Published on May 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine0
2013 Marks 60th Anniversary for Layton Construction
Company President/CEO David Layton
confident firm is heading in the right direction
By Brad Fullmer Photos by Alan Blakeley; Courtesy ajc architects
David Layton is a confident man.
As President and CEO of Sandy-based Layton Construction, it’s a good characteristic to have, and one he’s displayed throughout his career at the now 60-year-old firm, which celebrated its most recent milestone anniversary on February 13.
Layton’s father, Alan W. Layton, started the company nine years prior to David’s birth, so construction is really the only type of career the younger Layton has ever known, and one in which he started working in at an early age. And it suits him just fine.
“I started as a youth, under the age of 10, digging holes, pushing a wheelbarrow, cleaning up, moving gravel,” Layton recalls. “As a teenager I started working as a laborer, carpenter helper, and carpenter. It was a mystery to me at the time, but it was important to my dad for his sons to get exposed to every aspect of the business. We got a lot of field experience early in our lives and I understand now why it was important.”
That hands-on experience has proved to be a great benefit long-term to Layton. Even though he traded in his tool belt and Carhartts long ago for a suit and tie, he knows first-hand what it’s like for his employees to pour concrete in freezing temperatures or pound nails in 100-degree heat. And that understanding is key for a man who criss-crosses the country overseeing a workforce that is building everything from state-of-the-art medical facilities to massive industrial warehouses to high-end commercial and institutional buildings.
“One of dad’s values was to take care of people and I think we’ve consistently done that,” said Layton. “And not necessarily take care of them just at work, but take care of them at life.”
Employee well-being has been a hallmark for Layton Construction since Alan W. Layton founded the company in 1953 at the age of 35. In fact, when the senior Layton stepped away from the company to serve an LDS Mission with his wife Mona in 1985, he wrote a letter from the mission field to his sons Alan S. Layton and David, and other key employees, outlining 12 key points for keeping the company moving forward. Those 12 points, known at Layton’s ‘Timeless Values’, included this: ‘Get involved with all employees; let them know you care about their well-being.’
“They couldn’t have been better to work for – I’ve told Alan (S.) that 100 times,” said Dick Shipley, who worked for the company from 1987 to 2002 as a project superintendent, and was on the LDS Conference Center project which was completed in 2000. “I wish I would have started my career with them; I never would have worked for another company. Alan S. was like a brother to me. He always treated people fairly and he believed in letting the subcontractor make an honest living.”
Layton clients, many of whom are repeat customers, say the company is focused on attention to detail and providing owners with the best bang for their buck.
“We enjoyed working with Layton Construction on our new recreation center,” said Provo City Mayor John Curtis. “They quickly became an important team member and added significant value to the project.”
“(Layton Construction) and their subcontractors did an excellent job; they stayed within budget with relatively few changes that weren’t directed by the owner,” said Robert Jones, Manager of Accounting and part of the corporate team that oversaw the construction of Questar’s new corporate headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City, on which Layton performed tenant improvement work. “They also helped us with the value engineering process and had suggestions that were beneficial.”
David Layton said 10 years ago the company took its safety program to a new level by establishing the Layton Personal Safety Zone (LAPS) program, which places emphasis on e mployees taking their safety awareness home with them and making safe living a priority.
“It’s taking safety from the jobsite to their whole life – it’s a 24-hour, 7-day commitment,” said Layton. “It’s inconsistent for an employee to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, to text while driving, to stand on the top rung of a ladder at home. We want every employee to practice safety continually, not just at work.”
Layton’s LAPS program also applies to the jobsite. Any person on a jobsite – not just Layton employees, but subcontractors as well – are to have personable responsibility for a 30-foot sphere around where they are working.
“If that worker sees something that is not safe, we want them to intervene and not wait for a safety technician to deal with the circumstance,” Layton added. “It’s a concept of I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.”
Alan S. Layton took over as President of Layton Construction in 1979, marking the first major transition of company leadership. He took the move in stride.
“The day after I became President was no different than the day before,” said Alan S. “Dad was still very much the boss. And in my eyes, I couldn’t even conceive of what a president did.”
Later that year the two men attended a national construction conference in Houston. Alan S. visited a large construction company headed by a friend of his dad and was struck at how the firm was organized. That insight was the beginning of the transition from a small, family-held construction company to a major business that applied principles of organizational structure and management. A foundation was established that would allow Layton to grow immensely in the coming decades.
The firm waded through Utah’s sluggish economy in the early-to-mid-80’s, and opened its first branch office in Phoenix in 1987. It was an opportunity to diversify geographically and pursue work in a market with different economic forces than Salt Lake.
The decade of the ‘90’s and the first ten years of the 21st century marked significant growth for the company. Since 2004, Layton Construction has been recognized nationally by Engineering News-Record (ENR) magazine as a ‘Top 100’ commercial contractor on its Top 400 commercial contractors list. Despite the significantly weakened economy of >> the ‘Great Recession’ the past four years, Layton has continued to maintain its position as one of Utah’s top three revenue producing general contractors. The firm reported 2012 revenues of $420 million.
David Layton took over as company President/CEO in 2004, making him the third Layton to lead the firm in its history. Under his watch Layton Construction has opened five additional branch offices nationwide including Boise, Idaho, Lihue, Hawaii, Irvine, California, Nashville, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida.
Optimistic About Future
Layton says the construction industry hasn’t come close to fully rebounding from the recession that hit at the end of 2008, but he has considerable optimism that his firm is in a good position to keep moving forward, and that the Utah market is poised for a promising future.
“We’re going to see some growth in 2013,” said Layton. “For our firm there are potentially some exciting opportunities out of state right now. We’re seeing some movement upwards in Arizona, which is long overdue, but we think it’s real. Arizona has either been ice-cold or white-hot and it looks like it’s moving back toward being hot. We have a distribution facility underway that is a 1.3 million sq ft facility. A few years ago there was speculation there wouldn’t be office or warehouse space built in that market for five or 10 years, so that’s a good sign.
“Utah is probably a bit of a tick up, but until the developers come back to the market, I don’t believe there is a basis for saying there is a recovery,” Layton continued. “It’s hard to have a vibrant construction industry, whether you’re in the residential side or the commercial side, without speculative opportunity in the marketplace. When speculative projects come back – spec homes, spec office, retail – when developers are risking their capital, to me that’s the sign of a true recovery.”
He added, “Utah is a great place to live, to work, and to recreate. In part, we have yet to be discovered, even though there is discovery ongoing. I think we have a promising future. I’m not ready to say we still don’t have some stagnation in construction. In today’s political and regulatory corporate America there are a lot of reasons Utah makes sense like it has for many decades, but even more so now. We’ve been able to maintain some sanity and rationalism in terms of the business community.”