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Exploring the Many Aspects of Trust

Exploring the many aspects of trust

Our executive team has been talking about trust and being a “trusted partner” a lot lately. Trust is ethereal. It’s intangible but being able to trust someone—a spouse, a friend, or a business partner—seems substantive, almost spiritual. Trust carries weight and significance, and consequence.

Trust between organizations is complex. It begins with a one-to-one relationship between key individuals. The trust they create then works like a flywheel, creating momentum and building broader trust between the two organizations. From there, every interaction between the client and Austin either accelerates that flywheel or slows it. In other words, the trust between a client and Austin grows or diminishes.

It has been said that the sales process starts the flywheel in motion. It is the character of the salesperson representing Austin that creates alignment with our client’s needs, opens communication, and builds a sense of reliability. This foundation gets the flywheel moving. It is what creates trust.

The larger the organization, the more flywheels there are to maintain. Each flywheel represents a different trust relationship – trust between client and suppliers, for instance. Each one must be maintained and serviced, or it slows down. These flywheels are connected, so they will slow if trust at any level of our relationship with our client is violated. Logically it follows that these flywheels will speed up and create more momentum when the keepers of the flywheels are engaging and collaborating well. Trust is high, and the relationship is strong.

In the complex relationships between companies doing business together, there will always be developments that slow the flywheel. People are not perfect. Competing influences can sometimes require compromises with a client. It’s at these times that the trust you’ve built —the momentum in the flywheel—can overcome an application of friction. It is up to the keepers of the flywheel to maintain the momentum.

One of the most common events that slows a flywheel of trust is bad news. Situations beyond our control like labor shortages and supply chain challenges can cause delays and cost escalation. How does one deal with bad news and maintain the trust of the client? To begin, both parties must understand that bad news is a part of every meaningful relationship. However, how the parties deal with the bad news can be a strong catalyst for building trust. The ability and commitment to overcome challenges by working together is what forges a strong, trusting relationship. Bad news is an opportunity to grow trust. Embrace it!

At a recent event in the bakery industry, Tim Cook, Chairman of Linxis, shared his communication policy when it comes to sharing bad news with a customer. He said, “Be transparent. Be expedient. Be consistent.” This is a powerful reminder of what is at the very heart of building trust.

When bad news surfaces, own it. Don’t slow the flywheel. Feed the trust built with the client by communicating early. It’s helpful, but not always necessary, to have a solution ready when presenting a problem, especially if the problem is significant. It’s better not to wait until a problem is vetted and solved. Sometimes the solution will take time and money, and you may not even be sure the solution will work. Be expedient about the news to ensure that you stay ahead of it. Reliable communication – even if you’re communicating bad news – builds trust and keeps the flywheel moving. Get ahead and stay ahead of the problem through communication.

Being transparent with bad news is difficult. You want to be perfect for a client; you want to be the hero. But that is not feasible in today’s complex environment. Disclosing a problem is confessing that our quest for the perfect client relationship has failed. Even when everyone performs their function at the highest level, OBE (overcome by events) occurs. Being transparent makes us feel vulnerable.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, suggests that without trust, you cannot have an open and honest debate. Trust forms the basis for open dialog. Where there is a collaborative environment searching for a solution, trust is built, and progress is achieved. In other words, transparency— facing a problem alongside an informed client—can keep the flywheel moving to preserve or even increase trust.

Trust is not something to create blindly because it comes with an element of responsibility. We must always remember that people are fallible. We hold people accountable for their commitments and trust their intent and competence to do what’s right. But we must always be aware of the flywheel and be prepared to nurture trust in whatever form necessary for our clients to be successful. We must do what’s necessary to be our clients’ most trusted partner. Life, and work, are better when you work in an environment of trust. When there is a bond of trust, everyone gains the benefits of collaboration and the joy of community that comes from sharing success.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Ernest Hemingway

“You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.”

Anton Chekhov

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen Covey

The Austin Company Participates in IBIE 2022

IBIE 2022

The International Baking Industry Exposition is the largest trade event for the grain-based foods industry in the Western Hemisphere. Held September 17-21, 2022, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, this unique event features the latest innovations, new ingredient formulations, and insights.

Austin’s site location and design-build experts versed in baking and snack production will be on hand to answer your bakery design questions. Whether you are looking to build new, update, or expand, Austin is your source for smart bakery design. Let’s start a conversation; stop by booth #1310.

Don’t Miss Education!

Dave Watson, Baking and Snack Subject Matter Expert

Designed for Success – Making the Right Choices for Your Bakery

Saturday, September 17, 2022, 8:30 am – 9:30 am

Encore Presentation Sunday, September 18, 2022, 11 am – 12 pm

Dave Watson has nearly 40 years of experience in the food industry. He serves as one of Austin’s Baking & Snack Subject Matter Experts and Project Manager. His expertise spans a comprehensive range of food plant engineering aspects, including robotics and packaging automation. Dave gained much of his experience during his tenure at Pepperidge Farms/Campbell’s. He began as a project engineer and then managed the design and construction of Pepperidge Farm’s flagship plant in Denver, PA.

Dave earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University (1981) and his M.B.A. from Saint Joseph’s University (1996). He has served on the American Society of Baking (ASB) Executive Committee, Bakery Equipment Manufacturers Association (BEMA) Baking Industry Forum Committee, the American Baker’s Association (ABA), and the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 Committees.

His education session includes real-world scenarios that set the stage for an open discussion about renovating, expanding, or building a new facility. Both large and small bakery designs will be covered, including:

Sanitary Design

Air Flow

People Flow

Material/Ingredient Flow

Project Cost



Working Within Occupied Spaces

Green Field vs Brownfield Common Pitfalls

Planning to attend? Use code EXH1310 for 20% off!

Benefits of Precast Double T Concrete Beams in Structural Floor and Roof Systems

Benefits of Precast Double T

Construction professionals know that reinforced concrete, as a building material, offers unique benefits to structures. Buildings made of reinforced concrete are incredibly robust, exhibit outstanding performance in corrosive environments, and possess inherent fireproofing capability.

A special type of reinforced concrete structural element is the precast double T concrete beam (double-T beam), which is used as a vertical support element in floor and roof systems. A double-T beam is cast in a factory in a sectional shape that resembles two “T”s joined together – hence the name “double-T” (see Figure 1). The double-T beam offers superb cleanliness due to the elimination of dust-collecting horizontal surfaces, making them ideal candidates for buildings with clean production needs as in some food and medical devices manufacturing.

This system also allows for long spans of more than 60 feet and thus is often chosen for buildings requiring voluminous column-free space (like parking garages and open manufacturing plants).  Furthermore, the double-T beam concrete allows for superior longevity even in harsh building interior conditions (such as steam exposure).

The vertical stem of the T makes it hard for conduit and lighting to be routed, so it’s very good for facilities where there is enough headroom for process utilities and lighting to be placed below the T and above the ceiling.

Figure 1 – precast reinforced concrete double-T beam typical section

Precast vs. Cast-in-Place Factory workers prepare long double-T-shaped casting beds in a linear assembly.

Cast-in-place construction refers to concrete structural elements cast at the location of the final position in the building. The double-T beam is precast in a factory and fabricated off-site in a factory. It is shipped to the project site, where it is set into its final building position. Precast construction allows for superior fabrication quality control and important beam-strengthening operation known as prestressing to take place. As the name suggests, prestressing is a factory operation that applies a “pre-force” onto the beam before the application of building loads. The prestressing operation is critical to provide the double-T beam with adequate strength and stiffness to support significant loads over long spans. The prestressing operation is generally completed as follows:

Factory workers prepare long double-T-shaped casting beds in a linear assembly.

Workers position reinforcing into the casting beds per the Structural Designer’s details and specifications.

Workers will pre-tension special types of high-strength reinforcement called “strands” which have been placed into the casting beds.  The pre-tension operation occurs by anchoring one end of the strands to the casting bed, and then pulling on the strand from the far end with a hydraulic jack, producing tens of thousands of pounds of tension in the strand (see Figure 2).

Concrete is then poured into the casting beds with the strands held in high tension.

When the concrete has cured, the external pulling force in the strands is removed. The strand immediately attempts to shrink back to its unstretched shape – but it is now restrained along its length by the newly cast concrete.  This permanent tension in the strand thus manifests as a stabilizing compression force in the double-T beam (the prestressing force).

Figure 2 – precast concrete double-T pre-tensioning operation

Creating the Roof Structure

A typical length of a double-T beam is 70 ft long by 10 ft wide. The beams typically also have an upwards camber due to the prestressing operation. These beams are shipped from the factory to the project site on truck beds. Cranes at the project site latch onto the double-T beams at pick points and lift and set them to their final positions in the building. As the positioned beams begin to support building loads, the prestress is induced upward, and the camber flattens to a horizontal level. 

The robust double-T beams have a relatively large area (700 SF for a 70 FT long x 10 FT wide beam), so large areas of floors and roofs are quickly constructed as the beams are erected into place.

An important component of most double-T beam floor and roof assemblies is the cast-in-place concrete topping diaphragm.  The topping is a thin layer (typically 2-1/2 to 4 inches thick) that provides a level horizontal surface across the entire floor or roof and acts as a structural “diaphragm” (A structural diaphragm is a thin, stiff plate that provides lateral stability to the structure when it is subject to seismic and wind forces). During the factory production process, grooves are fashioned across the tops of the double-T surfaces; the cast-in-place topping concrete keys into these grooves and allows the topping and precast double-T to act compositely (in unison) to resist the superimposed floor or roof loads. 


Precast concrete requires little to no maintenance after installation. By contrast, steel assemblies often require patching, repair, and reapplication of fireproofing, insulation, and any paint coatings.

Special Considerations for Precast Concrete

Precast double tees are unique products that are built by precast concrete companies. Typically, the precast concrete company is subcontracted by the general contractor for a project. The distance of the closest precast concrete plant to the project will dictate the cost of shipping to the project site. However, in most locations throughout the United States, precast concrete elements can be shipped at competitive prices.  Here are a few important considerations for using double-T beams for your project: 

  • Concrete Super-Structure. Double-T beams are optimally connected to concrete girders, concrete columns, and concrete walls.  All these supporting building components are typically precast (in a factory and shipped to the site), but it is feasible to cast-in-place (use formwork to cast the members at their final position). Either way, it is important to remember that double-T beams are typically part of overall concrete buildings. 
  • Shipping. As discussed, precast double-T beams need to be shipped to the job site. So, the location of the closest precast concrete company, shipping costs, and shipping schedule need to be factored into the overall project scope.
  • Installation. Concrete double-T beams and other concrete precast elements are heavy (typical single element weights can be 25 Tons or more). Crane selection, crane staging, and construction site safety plans are critical aspects for the design and construction team to assess and plan. 

A client’s unique needs are always at the forefront of our design process. To learn if precast concrete roofing is right for your project, reach out to our team.  


Through the Decades 1970s

Along with continuing business from legacy clients, the 1970s were a period of significant growth— a lot of projects and many new client names—for Austin’s California Office (Western District at the time). 

New clients and projects for Austin, California were substantially in two markets: General Industrial and Operations Centers (Data Centers), the latter being an emerging market in the 1970s for Austin worldwide.

Left Top: Beckman Instruments, Inc. Right Top: Chevron Oil Left Bottom: American Honda Motor Company Right Bottom: Steelcase Inc.

General Industrial

Representative clients and projects during the 1970s included:

  • American Honda
  • Beckman Instruments
  • Chevron Oil Field Research
  • The Clorox Company
  • Jafra Cosmetics
  • Smith Tool
  • Stauffer Chemical
  • Steelcase
  • Syntex
  • Toyota Motor Sales

For American Honda Motor Company, Inc. Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 300,000 SF Regional Parts Distribution Center in Stockton, CA.  (Equivalent to $165 million in today’s market.)

For Beckman Instruments, Inc., Austin designed, engineered, and constructed 12 projects throughout California.  Four were significant design, engineering, and construction projects, including a corporate data center, laboratory, manufacturing, and office buildings.  (2022 Value: More than $135 million.)

For Chevron Oil Field Research Company, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 76,000 SF office building in La Habra, CA.  (2022 Value: More than $26 million.) This was the first in a series of projects for Chevron at the La Habra Research campus.

For The Clorox Company, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a research building in Oakland, CA. (2022 Value: $34 million.)

For Jafra Cosmetics, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a cosmetics manufacturing plant in Canoga Park, CA.  (2022 Value: $30 million.)

For Smith Tool Company, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed 11 projects, including a forge shop. (2022 Value: More than $26 million.)

For Stauffer Chemical Company, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a research laboratory in Richmond, CA. (2022 Value: Approximately $50 million.)

For Steelcase, Inc., Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 330,000 SF expansion to their Tustin, CA, office furniture manufacturing facility. (2022 Value: More than $56 million.)

For Syntex USA, Inc., Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a laboratory facility in Palo Alto, CA.  (2022 Value: $70 million.)

For Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., Austin designed, engineered, and constructed multiple facilities for Toyota, including a 220,000 SF distribution center in San Ramon, CA, and a 90,000 SF office building in Torrance, CA. (2022 Value:  $75 million.)

Left: United Airlines Advanced Reservation Center Right: Valley National Bank

Operations Centers (Including Data Centers)

Representative clients and projects during the 1970s included:

  • First Security Bank
  • Security Pacific National Bank
  • United Airlines
  • Valley National Bank

For First Security Company (Bank) Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 195,000 SF bank operations center (data center) in Sal Lake City, UT. (2022 Value: More than $50 million.)

For Security Pacific National Bank, Austin completed eight planning projects (data center related, including planning for a new major data center in Brea, CA, that would become a significant design, engineering, and construction project for Austin beginning in 1980.

For United Airlines, Inc., Austin completed the design and engineering for a new 55,000 reservations center in Los Angeles, CA. (2022 Value: $20 million in construction .)

For Valley National Bank, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a nearly 100,000 SF computer center in Phoenix, AZ. (2022 Value: Close to  $50 million.)

Legacy Clients

Austin received continuing business from legacy clients in the 1970s, including continued work for NBC (started in the 1930s), completing more than 40 projects in Burbank during the 1970s alone. Projects included designing, engineering, and constructing a new 76,500 SF technical and office building. (2022 Value: $25 million.)

Austin also continued with work for Northrop Corporation completing a series of projects at the Hawthorne, CA site.

All totaled, Austin undertook more than $1 billion (in 2022 dollars) in work during the 1970s, averaging $100 million a year over the ten years, with much of the work being awarded in the late 1970s and construction rolling over into the 1980s. Austin also moved its primary California office from Los Angeles (Wilshire Blvd.) to Irvine, CA, in 1975 (18800 Von Karman).

Austin’s new office, Irvine, CA

Join us next month as we discuss the 1980s and Austin’s California office continues to grow.

The Austin Company Promotes Jackson and Salinas to Key Leadership Positions  

Jackson and Salinas Promotions
Left to right – Chris Jackson, Fabricio Salinas

The Austin Company announced that Chris Jackson had been promoted to Vice President Operations and General Manager for Austin Eastern Operations, reporting to Senior Vice President of Operations, Matt Eddleman. For the near term, Jackson will continue to lead the Eastern Operations Preconstruction Department.

Austin also announced the promotion of Fabricio Salinas to Managing and General Director of Austin Mexico Operations. Project operations, engineering, preconstruction, and sales will report to Salinas, who will be supervised by Eddleman.

“It is always an honor to promote from within. Chris Jackson has been with Austin for seven years and has been a vital part of our Preconstruction Department. He has demonstrated his leadership abilities and commitment to client relations. Likewise, Fabricio Salinas, who has worked for Austin for five years, embodies Austin’s values and has been a highly effective manager of our operations there. We look forward to his leadership there as we seek to grow our presence and success in Mexico,” said President and CEO Mike Pierce.


Through the Decades 1960s

A retrospective of the first 100 years of work completed by Austin’s California Office.

Austin continued with project work for NBC in Burbank, completing more than 20 projects in the 1960s alone. For ABC, Austin completed approximately ten projects, including their Hollywood television studios (see photo below).

Following the entertainment industry business segment, Austin completed an additional 15 projects for Technicolor Corporation, a client and part of the industry that Austin served over the next 30 years.

Lockheed (Lockheed California Company) became an active client in 1962, a relationship that continues today. Austin’s work at Burbank Airport (see Through the Decades – The1930s) provided the connection to Lockheed, who, until the late-1980s, also called the Burbank airfield home. Austin’s nationwide work in the aviation industry for companies including Boeing, Douglas, and McDonald made the engagement with this new client seamless for Austin– we knew aviation.

Austin also began major work with Northrop (Northrop Corporation Norair and Space Divisions), completing more than 30 projects during the 1960s. These facilities were home to the Northrop F-5 family of supersonic light fighter aircraft. This included the original F-5A and F-5B Freedom Fighter. Though primarily designed for a day air superiority role, the aircraft was also a capable ground-attack platform. The F-5A entered service in the early 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. Though at the time the United States Air Force (USAF) did not have a need for a light fighter, it did procure approximately 1,200 Northrop T-38 Talon trainer aircraft, which were based on Northrop’s N-156 fighter design.

Austin once again demonstrated its broad range of aviation experience opening doors to work in the aviation and defense industry across the country. This included projects with Grumman on the east coast beginning an active and ongoing relationship with Northrop Grumman that has spanned more than 60 years.

Freedom Fighter

Other clients with multiple projects during this time included familiar names such as Ford Motor Company, Montgomery Ward, Sunkist Growers, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, and U.S. Navy Facilities Engineering Command (collectively known today as NAVFAC). Less familiar names (today) included Burroughs Corporation, Pacific Southwest Realty (Security Pacific National Bank) – today a part of Bank of America, the Upjohn Company (now a part of Pfizer), and several Southern California newspaper printing companies – which would become a significant market segment for Austin in the decades ahead. Join us next month as we discuss the 1970s as Austin’s California office ventures into a series of new and expanded market segments and relocates from Los Angeles to Irvine, California.

Fair Oaks Foods Partners with The Austin Company to Design-Build a New Food Production Facility in Davenport

Fair Oaks Foods Partners with Austin

Fair Oaks Foods plans to construct a fully cooked bacon facility in Davenport, Iowa. The $134 million investment includes a 150,000-square-foot facility in the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center and will create an estimated 247 new full-time jobs. The plant is expected to commence operations in early 2024.

The project was announced during a press conference on Tuesday, June 14, with representatives from Fair Oaks Foods, the City of Davenport, and the Quad Cities Chamber.

The Austin Company will serve as the design-builder for the project. Austin Consulting, an arm of The Austin Company, assisted Fair Oaks Foods with site location evaluation for the project. Austin, established more than 140 years ago, has a long history of building for the food and beverage industry. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Austin also has offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Irvine, California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and London, England. Austin also recently purchased Gala and Associates, an engineering company in Beverly Hills, Michigan.  

“We value our role in this important investment made by a great company in a vibrant and progressive city. We are looking forward to a fruitful partnership that will deliver a successful project to all stakeholders,” said Austin President and CEO Mike Pierce.

Fair Oaks Foods, headquartered in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, is a family-owned meat processing company and the 11th largest Black-owned business in the U.S. Founded in 1985, it produces and supplies a variety of protein products, including bacon, meatballs, pork, and turkey sausage to food service, national grocery stores, and quick-serve restaurants globally. The Davenport facility will expand the company’s current capabilities and produce fully cooked bacon.

Building Relationships with Co-workers

Building relationships with coworkers

Critical to Mental Health, Productivity, and Quality Work

Do you ever get to work, turn on your computer, work through lunch, and before you know it, the time has come to pack up and go home, yet you don’t feel like you have had a real conversation with anyone? I’m sure this happens to many of us more often than we would like. The demands of work are sometimes high. If we continue to do this day in and day out, there is a price to pay, and it is a serious one both for the individual and the company.

A robust social network is associated with a reduced risk of depression and anxiety, lower levels of stress, increased motivation to engage in self-care, and longer life. Conversely, studies have noted, “Low social interaction was reported to be similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic, to be more harmful than not exercising, and to be twice as harmful as obesity.”

I am certainly not saying don’t work hard, but I am saying that humans were not created to live isolated and alone. We all inherently need relationships. All of us want to feel valued, heard, and loved. When we don’t, there are consequences such as irritability, loneliness, and increased stress. From a business perspective, those who don’t intentionally prioritize relationships are less collaborative and less productive at work.

More than 3 in 5 employees with high social connectivity report being highly engaged, whereas just over 1 in 10 employees with low social connectivity consider themselves highly engaged at work. Employees with strong social bonds with their coworkers are more motivated to perform. Individuals who report having a best friend at work are seven times more likely to exhibit better engagement, customer relations, work quality, wellbeing, and a lower risk of injury.

When was the last time you asked someone about their life? Not just, “How was your weekend?” but things like, “What kind of stuff do you do outside of work?” or “I saw the birth announcement of your daughter. How is parenthood treating you?” On the flip side, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to share things about your life with others. Some of us are uncomfortable doing this, but if you start sharing even a few details about yourself, you will develop relationships that will change you, your attitude, and your health.

Over time these relationships get stronger as trust builds. Trust fosters kindness, generosity, and appreciation. All of these are things I believe are things we want, need, and desire.

If you are someone whose job is to manage others, it is imperative that you build strong relationships with your team. Do you recall having a boss that only talked to you when they needed something from you? How did this make you feel? Did you feel a sense of loyalty to that person? Outstanding leaders are masters at building solid connections with those that work for them. It has been said that people JOIN companies, people LEAVE managers. I think we can all resonate with this statement. As a manager, schedule time in the week to touch base, open up and connect genuinely with your team. I guarantee you will find your team more engaged and productive, take on more accountability instead of blaming others, and solidly have your back.

The next time you find yourself staring at your computer screen for hours upon hours, take a time out and get out of your chair to connect with someone for a few minutes. The benefits of really getting to know someone are exponential.

Best Practices for Working Collaboratively with Architecture Firms

Best Practices for working collaboratively

While The Austin Company is a fully integrated design-builder, there are times when we are called upon to work collaboratively with other architecture or engineering firms on specific projects.

Projects of the size and scope Austin design-builds require a team of architects, engineers, preconstruction, and construction managers to realize a stakeholder’s vision. With experienced professionals—all under one roof—who are accustomed to collaborating with in-house team members and a wide range of sub-consultants and contractors, there are several key things that ensure a smooth process when various firms are engaged in Austin projects.

Solid Communication Lays the Groundwork

Our teams discuss the different methods of communication and the best times for their use.

The best way to communicate is in-person, where teams can see each other’s body language and hear the tone and words. The next best option in our connected world is to call and talk with the person. Body language may be lost, but at least the tone and the words can still convey the issue, and there is back-and-forth to confirm that both parties understand. Both types of ‘verbal’ communication forms can be followed up with an email, RFI, or other documents for the record and ensure both people understand the question and the answer. These verbal communications also help to develop the relationship between team members as they naturally discuss ‘how was your weekend’ etc. as a greeting. These personal connections can help everyone work toward the common goal of a finished project for the owner when there are challenges on a project.

If verbal communication isn’t possible, written communication, about individual issues (not 50 at once), with all the appropriate references/backup to give context for the scope, schedule, or cost, is also an effective way to communicate. Written communications are best used to document the final plan/decision.

Text messages straddle the line between verbal and written communications, and our teams are coached to use them only for quick, easy, yes/no type questions just to keep things moving. Texts should not turn into a multi-page book. Longer, more complex issues should be dealt with in-person, with a call or other written method.

Even the most articulately written pieces of communication can be unclear to team members or taken in the wrong ‘tone’ or ‘context.’ Having a clear channel of communication established will help resolve questions quickly and keeps everybody moving in the same direction.

Throughout the project, changes to both cost and schedule will no doubt happen. It’s important to be able to alert team members on all sides – design, construction, and the client when changes occur to minimize frustration on the job site.

Programmed Team Communications

From the start of a project, the preconstruction plan validates that the design and build teams are on the same page, working toward unified goals. Before any discussion on phased builds or constructability reviews takes place, Austin establishes a smooth information flow between the architectural and construction teams. The elements that are coordinated include:

  • Construction control schedules and long-lead planning
  • 30/60/90-% drawing and/or model reviews
  • Bid package plans / scope / timing
  • Weekly or bi-weekly calls

Ongoing communications for the construction administration of a project (submittals, RFIs, punch list, etc.) are key to keeping the normal project operations moving forward. Strong relationships among team members, organized reviews and consistent reporting help everyone stay on top of open items.

It is valuable to the project to have the design team onsite regularly to chase any solutions needed, as well as observe their design coming to fruition.

Walk a Mile Cross-Training

Cross-training that focuses on understanding the challenges faced by all members of the project team build better relationships. Designers who have experience in construction management and construction teams who work closely with the design process have a much better understanding of what goes into each phase of a project and the roles and responsibilities they each play.

A stronger relationship forms when architecture, engineering, and construction team members attend each other’s meetings and understand each other’s difficulties. For example, when an architectural team attends a site review walk and helps avoid issues in the future, or when Austin’s construction managers sit in on design reviews and their comments add positively to the overall design.


Starting a conversation from a place of respect goes a long way in setting the tone. When both sides think about the challenges the other is facing and how both can work together toward their shared goal (a successfully completed project), the communication starts from a much better place.

Poor working relationships add a layer of disfunction that must be managed, otherwise, these interactions can take valuable effort and resources away from the project. Conversely, when issues arise, having everyone on the same page solves problems much more quickly. Teams—whether in-house or blended—are the foundation of every project. Team members are most productive when they collaborate with trust and respect and hold one another accountable.

People, not companies, build projects!

Working collaboratively is key to a successful project. Clear communication, inclusive meetings, cross-training, and mutual respect are a few of the ways we make working with professionals outside of our organization work.

The Austin Company Attends SelectUSA

Select USA 2022

The Austin Company including Austin’s site selection consulting arm, attends SelectUSA, June 26-29, 2022. Held in Washington, D.C., SelectUSA is a government program led by the U.S. Department of Commerce that focuses on facilitating job-creating business investment in the United States and raising awareness of the critical role that economic development plays in the economy. Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $91 billion in investment, creating, or retaining over 115,000 U.S. jobs.

Hosted by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, notable speakers presenting at the conference include Cabinet members, governors, thought leaders, and C-suite executives from U.S. and global companies. The event features business and networking opportunities for participants committed to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Austin continues to lead the way in helping companies gain a foothold in the U.S. market.


Jim Cathcart, Regional Sales Director  

Matt Eddleman, Senior Vice President of Operations

Jonathan Gemmen, Senior Director, Austin Consulting

Lynn Huff, Director of Project Planning

Matt Poreba, Director, Austin Consulting

Katie Riegelman, Director – Incentives, Austin Consulting

Brandon Talbert, Managing Director, Austin Consulting

Tamara Zupancic, Director of Marketing and Communications


Through the Decades 1950s

National Broadcasting Company’s New Burbank Studios

It was the late 1940s; Radio City West in Hollywood had been converted for television, and NBC had launched its newest television station for Los Angeles (now known as Channel 4, KNBC). NBC was quickly outgrowing the iconic Hollywood broadcast center. As production increased, the need for more space became apparent. The network, and its then-parent, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), decided to build a new television studio complex. Internally nicknamed NBC Color City, the studio would be exclusively equipped for color television broadcasting, a technology that RCA (Radio Corporation of America) was still developing.

A site in Burbank was selected. However, the United States was at war in Korea, and like during WWII, steel, aluminum, and copper wire went to defense contractors first. Before NBC bought the land in Burbank, it needed assurances from the National Production Authority that it could get the required materials to support the construction of its new studios.

In October of 1950, NBC made the first public mention of their intentions in a brief article in Broadcasting Magazine.

NBC TV Center sees January Start – “With building permit and materials clearance from National Production Authority in Washington expected by mid-January, NBC will break ground for its proposed new West Coast $25 million radio-TV center in Burbank, California, late next month, according to present plans.

 “NBC has earmarked around $2 million for the first unit of the project which will front on Alameda and California Sts., it was said.”

RCA, NBC’s parent company, had purchased the property in Burbank from both the city of Burbank and Warner Bros. Studios executive Jack Warner, and turned yet again to The Austin Company to design, engineer, and construct the new 48-acre television studio complex that would become NBC’s new West Coast Headquarters. The first pencil went to paper on the design in February 1951. Construction began in March, two months later, with Studios 1 and 3 opening on October 4, 1952, for black and white television, not color.

These new studios were unlike any others designed and constructed to date. Unlike the typical motion picture theater of the time with its small stage and maximum seating capacity, NBC’s new television studios were designed with large stage areas and auditorium seating for only 500. This allowed plenty of room for scenery, acting, and an operating area for the cameras and associated equipment.

black and white photo of NBC's new television studio from 1952.
black and white photo of NBC's new television studio from 1952.

NBC Studios 1 and 3 were in heavy use from the start. But color television would have to wait for approval from the FCC until December 1953. In the east, NBC’s first color studio was The Colonial Theater which came online as an experimental facility in March 1953. NBC Brooklyn 1 was the second color studio in September 1954.

Burbank’s color studios were added one by one. Studio 2 was built first, followed by Studio 4, and were called the first television studios built just for color. These two studios, and the entire Burbank complex, were dedicated on March 27, 1955 – two and a half years after the opening of Studios 1 and 3. On May 30, 1955, Humphrey Bogart would make his first (and last live) appearance on television in Studio 2 when he, Lauren Bacall, and Henry Fonda starred in The Petrified Forest, the first “Producers Showcase” live color drama broadcast from NBC Color City West.

Studios 1 and 3 followed in transition to color with upgrades to electrical and air conditioning systems (also by Austin) to accommodate the added requirements for the color television cameras.

Austin upgraded and expanded the studio complex’s production and technical facilities as television grew and technology advanced throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The last of seven major television studios, Studio 11, was completed in 1984.

Regarding the design and construction of the first phase in 1951-52, the October 1952 issue of Radio Age published the following:

  • NBC’s New TV Center on West Coast Finished in Record Time
  • Roomy Studios and Service Quarters Embody the Latest Advances in Design and Construction.
  • Two large studios and a vast service building operating at high speed.
  • Spacious facilities for stars, including dressing rooms with showers, and a steam room.
  • Ten additional dressing rooms; four for choruses.
  • Large rehearsal halls
  • Carpentry shop, paint shop, and large scenery storage area.
  • Structural innovations [by Austin], including site-cast concrete wall panels [not standard in 1951-52 as they are today], speed up construction.

NBC Burbank hosted the production of many of the iconic variety and game shows from the 1950s through the 1990s, including The Tonight Showbeginning in 1972. In that year, Johnny Carson moved the show to California from New York, where it remained until 2014. The show would return to New York with Jimmy Fallon as host ending a 42-year era of the show’s taping from Southern California.

The Tonight Show broadcast from Studio 1, except when Bob Hope produced his specials. The show moved to Studio 3 when Jay Leno became the host and then to Studio 11 in March 2010, until the show’s move back to New York.

Hollywood Squares was produced at NBC Burbank from 1966 to 1980.

Local Los Angeles television station KNBC moved to the Burbank complex in 1962, where it operated until moving to the Universal Studios lot in 2014.

The Burbank complex (once nicknamed NBC Color Studio) was The West Coast home of NBC Television for 62 years.

Join us next month as we discuss the 1960s and Austin’s California office ventures into a series of new market segments.

Finding Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Workforce

Finding Tomorrow’s Workforce

There is no question that we are experiencing a historically tight labor market, and it is easy to point the finger at the pandemic that started in March 2020 for today’s hiring challenges. Unemployment skyrocketed, labor force participation plummeted, and the ensuing disruptions to working environments and global supply chains left a permanent imprint on us all. However, I contend there were already longer-term trends at play completely unrelated to the pandemic.

To put it simply, more people are retiring or aging out of the working-age population (ages 16 to 64) than there are young people aging into the workforce. The eventual return of immigration to former levels will surely help, but this alone is unlikely to bridge the gap between labor supply and demand.

Navigating longer-term labor shortages requires making strategic location decisions at every turn. Whether it’s locating a new plant or right-sizing an existing operation, numerous factors can differ from one geographic area to the next. Thoroughly researching and weighing the impact of these differences is critical to securing the desired operating outcomes. The main objective from an HR perspective is to maximize labor attraction while minimizing turnover among the highest quality employees. The site selection process supports this objective by characterizing shifting demographics, quantifying the size of targeted labor pools, identifying which competing operations will be labor takers and which will be labor feeders, evaluating local technical school resources, and comparing labor cost trends, among other factors.

Site selection professionals are available to help with location strategy and due diligence. But what can companies do after the location decision is made to help ensure a successful staffing experience?

After meeting with nearly 100 manufacturing companies, industrial staffing agencies, and workforce development organizations over the last year, their feedback can be boiled down to this: The companies having the most success with labor attraction and retention are investing time and capital to solve for these four considerations: compensation, workplace culture, community partnerships, and background requirements.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly manufacturing wages increased by 6% over the last 12 months – the highest annual increase since 1982. Austin Consulting’s research indicates entry-level manufacturing wages in most larger markets have increased by 25% to 45% since the pandemic began.

Constant monitoring of local market wage patterns is essential to keeping up with competitors. Local HR leaders need the flexibility to adjust wage offerings in real-time. Do not wait until after turnover becomes unmanageable before making the required compensation adjustments. Be careful not to start blindly increasing wages, though. Too much wage escalation beyond market patterns can cause a ripple effect leading to unnecessary wage wars that negatively impact all players involved. To avoid this risk, participate in local wage surveys and HR networking groups to stay current with activity in your area.

Workplace Culture

A close second after compensation is culture. If there’s one workforce trend coming out of the last few years that’s expected to stick around; it’s the increased leverage gained by employees. It is clear the next generation of manufacturing workers is demanding more than their predecessors. Manufacturing can be a rigid process, but companies that seek input from their workforce and find creative ways to address employees’ needs are leading the charge into the future.

It’s no secret that PTO and flexible schedules allowing for better work-life balance are a top priority. Aligning shift schedules with local school times can make all the difference for workers with families. So can company-sponsored childcare and healthcare services either on-site or nearby. Employee appreciation events, food trucks on Fridays, and allowing headphones while working certain positions are examples of small practices that can add up to big advantages. I recently met with a company that has a golf simulator at their mid-sized assembly plant. The equipment cost about $10,000 to install and has reportedly paid for itself ten times over with the gains in labor attraction and retention. It’s the #1 thing applicants ask about during their first interview!

Community Partnerships

Companies that are not connected to the community are often disconnected from their workforce. Not only is sponsoring local charities and events the right thing to do, being active in the community increases visibility and fosters a family atmosphere leading to a heightened sense of loyalty from employees.

Reaching out to non-profits and church groups can be a great way to tap into refugee and foreign-born labor pools. These organizations provide resettlement housing, legal and documentation services, and help with bridging the language barrier. This type of assistance connects workers eager to enter the labor market. If you’re not sure why this potential labor resource is important, just know this, 1 in 5 U.S. manufacturing workers was born outside the country.

Partnering with local training providers is essential for new and expanding operations and can help companies looking to upskill their existing workforce. Most technical schools can provide customized training for everything from soft skills to advanced robotics. In many cases, these programs are free to the company or are heavily incentivized. Training partnerships don’t just apply to technical programs either. More and more manufacturing companies incentivize their employees to get their GED or pursue higher education through free tuition programs. Establishing a clear path of life-long learning for your workforce is a master key to higher retention while at the same time developing a pipeline for those highly sought-after skilled employees.

Background Requirements

In the recent past, most manufacturers have required a high school diploma or GED for entry-level jobs. Basic math skills, reading comprehension, and safety have been the rationale most often cited. But I’ve noticed a major shift in recent years as companies have looked for ways to expand their applicant pools. In some areas, eliminating the HS/GED requirement can increase applicant response by up to 20%. Replacing minimum education requirements with pre-employment assessments for interest, aptitude, and skills provides employers a more effective approach for screening applicants and placing them in the best positions for mutual success.

Relaxing hiring policies around criminal background checks is a common response to tight labor market conditions. Companies that evaluate each applicant’s criminal history on a case-by-case basis find high-quality employees that would have otherwise been overlooked. Misdemeanors and minor convictions are typically forgiven if applicants can show a recent pattern of clean behavior and a strong work ethic.

In both examples above, the general feedback regarding labor quality has been positive. In most cases, providing job opportunities for this underserved portion of the workforce has led to higher attendance and retention rates as a sign of appreciation for giving them a chance when others wouldn’t.

Mastering the labor market is a never-ending task with no one size fits all solution. Community involvement, listening to your employees, and being flexible and agile in your response will greatly increase your odds of success.

Job Site Visitor Safety

Job Site Visitor Safety

It’s not uncommon for non-construction team members to visit a job site. Many people have a vested interest in the project’s progress, from stakeholders to local politicians. Whether you are a veteran job site visitor or someone who has never set foot on an active construction site, these tips will make your visit safe.  

Wear the proper gear 

Wearing the proper safety gear is a basic requirement to enter a construction site. The Austin Company provides visitors with the necessary gear— also known as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including the following:

  • Eye protection. Prescription eyewear is automatically impact-resistant, but it’s not typically shatterproof. In addition, glasses provide only limited frontal protection, leaving space on the open sides, top and bottom for small particles to make their way to the eye. Fortunately, safety glasses that go over prescription glasses are available that meet ANSI Z87.1 requirements.  
  • Hard hat. Did you know that a hard hat should fit your unique head shape? All hard hat models are designed to be adjusted to the individual’s head. The ideal fit for such headgear will leave a little breathing room between the hard shell and the internal suspension structure so that air can flow freely through the area. Standard features include sliding mechanisms that allow you to adapt the tightness at 1/8-inch intervals. When fine-tuning your fit, find a spot where the hard hat feels secure yet not painfully tight. Skin abrasions are a sign that you are not wearing your hard hat at an appropriate size. Never wear a baseball cap under the hard hat. Beanie hats and stockings may be worn if approved by the manufacturer. Hard hats usually have a five-year shelf life if it has not been dropped, received a sharp blow, or damaged.  Storing a hard hat in direct sunlight or a hot vehicle will shorten the life.  There is a clock pressed into the plastic on the inside of the hard hat that identifies the month and year the hat was manufactured. Make a note of this so you know when it’s time to replace it with a newer model. All hard hats are manufactured to ANSI Z89.1 2009 standards. 
  • Safety vest. Brightly colored for a reason, safety vests can warn workers, equipment operators, and drivers that individuals are in the immediate work area. The extra visibility provides valuable time to stop or slow operations until people are out of the hazard zone.  There are three different classes of safety vests, Class 1, 2, and 3.  Class 3 has the most retroreflective striping and is required for workers near traffic or when “no visibility” or dark conditions exist. Class 2 is the most commonly worn on construction sites. Class 1 vests are usually worn in low-impact areas. 
  • Proper footwear. Footwear should have heavy-duty soles made of thick material to prevent sharp objects from entering. Wear shoes made of moisture retention material to keep your feet dry and warm with little to no heels and good traction. Depending on the type of project you’re on or the owner’s requirements, a safety toe shoe or boot that meets the ASTM F2413 standard may be required. At a minimum, open-toed shoes are never acceptable on a construction job site. 
  • Long sleeves. OSHA, the federal agency that sets on-the-job safety standards, does not have a dress code other than for welders. But long-sleeve shirts are recommended to prevent sunburn. Most private construction companies and unions require a minimum of a four-inch (4”) sleeve depending on the task. Sleeves should fit snugly to prevent snagging and getting stuck in moving machinery.  
  • Hearing protection. If you are sensitive to noise, you may consider hearing protection when visiting an active construction site. If hearing protection is required (90 dBA or higher), signage will be posted stating what type of hearing protection is needed for one hour or more in the area. There are many different hearing protection devices, including canal caps, earmuffs, reusable earplugs, and roll-down foam. Remember, hearing loss is not reversible. 

Pay attention 

A job site is an active work zone full of heavy equipment and construction materials. Some common hazards you could encounter on a job site include: 

  • Ground hazards — Construction sites are not level parking lots. You will be walking through a lot of dirt, and uneven ground. Be sure to watch for pallets of construction materials or other hazards like extension cords. It’s easy to scrape an ankle or trip over items if you are not paying attention to the ground. The footprint of the project is constantly changing. 
  • Look up — Areas around scissor and boom lifts are always barricaded with caution or danger tape.  Yellow caution tape indicates a known hazard. Before entering and watch for equipment moving materials into place. Take care that you are not walking underneath a load or into areas where materials, equipment, or tools could fall. 
  • Cones and Tapes — Caution cones and tapes are there for a reason — to keep you from getting hurt. Cones alert visitors and workers to potential danger. For example, cones are used when something is sticking up out of the ground or to provide a barricade to pieces of equipment that are dangerous. Cones are paired with caution or danger tape. Caution tape indicates there is a potential hazard and extra awareness should be used to determine what the hazard is before proceeding. Danger tape should never be crossed under any circumstances.  

Stick with your guide 

When escorted through a job site, don’t roam off on your own. Remember that the project representative is maneuvering you safely through the site. If you have a specific area  

you want to visit (i.e., a warehouse manager who wants to see the loading docks or an engineer wanting to see where equipment is going), arrange that with the construction manager in advance.  

Safety orientation and OSHA 

If you are going to be making frequent visits to a job site, you may be asked to attend a site-specific safety orientation. Regardless of your role and your purpose in visiting a job site, compliance with OSHA requirements is necessary. OSHA requirements include rules applying to  

  • Falls 
  • Stairways and Ladders 
  • Scaffolding 
  • Electrical 
  • Trenching and Excavation 
  • Motor Vehicle Safety/Highway Work Zones 

The most successful visit to any job site is when everyone goes home safe to their families. To ensure your visit is a success, arrange it in advance, stay with the guide, be mindful of your surroundings, and always wear the proper safety gear.  


Through the Decades 1940s

A Retrospective of the First 100 Years of Work Completed by Austin’s California Office 

This is the third in a series of monthly articles chronicling highlights of the first 100 years for The Austin Company’s California office. Last month in the 1930s Austin California entered the field of aviation with the Burbank Airport followed by NBC’s Radio City West in Hollywood. This month we look at the 1940s, touching on Austin’s nationwide projects supporting the WWII war efforts, and follow with, the new era of television. 

The Austin Company Supports the WWII War Efforts and the Birth of Television 

World War II (September 1, 1939, to September 2, 1945) 

Austin spent much of the first half of the 1940s focused on the war effort with its California office supporting projects in the areas of shipbuilding, aircraft assembly, machine tool factories, electronic instruments, and devices, as well as two major penicillin plants, among others.  

In 1939, the outbreak of war in Europe resulted in a large-scale expansion of America’s aviation industries. Just 22 years earlier, during WW1, Austin had built the world’s largest aircraft plant and had pioneered the design of aircraft hangars, wind tunnels, dirigible mooring masts, and airports. This experience, coupled with Austin’s know-how gained by developing the first controlled conditions (air-conditioned) factory, positioned Austin as the nation’s largest builder of military aircraft assembly plants. These particular assembly plants needed the “blackout” protection that a controlled conditions buildings could provide. An impressive list of major aircraft assembly projects was completed between 1939 and 1943 in the Pacific Northwest, Chicago, Fort Worth, Niagara Falls, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Wichita, among other locations. 


As Austin passed the peak of its wartime activity in 1943, the company shifted some of its focus for the change in construction that would eventually come with the end of the war. It was believed that there was a large amount of capital and technology that was waiting to be applied in peacetime. This would result in new products and companies. Austin prepared to be ready for these changes. 

One area of change was television. “Electronic television” was first successfully demonstrated in San Francisco in September of 1927, but it was not until the 1939 World’s Fair in New York (April 30, 1939 – October 27, 1940) – as the war was breaking out in Europe – that the first practical TV sets were sold to the public. Although television sets had been available as early as the late 1930s, the widespread distribution and sale of TV sets did not take off until after the war, and Austin was ready to support the new industry’s development of shows to broadcast. 

Austin was convinced that the end of the war would bring the American consumer increased leisure time, and television would be a major growth industry in the postwar era. (Some business leaders believed that no medium could ever displace the dominance of radio.) Nonetheless, Austin developed a television studio construction program two years before the end of the war. Austin went all-in on its belief that returning GIs would be all too happy to spend time in the coming years in front of the TV set with their families. Austin unveiled its working model of a television network studio in April 1944.

In 1938, Austin completed the design and construction of NBC’s Radio City West in Hollywood. (See the 1930s article published in March.)  After only a few short years, however, television was ready for widespread availability to the public, and Austin was there to convert Radio City West to television.  

Over a series of projects beginning in 1944, Austin implemented the changes necessary for the larger radio studios, including audiences and television cameras (black and white at the time), and state-of-the-art television broadcasting equipment. Changes in technology meant significantly increased lighting, structural upgrades to support the lighting, and added air conditioning to accommodate the increased heat load from the lights, along with larger control rooms than were required for radio. 

Join us next month as we discuss the 1950s when NBC would outgrow the Radio City West facilities in Hollywood. A new site in Burbank would be purchased to become the West Coast home of NBC Television. 

Austin Participates in Aviation Week’s A&D Manufacturing Conference  

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May 17-18, Greensboro, NC

Aviation Week’s A&D Manufacturing Conference, formerly SpeedNews’ Aerospace Manufacturing Conference, brings leading manufacturers and suppliers in the aerospace industry to Greensboro, NC, for a two-day senior-level conference. 

The conference covers manufacturing operations, capabilities and processes, innovation within manufacturing, modern machining technologies, and automation. 

The Austin Company sponsors a welcome reception Monday, May 16th, from 6 to 8 p.m. Then, on Tuesday, May 17th, from 1 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. Dan Wiegandt, AIA, LEED AP, and Program Director of Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense with Austin, participates in a panel discussion on Smart Factories. The panel will discuss how improving the performance of factories can help the industry meet the demand to do more with less. 

Also attending this year’s event from Austin is Jim Cathcart, National accounts Director of Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense, and Lynn Huff, Director of Project Planning for Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense.  

To learn more about Austin’s work in this industry –