The Auchter Company - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on The Auchter Company



4804 South Kernan Boulevard South
Jacksonville
Florida
32224
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives

If the Auchter name brings anything to mind for our clients, potential clients, industry peers and even our direct competitors, it is that we nurture a reputation for being honest and fair; of being a general contractor that consistently delivers quality to project owners; of a company who stands behind our people, our work and our community.

History of The Auchter Company

The Auchter Company is Jacksonville, Florida's oldest general construction contractor, responsible for building most of the city's premiere structures: Jacksonville City Hall, the Modis Building, The Jacksonville Landing, Humana Building, Riverplace Tower, BellSouth Tower, and the SunTrust Building. Auchter has also completed projects from the Bahamas to Washington, D.C. The firm offers a full array of preconstruction and construction services, including design, engineering, scheduling, and project managing. Auchter boasts a wide ranging portfolio of projects, having been involved in the construction of office buildings, warehouses, factories, power generating stations, resort and residential projects, hospitals and other healthcare projects, churches, museums, theaters, retail establishments, entertainment complexes, academic and institutional buildings, overpasses, bridges, parking garages, and condominiums. The firm has also built numerous government projects, including jails, military bases, courthouses, and the Jacksonville International Airport. Although Dave Auchter, a grandson of the firm's founder is an executive, Auchter is a private company owned by the Glass family.

Origins in 1929

The Auchter Company was founded as the George D. Auchter Co. in 1929 by George David Auchter. Originally from Red Bank, New Jersey, Auchter was an engineer who originally came to Jacksonville in the 1920s to work on a bridge project for a New Jersey employer. At the time there were few engineers in Florida, but the state was at the start of a building boom and Auchter decided to settle in Jacksonville. It was a fast-growing city and he believed it was becoming the center of Florida's expanding economy. In 1922 he received his license as a Florida engineer, his number 375 an indication of the state's shortage of engineers. Jacksonville, known as the "The River City" was also an attractive location because bridges were Auchter's area of expertise. At first, Auchter concentrated on bridge construction and overpasses, as well as the building of pulpwood barges and concrete ships. The firm soon moved beyond the immediate Jacksonville area and began taking on projects along Florida's "First Coast," the northeast Florida section centered on St. Augustine. Noteworthy bridge and overpass projects of the early years included Jacksonville's Hendricks Avenue Overpass and Haines Street Expressway, the Beach Boulevard Intercostal Waterway Bridge in Jacksonville Beach, Amelia Island River Bridge in Fernandina, and the Vilano Bridge in St. Augustine.

Despite the Depression of the 1930s, Auchter's company expanded its capabilities beyond roads and bridges and developed into a general contractor. Two important projects in this diversification were the construction of the Crane Building and the Western Union Building in Jacksonville. Greater opportunities would be available in the early 1940s as the United State made preparations and eventually became involved in World War II. Jacksonville's coastal location made it an important site for the military, and consequently much of Auchter's work during this period became defense related. It received a large share of the $75 million contract to build the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, which opened in 1940. Two years later the Mayport Naval Air Station opened in Jacksonville and once again Auchter played a significant role in the project. The firm also helped in the war effort by building dry docks, which were then used around the world.

The experience gained from wartime projects paid further benefits in the postwar economic boom that ensued after a brief recession. Jacksonville's population was growing rapidly, opening up further opportunities for the firm. Auchter was involved in the construction of several major factories in the area, including the St. Regis Paper Company factory, the Maxwell House Coffee Plant, and the Anheuser Busch Yeast Plant. The firm was also the general contractor for the Jacksonville Port Authority Wharf and built three power generating stations for the Jacksonville Electric Authority. Auchter became a major contractor in the health care field as well. In the 1940s it did major work at Jacksonville's St. Vincent's Medical Center, which led to further work at the complex over the decades and other major health care projects in the First Coast area. Auchter landed institutional work, including the construction of the University of Florida's landmark Century Tower, which was built in 1953 to commemorate the school's 100th anniversary. Auchter would later build a women's dormitory on the campus and a gymnasium. Auchter also provided construction services for a number of public projects in the decades following World War II, such as the City Hall Annex, the Duval County Courthouse, the Jacksonville International Airport, and the Civic Auditorium.

High-Rise Projects and Diversification

In the 1960s Auchter began to take on high-rise construction projects, becoming involved in many of the buildings that would define Jacksonville's skyline. The City Hall Annex, completed in 1960, was a 15-story building. The 28-story Gulf Life Tower (renamed the Riverplace Tower) was added in 1967, followed in 1974 by the 37-story Independent Life Building (renamed the Modis Building). Also in 1974, Auchter built the Sun Trust Bank Building, an 18-story structure. From the early 1960s, Auchter was also involved in the construction of high-rise residential projects, including the 14-story Broadview Terrace and 16-story Commander Apartments in 1961. Auchter was also involved in the long-term Cathedral Residences project. It completed the 17-story Cathedral Towers in 1968, 18-story Cathedral Townhouse two years later, and the 21-story Cathedral Terrace in 1974. Other projects of note during the 1970s were Jacksonville's Baptist Hospital Complex and the city's First Baptist Church.



Nearly a decade would pass before Auchter resumed its work on high-rise buildings. In the meantime it underwent a change in ownership. With George Auchter having grown elderly, his family decided to sell the company to a group of executives and outside investors, including William H. Glass Jr., whose father had been the firm's president for 14 years. The younger Glass held a degree in civil engineering. After serving in the U.S. Army, he joined Auchter in 1957 as a field engineer. He later became a project manager and in 1979 was named a vice president. In 1993 he was finally able to realize a long-held dream and buy out the firm's other stockholders. The well-respected company name was retained.

During the dozen years that passed between the time the Auchter family sold the firm and the Glass family bought it, the firm continued to enjoy success, becoming involved in projects in a wide range of fields. In the 1980s, there was another phase of high-rise building projects in Jacksonville. Auchter built the 32-story BellSouth Tower in 1983, followed by the 21-story Two Prudential Plaza in 1985, and the 24-story Jacksonville Center in 1989. Furthermore, during the 1980s Auchter built the Jacksonville Landing, a waterfront shopping, dining, and entertainment complex on the St. John's River. The firm also participated in the construction of new hospitals, such as the St. Luke's Hospital Complex.

Auchter could not, however, depend on office towers and hospital work, projects that were cyclical in nature. As a result the firm placed an increasing emphasis on resort and residential buildings, such as the Ponte Vedra Surf Club and a variety of projects on the 1,300-acre Amelia Island Plantation complex, which included the Amelia Inn and Beach Club, the Osprey Village assisted living facility, the Ocean Club Villas luxury ocean front condominiums, and golf courses. Auchter also took on suburban office park projects and built Gate Petroleum Convenience Stores and three big box Target stores in the North Florida area.

Auchter enjoyed especially strong growth in the second half of the 1990s, when Jacksonville grew rapidly. One of the firm's greatest challenges became the recruitment of qualified construction workers and design engineers. In the second half of the 1990s, to keep pace with the building boom, Auchter increased its employment by more than 25 percent. The contract base, in the meantime, grew from $48 million in 1995 to about $150 million in 2000. The firm also outgrew its headquarters, and in 1999 bought 3.36 acres in the First Coast Technology Park located on the campus of the University of North Florida. Furthermore, Auchter established a relationship with the school, taking on students as interns. There was already a connection between the company and the university, since William Glass's son, Brad, earned a degree in business administration from the university a decade earlier, and then joined the family business in 1995.

New Century Brings Fresh Faces

Both Brad Glass and his brother, Jeff Glass, worked for Auchter by the mid-1990s. Their father soon began taking steps to turn over day-to-day control to his sons, whom he brought in as partners. Ultimately Brad Glass bought out his brother's interest in the family business. In 2000 Auchter brought in new talent and experience by adding five project managers, four superintendents, a finance director, and a director of corporate marketing. During the same period, Dave Auchter, the grandson of the firm's founder, became the new director of corporate development and the only family member to be employed by the firm that bore the Auchter name. Previously Auchter had been the media director for World Golf Village and the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars. The average age of these new employees was 35. "The recent hirings are really directly related to our increased work," Brad Glass told the Jacksonville Business Journal in July 2000. "But," he continued, "they also represent an opportunity to mix some of the younger talent in with our veterans. It's a mentoring type of environment we're going after."

Brad Glass's situation was a case in point, as he was being groomed by his father to lead the firm. In 2002, 35-year-old Brad Glass was named Auchter's president. While his father, at the age of 67, retained the title of chief executive officer, he was clearly backing away and would soon turn over the CEO role to his son as well. Nevertheless, the elder Glass retained the chairmanship and would remain very much involved in the business. In fact, Brad Glass told the Jacksonville Business Journal, "No matter what Dad says about stepping down, you can bet I'm not going to let him go too far." He added, "I told him the other day even if he goes fishing he'd better take his cell phone with him in case I have questions." But his father was just as adamant about his son being ready for the added responsibility, saying Brad had "clearly earned the responsibility to guide Auchter into this new era for our company." However, he did maintain, "We will continue to work together as I did with my father more than 40 years ago." To add to the sense of transition, Auchter was also in the midst of moving into its new 25,000-square-foot office building, which the firm, not surprisingly, built itself.

A diversified mix of construction projects continued for Auchter in the early years of the new century. They included a new downtown Public Library, a building for the Jacksonville Airport Authority, and a number of luxury condominium projects, including the Landmark Condominium project at Jacksonville Beach, the WaterMark condominiums, Ortega River Club Condominiums, Villa Riva Condominiums, and Costa Verano. Other projects included the Strand and Peninsula residential towers on Jacksonville's Southbank, and the Fidelity National Financial expansion in Riverside. Auchter had developed a reputation as the premiere contractor in Jacksonville and the First Coast, and with the transition to a new generation of leadership all but complete, the firm was well positioned to maintain that designation for many years to come.

Principal Competitors

Elkins Constructors Inc.; The Haskell Company; The Turner Corporation.

Chronology

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