nixon immediately stepped into the newly created role of Vice President of the Pre-engineered Metal Building Division – and sales shattered previous goals.

As a Metallic Building Systems Authorized Builder, A. R. Chesson Construction is partnered with one of the highest-ranked national manufacturers of metal buildings. Metallic’s high quality, economical building systems include wall and roof panel systems in addition to total framing systems.

Utilizing these pre-engineered systems has some obvious advantages. Because buildings are prefabricated offsite, costs and build times are slashed substantially. “You can begin the engineering process as soon as the project is approved to move forward,” Mr. Nixon explains. “The building can even be fabricated before site work is started. By the time you are ready for a building pad, the pre-engineered metal building can be delivered to the site and then [be put into place] immediately. We are able to better service our customer’s budgetary and time constraints using an offsite fabricated system. Pre-engineered buildings also give builders more freedom to create larger spans. “Pre-engineered allows the user to get that wide span that a wooden structure would not allow you to do,” says Mr. Powell.

A. R. Chesson Construction’s pre-engineered metal buildings are remarkably versatile. “They can be used for just about any application,” says Mr. Nixon. From commercial strip malls to warehouses and car dealerships, if you have four walls and a roof you can pretty much do it out of pre-engineered metal building.

Company priorities
A. R. Chesson Construction maintains an outstanding safety record. “We have gone ten consecutive years without a loss time injury,” says Project Manager Damon Frazier. “There aren’t many companies out there, especially in construction, that have achieved that.” This remarkable safety achievement has earned the team ten consecutive Gold Safety Awards from the North Carolina Department of Labor. The company has also been recognized for its quality and volume of work, in addition to its safety achievements, and has been repeatedly been awarded Kirby Building Systems Builder of the Year as well as Metallic Building Company Builder of the Year.

Promoting rigorous safety standards daily has been a foundational strategy for success. “We strive every day to instill a culture of safety,” Mr. Frazier remarks. “And this is to the benefit of everybody who is working on our jobs, whether it’s our employees as well as inspectors or our subcontractors.” To maintain the highest safety standards, the company employs a full time corporate safety officer who “keeps us in compliance with OSHA standards,” says Mr. Powell. In addition, the company is careful only to team with subcontractors that adhere to the same strict safety policies that A. R. Chesson Construction maintains.

Sustainability is another key company focus. The team strives to find solutions that benefit both the environment and a client’s bottom line. “We take a common sense approach,” Mr. Nixon explains. “Being green and sustainable can also be cost effective. We look at doing things that are going to benefit the client and [give them] a return on their investment.” To this end, the company has three LEED accredited professionals on staff to ensure that sustainability metrics are fully and successfully met.

No matter what the project, the team makes it a point to stick to the company values. “We are a “Golden Rule company,’” Mr. Powell says. “Do unto others is a thing that we adhere to.” This includes maintaining open, honest communication with everyone with whom they do business. “We are straight forward. We deal [with people] in an old fashioned kind of way, with honor and integrity.” The team’s commitment to the Golden Rule is also reflected in activities that go beyond their own place of business. “We certainly believe in being contributors in the community,” Mr. Powell remarks. “We are very much involved in overall business development in our communities.”

Looking ahead
A. R. Chesson Construction’s adaptability will help the company continue to advance. Adaptability has long been a necessity due to the rural nature of the company’s home base. “We live in northeastern North Carolina so we have to be available and able to work just about any type job, no matter how small or how large,” Mr. Powell points out. “There is not enough work in our geographical proximity, so we work throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; we have to be mobile. We adapt to available work opportunities if we are competitive and productive.” This attitude became particularly crucial during the most recent recession. “When the economy tanked in 2009 and 2010, job opportunities were not available and we had to go where the work was.”

The team also expanded their scope of work during the lean times, developing a niche specialty retrofitting roofs. “As the economy got tight, people weren’t building new warehouses or [other] large facilities,” Mr. Nixon recalls. “They were deciding to repair and retrofit their existing facilities.” This line of work continues to look promising. “We think that we have a pretty good future in roof retrofits. There is a lot of aging infrastructure.”

The team continues to operate successfully throughout a three state region while also maintaining a strong local business. “We certainly get our share of the market that is here,” Mr. Powell says. In addition to numerous corporate clients, the federal government continues to be a promising and rewarding client. “Within a hundred miles in several directions, there is quite a bit of military work available,” says Mr. Powell.

The team is optimistic although they do not foresee the industry returning to prerecession boom levels. “I think we are not going to go back to the glory days of construction any time soon,” Mr. Powell predicts. “But I think we are well positioned to move forward.” He points out that the company was not only able to maintain its business during the recession but to actually add a new division. “We have been able to venture into pre-engineered systems, and we are looking at a healthy future.”

This promising future continues to build on a strong foundation planted over three decades ago. “When Al Chesson started the company 35 years ago, he hired talented employees. We continue to develop a great staff of people who are innovative and self-motivating,” Mr. Powell points out. “We continue to capitalize on that standard.”



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