Central Builders Inc.

Central Builders picWith a focus on craftsmanship and teamwork, Central Builders Inc. delivers projects on or ahead of schedule.

By Staci Davidson

Central Builders Inc. (CBI) deals with the same problems that come standard in the construction industry: remaining on budget, delivering projects on schedule and finding skilled labor to complete the work. But the Texas-based general contractor demonstrates in its nearly 30 years of history that it does not let any of these issues derail its focus. By addressing these issues head on, CBI has developed a long-standing reputation for building quality, award-winning projects. 

“What sets us apart is the overall ability to meet schedules and that we have the do-whatever-it-takes attitude to deliver on schedule,” partner and Vice President Bryan Ehrlich says. “We don’t let unforeseen conditions or added scopes of work stop our projects. If something has to get done, we get it done and figure it out later with the owner on how we handle the financial burden of the change.” 

CBI was founded on a quality and service philosophy, and the company has not wavered from that. Ehrlich’s father, Carl D. Ehrlich, established CBI in 1989 after he noticed a void in the supermarket construction industry. He was a superintendent for a major commercial contractor in Texas, and noticed his employer had not put much thought into the fixtures and décor packages in a large grocery store remodel and construction of new stores. 

“When my dad came in, he was bidding fixture and décor packages on Albertsons projects,” Bryan Ehrlich explains. “He did 50 or more of those types of projects, and got to know people in the company’s construction department. They gave him one store remodel as a test and the rest is history.”

Since then, CBI has completed more than $600 million in projects, including large-scale remodels, expansions and ground-up construction. Based in San Antonio, CBI is known for quality workmanship, clear communication, prompt service and timely billing.

Expecting Results

Last year, CBI received a Pyramid Award from Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) for its recent work on the HEB grocery store in Spring, Texas. “That was a two-sided expansion that we completed in 12 weeks,” Ehrlich says. “It was very fast and a lot of stress, but we pulled it off. Very fun, but very hectic. The results were what the customer wanted, that was all that mattered to our team.”

CBI currently is working on Boone Elementary in San Antonio. With a budget just under $6 million, this is one of CBI’s largest projects to date. It has required yearlong work in phases, which involves working safely around the students and teachers. CBI has expanded the administrative security office and renovated the library, and now it is renovating many of the remaining classrooms. Central Builders box

“This is not easy work and there are always problems, but as long as you have a good architectural and engineering team and you work closely with your customers, you can overcome those problems easily,” Ehrlich says. “If you don’t work together and come to the project with a teamwork attitude, you can’t solve problems. Ninety percent of problems are because someone said ‘I will do this’ and then it didn’t get done. If that happens, you better have a good reason why the task wasn’t complete and an action plan to overcome the deficiency. We expect results and expect everyone to care the way we care.”

In the past year, in addition to the Pyramid Award, CBI has been recognized with the STEP Platinum Award from ABC, as one of the Best Places to Work from San Antonio Business Journal, as General Contractor of the Year from the Hispanic Contractors Association, and as a Top General Contractor by ENR Texas and Louisiana. Ehrlich stresses that all of this comes from CBI’s focus on communication and its quality approach to work. 

“We are very detailed with how we communicate with customers,” he says. “We tell them it will be done by this day and this time. We are very specific because they need to be able to schedule their manpower just like we need to schedule our subcontractors and vendors. We treat our customers’ labor as we treat our labor – as efficiently as possible. 

“When we work on school projects, we work the same way with principals and know we have to keep the kids safe,” he continues. “We ask when can we work, do we need to work nights? We can offer a 24-hour shift if that’s what the customer wants to pay for. If we have to work at night or after hours, we do it. We have always been flexible.”

Fueling Growth 

CBI’s quality attention to its customers and high expectations on projects helps attract a quality workforce, which is a critical need throughout the construction industry. Ehrlich explains CBI’s culture used to be that it hired people with experience and then tried to mold them into how it works. Now the company is focused on developing people from within and looking for loyalty. 

“There is a lot of camaraderie here,” he says. “We have an open-door policy. Those who contribute and have solutions, we are always available to them. They always have my cellphone to call and text me – that is unusual for most companies our size in our industry.”

He notes CBI is a member of a number of industry organizations, and the company tries to send its staff to as many of those groups’ events as it can, because he doesn’t mind spending time and money in areas that will help workers strengthen their bonds. CBI also started an internship program about three years ago, and now takes five to seven interns every summer. 

“We tell them to be ready to sweep the floors or help with the schedule – always be ready for whatever comes your way,” Ehrlich explains. “We call it a youth movement, but we don’t want to knock our tenured employees either – they have always been, and will continue to be the core of our company. We will put the new guys on major aspects of big jobs, but with considerable oversight from our experienced team members.”

Attracting the next generation is critical for the construction industry, and CBI is open about what it offers, making it a good fit for those who show commitment to its values. 

“We’ve grown a lot since 2012, and we expect to do $30 million in volume this year,” Ehrlich says. “The market turn was good, but we also have the trust from our customers and they are giving us bigger projects.

“We have guys coming in who want to work hard and they understand there is no corporate hierarchy here that is trying to hold them back,” he continues. “Our ownership is young and we work hard and have fun, but at the end of the day, none of this is fun if we can’t build these projects they way the customer wants them to be built. New workers can really grow in a year if they can absorb the knowledge, maintain the knowledge and then explain the knowledge to others. We’ve grown 300 percent in the past four or five years, and now we just have to get the guys in place to accept the growth, which in turn will continue to fuel the growth.”

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