Swinerton In the News

Swinerton Builders San Diego: November 12, 2017

Employee ownership a point of pride for Swinerton Builders

When the company that became Swinerton Builders started, Grover Cleveland was president and Henry Ford was still more than a decade away from popularizing the assembly line.

When the company that became Swinerton Builders started, Grover Cleveland was president and Henry Ford was still more than a decade away from popularizing the assembly line.

It was a much different world in 1888 when the company began as a brick masonry and contracting startup, but Swinerton says lessons learned over more than a century have shaped its workplace culture.

Today, Swinerton is a major presence in downtown San Diego with hundreds of workers contributing to the increased vertical transformation of the city. Although the company is based in San Francisco, it has roughly 35 ongoing projects in San Diego County.

Since the early 1980s, the company has been employee-owned. All workers are included in a stock ownership program, and shares of company stock are given out as part of a bonus program. No employee can own more than 5 percent of the company’s value.

Swinerton is making its first appearance in the Top Workplace list.

Mark Payne, division manager of the San Diego office, said Swinerton’s unique ownership model and history are what makes it stand out.

Q: What sets your company apart from others in your industry?

I think a lot of it is our culture. We’re 100 percent employee-owned so everyone is taking pride in ownership. We’re very much a family-orientated company, team focused and customer focused. It’s such a collegial atmosphere that we have at our company, with people helping each other out. It’s not that we do project management better than anyone else, or have special widgets that other people don’t have. I think a lot of it deals with our culture and repeat business that we do. It all fits together.

Q: How do you recruit and keep quality employees?

On the management side we have schools we’re aligned with (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; University of San Diego; San Diego State University; NewSchool of Architecture and Design; CSU Long Beach, etc.) where we recruit, typically in construction management or engineering. We set it up through internship programs. Interns are typically sophomores or juniors. It gives us a good opportunity for them to get a feel for our company, culture. We get a feel for them, their work ethic, what drives them. (The program) has been really successful for us. We’ve had interns become full-time employees. We are also members of the carpenters’ union and are associated with the Associated General Contractors.

Q: There is a lot of talk about lack of construction workers throughout the industry. Is that something you are experiencing?

The lack of a skilled workforce is pretty big issue, not only for us and our self-perform capabilities (flooring, concrete, etc.) but also for our sub-contractors. For the amount of work we have going on and the amount of work, in general, going on in the San Diego area, it is just really hard to get qualified craft workers on projects. It has an impact on schedules, the quality of the jobs, and safety. It really started probably two years ago and I do think it is going to continue through mid-2018.

Q: How does having a long history help your company?

The biggest part of it is a legacy you are trying to carry forward. It’s what you’re doing now with employees, projects you’re involved in, the clients you’re working for. What kind of workplace and culture do you want to leave 20 years from now, 50 years from now? It’s really just picking up on the legacy and culture so it can continue for another 130 years.

Q: What are some key buildings in San Diego County that workers are particularly proud of?

We’ve done six or seven projects over the years at the Hotel Del Coronado. We did their historic renovation, seismic retrofit, a spa and a lot of their North Beach timeshare condo villas. Another one is the Omni San Diego Hotel. At the time, that was the largest project we had done in San Diego. We had to get it done in conjunction with the opening of Petco Park, so there was a lot of fanfare associated with that.

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Swinerton Builders

Founded: 1888
Ownership: Cooperative
Sector: General contractor
Local employees: 177