Labor Shortage Spotlight
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Building Homes and Futures
A home builder in Chicago delivers quality, efficiency and innovation – while addressing community and industry needs
For almost twenty-five years, Illinois-based Scott Simpson Design + Build has designed, built and renovated custom homes throughout the North Shore of Chicago.
Before starting the company, Scott Simpson worked as a carpenter and foreman for a small homebuilding firm. He eventually decided to pursue his dream of going out on his own. One of his first hires was Tom Kenny, a carpenter who would go on to become Simpson’s business partner.
“Together, Tom and I built a powerhouse residential renovation and new home construction company,” Simpson says. “He became a partner about three years after coming to work for me and is now 50 percent owner of Scott Simpson Design + Build.”
In recent years, the firm expanded to incorporate in-house architecture with the hiring of Amy Mangold. The team is now able to hold responsibility from design through performance – heightening agility, maximizing creativity and economizing delivery schedules and budgets.
Scott Simpson Design + Build has enjoyed incredible success and stability in a changing economic climate, thanks in part to a commitment to superior service and craftsmanship. In addition to quality, the firm offers competitive pricing, allowing it to serve a wide range of homeowners throughout the region.
“We compete really well with high-end companies that are much more expensive,” Simpson says. “Our challenge is to make sure that people understand that we are not necessarily expensive—and you always get a high level of quality when you work with us.”
Scott Simpson Design + Build prioritizes relationships. From its executives to the carpenters who frame their homes, clients genuinely get to know the entire team.
“Our carpenters have all been with us for a long time, and our clients become very familiar with them from the inception of trim work all the way through warranty work,” Simpson says. “When our guys knock on the door, clients feel taken care of and safe. Tom and I are very much involved, and I would say that’s our core strength. Clients know that when they call one of us on a Sunday night that we will be very familiar with what’s going on and will be able to help.”
Making an impact
Considering the experience and knowledge in the leadership suite, it is no surprise the firm has been proactive about the issue of labor shortage in the trades. Scott Simpson Design + Build is creating a way to simultaneously fortify the construction industry and the community—including those who are disadvantaged. Upon observing the benefits of teaching basic carpentry skills and furniture-building to inexperienced workers, Simpson and Kenny came up with the concept for Revolution Workshop, a nonprofit arm of Scott Simpson Design + Build.
“We were discussing the fact that we really needed to find a way to get people into the trades and skilled up so that they could be put on one of our job sites,” Simpson says. “In our small little shop behind our office, we were able to teach people about furniture-building. It took very little training and very little encouragement and, because there was so much progress made over an eight-hour period, you could really see them light up.”
Kenny and Simpson were inspired to create Revolution Workshop and focus the opportunity on unemployed or underemployed individuals, teaching them furniture-building and carpentry in a new, larger workspace. Participants gain skills that can open the door to future employment, while also addressing the industry issue of a dwindling trade labor pool.
“Hopefully, by mid-year, we will have our first cohort of 10 to 15 formerly incarcerated men and women ready to benefit from training in carpentry, woodworking and job placement training,” Simpson says. “Our board includes people who have been integral to workforce training and social justice programs for 30 years and more. We hope to have our first cohort completed by the end of 2018.”
The construction industry faced some major hurdles during and immediately after the economic downturn of 2007-2008. Scott Simpson Design + Build was able to weather the storm well, maintaining solid growth over the past decade and providing luster to the age-old mantra that the cream always rises to the top.
According to Simpson, the firm will remain on its steady course, focusing on embellishing their reputation for quality rather than pursuing rapid and unsustainable growth by going after large numbers of projects at once. Particularly now, during economically robust times, this strategy has reaped dividends in terms of demand for the firm’s services.
“I am just a little bit hesitant about unplanned growth, and so I think we are going to take it real slow and make sure that it’s organic—just like it has been for the last 24 years,” he says. “We are focused on doing really good work and developing our trade job creation organization.”
Page 26-27, Summer 2018 Issue