Union contractor Clayco named ENR’s Midwest Contractor of the Year

PFIZER’S RESEARCH and development facility in Chesterfield, Mo., marked a high point for Clayco in 2020. The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine relies on a specific type of DNA created at the facility. – Clayco photo

A dominant performance in the design-build distribution center market as well as a leading role in the construction industry’s battle against COVID-19 have earned union contractor Clayco, Inc., the Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) Midwest Contractor of the Year award.

Founded in St. Louis in 1984, Clayco is one of the nation’s largest privately owned real estate, architecture, engineering, design-build and construction companies, with more than 2,600 employees and $3.8 billion in 2020 revenue from the Midwest region. That revenue level is up 17 percent from $3.25 billion in 2019. 

“Our true nature of being able to come together as a company comes down to the culture we created,” said Bob Clark, Clayco’s executive chairman and founder, who started the business in his hometown of St. Louis at age 25. “I couldn’t be more proud of how everyone – to a person – took on the role needed.”

While many businesses struggled with the pandemic, Clark noted how Clayco took a proactive approach in the fight against COVID-19. “We were making a lot of big decisions in short time frames,” Clark says about the last year. “(The attitude was) ‘pounce, instead of think,’ and we did a lot of pouncing.”

In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, Clayco worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop guidelines to keep the construction industry working. The guidelines included temperature checks, social distancing, masks and having an onsite nurse.

Clark and other Clayco executives say that taking on that role was a source of pride for the company, as well as the fact that most states took the advice of the guidelines.

“As vaccines became more available, we wanted them widely distributed to our employees,” he says. “We were one of the first non-health companies to strongly encourage our employees get the vaccine.”

Both Clark and Lamar Johnson noted their teamwork on completing Pfizer’s research and development facility in Chesterfield, Mo., as a high point of last year.

Clayco submitted their initial development proposal for the research building in June 2016, and Pfizer ultimately chose them to design, build, finance and lease their 295,000-sq-ft research and development facility where the specific type of DNA for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was developed and is still being produced.

The building design is based on the continuous lab concept, where the linear lab zone runs parallel to a continuous office zone, separated by a corridor serving both lab and office, a process meant to allow the labs to change size over time.

“Pfizer was a true collaboration and a big project for us,” Johnson said. “More important, it was a big project for the industry and country because of their work on the vaccine. It was a big honor for us to be a part of.”

Clayco previously won the Midwest Contractor or the Year award in 2011 and was listed 24th overall in ENR’s annual Top 400 Contractors list for 2021, an annual report that ranks the largest U.S.-based contractors across different sectors and project types based on revenue.

Clayco is ranked fourth In ENR’s Top 100 Design-Build Firms list.

(Information from Engineering News-Record and Clayco.)



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