The Opus Group’s construction business unit, Opus Design Build, will get a new leader next month. Tom Becker, who has served as ODB’s regional vice president, replaces longtime President and CEO Dave Bangasser, who retires April 2. The Opus Group, a collection of real estate development, construction and design companies, has led many projects, including the Nic on Fifth apartments in downtown Minneapolis and Orchards of Minnetonka Senior Living. In his new position, Becker expects to use new construction techniques and analytics to inform future projects. Excerpts from his interview below:
Q: You have been at Opus since 1994. How did you get there? How has it been?
A: I grew up in Iowa in a small town, and my dad was a contractor. So I was exposed to construction from an early age. I always enjoyed being around construction, worked in construction from junior high and high school. So the construction field was really natural to me, and I came to the Opus right out of school, really liked the design-build approach, the collaborative nature of working with our clients. … Being able to treat the client like a partner and work on overcoming challenges together is something that I’ve always enjoyed and made 26 years go by really fast.
Q: What goals do you have moving forward as president and CEO?
A: We want to continue driving the business toward being really responsive to our customers’ goals. And while staying focused on their goals, we want to continue to become more innovative and more efficient at delivering their construction solutions. You know, whether that means new technology, new techniques, such as modular construction, things like that, continue just to deliver the value, to continue to be more effective, more efficient and to continue doing it with safety as our No. 1 priority.
Q: Modular construction, what is that?
A: Think of a bathroom in an apartment unit is built off-site as its own cube and then it’s delivered to the site and craned into place. … It’s new and it’s not widely adopted, but we’re always looking forward.
Q: Are there any other trends that you have seen as relates to the business side of construction?
A: I would say the analytics and data is new. That is something that we’ve really seen an increase in, in the last two or three years … It’s very early, but it is a trend and an area that people are pursuing. … We’re capturing a lot of data as well just in our operations, [like] what’s going on, what was happening at the times that things went well, what was happening at the times that things didn’t go well? Are there more accidents on a Monday or Friday than there are during the week? There’s a lot of information that is contained within our systems but that we are not yet expert at pulling out and using. So becoming more expert and more able to pull information and key performance indicators out of our systems is a really big trend in construction.
Q: How will your goals align with these new trends?
A: Every successful business has to have a bias toward continuous improvement. When Opus was founded back in the day, the design-build approach was a new and innovative thing … that’s largely what made the company successful. And today that concept isn’t new anymore. ... We don’t ever want to get away from delivering really strong value for our clients. … Sometimes it’s just about meeting their needs, however they define it, but doing it as effectively and efficiently as possible. So it’s embracing the technologies that allow us to do it.
Caitlin Anderson (email@example.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.