Above, Dave McMichael stands outside his business, McMichael’s Construction, in Covington. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr) Top, this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Russellville, Ala., is one of many churches built by McMichael’s Construction. (Special Photo)
While the construction business conjures up images of bulldozers, cement and two-by-fours, for Dave McMichael, owner of McMichael’s Construction Company, it’s really about the people — the folks that work for him and the customers for whom he works.
His business celebrates 30 years of operation next month, and standing outside in the gravel parking lot of his office space on Almon Road in Covington on a sunny August morning, McMichael sums up the reason for his success.
“I wouldn’t be here without my people,” said McMichael of his staff.
McMichael employs a core group of 19 workers — project managers, estimators, a controller, field superintendents and carpenters.
They handle a broad spectrum of commercial construction projects — the other main reason why McMichael is still in business while other construction companies have closed up shop amidst the economic crisis of the last several years.
McMichael flips through four binders sitting on his desk in his office. The binders are labeled: retail; office, medical and education; industrial and telecommunications; and amusement. Inside the binders are page after page of photos of projects.
“That’s a diverse portfolio, not just doctor’s offices and shopping centers. If you ask me why we survived 30 years, it’s because we didn’t do just one thing,” said McMichael.
What garners the most attention, at least in the press, said McMichael, is the work he’s done at Six Flags. If you’ve ridden the Ninja, Batman, Scorcher, Goliath or Dare Devil Dive roller coasters at the amusement park in Austell, you can thank McMichael Construction for at least part of the ride.
The company built the cement and rebar foundations, onto which the coasters are mounted. They are built to withstand both the compression of the downward force of the coaster and the tension the coaster creates going uphill.
“It’s more demanding in its exactness than a conventional building,” said McMichael of the coasters.
McMichael said the coasters represent just a small portion of his projects. Churches, schools, warehouses, shopping centers, assisted living facilities, storage facilities, grocery stores, medical office buildings, big box retail stores — McMichael has built them all, and found work in renovating some.
Developers and companies consult McMichael for repeated projects.
“Doing a good job for folks allows them to use you again and again,” he said. “I think that people really know your sincerity or lack of. The fact that I was willing to be open to all kinds of different types of work was a value.”
If McMichael has a specialty, it’s in being flexible. When he takes on a project he’s never done before, he breaks it down into steps to simplify it.
“If you’re like us and just don’t go in for the same thing over and over, you have to riddle it out and we enjoy that,” said McMichael.
McMichael learned the construction business from his father, who built prison camps during WWII, and after the war built houses and apartments.
“I’m blessed with a good upbringing,” said McMichael. “My foundation my parents gave me was my father was somebody that was a go-getter and my mother taught me perseverance.”
At age 28, after working for several general contractors, McMichael started his company in Lithonia. He moved the business to Conyers in 1988 and to Covington in 2004.
In the early days, he remembers his first couple of projects were tire storage facilities, and slowly he branched out to grocery stores and retail shops.
“As a small company, it’s a slow growth process. Truly you want to grow but you’re very concerned that everything you do meets a high level of quality, you want to make sure it’s got Dave’s stamp on it,” he said.
Three decades later, McMichael is letting the younger generation in his company take on more responsibility but that doesn’t mean the projects don’t still get the “Dave stamp.”
“Once upon a time I relished each and every job. Now I relish how these guys who work for me are succeeding and how we are succeeding through their efforts.We’ve got a good team here,” he said.
To learn more, visit www.mcmichaelsconstruction.com.