Alabama Construction News

JUL-SEP 2017

Alabama Construction News is the states only bimonthly magazine dedicated to the commercial construction industry.

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40 AL CONSTRUCTION NEWS JUL-SEP 2017 Baker has worked at Thompson for the past 26 years, and during that time he's seen firsthand the company's incredible growth and some of its biggest successes. One of the most significant time periods in the company's growth was in the early to mid-1990s, when many states around the country were focused on additional revenue sources, one being gaming operations. Thompson came up with a creative solution for states called the "boat in the moat" concept, which positioned gaming vessels out of major waterways while still meeting navigable regulations of the industry. "That was a unique solution the entire gaming industry rallied around and began using in a number of states," Baker said. "Because of our solution, we probably worked for every major gaming company in North America during that time, and it really gave us a lot of exposure and allowed us to expand from an environmental and geotechnical-based firm into a full-service design firm. We probably experienced our most rapid growth during that period." Shortly thereafter, during the early 2000s, the company started its architectural division, which allowed Thompson to compete more effectively in federal markets, including state and local markets. Along with architectural design contracts for individual schools and learning facilities, Thompson expanded its services to include program management, successfully delivering a 30-project, $135 million program to the Mobile County Public Schools System. Next came Thompson's entry into the design-build market as prime. Its first design-build project—twin 747 hangars at Brookley Field for Mobile Aerospace Engineering—was a success and led Thompson to pursue more design-build projects. "We've completed eight design-build deliveries for AUSTAL USA in Mobile for its vessel fabrication facilities," Baker added. "And we've just started another design-build project in Louisiana for an LNG emergency impoundment structure project. We really like the design-build delivery model where we have the ability to serve as prime. It works very well for us." The long-term vision of Thompson's leadership has helped the company find success in each new industry and each new state. A few years ago, Thompson took on a project for Imperial Palace in Biloxi, Mississippi, and created an enclosed dry dock structure for the popular casino. The project essentially turned a floating vessel into a structurally supported landside facility and never required the closing of the gaming facility. The project required what was, at the time, one of the largest continuous underwater concrete pours in the history of construction. That project went on to win ENR's 2015 top national award for specialty construction. Also in 2015, the company was named the lead design consultant for the Mobile River Bridge Project. "We want to be the firm of choice for design and construction solutions," said Baker, who was recently named the company's new CEO. One way Thompson is doing that is maintaining the standard of excellence for which it is known. "When I came to work here, this was one of the most creative and entrepreneurial design houses around, and I think it still is today," said Baker, who serves on ABC of Alabama's Executive Committee. "I want to continue the legacy of our firm in providing unique solutions to complex problems." Thus far, Thompson is achieving its sought-after success, pleasing client after client. In fact, many companies that have worked with Thompson over the years can't imagine a project without Thompson onboard. "John Baker and Thompson were chosen at the very beginning of Austal coming to Mobile to design our first Final Assembly Bay (we called them "sheds" at that time) and bulkhead astride but over the Bankhead Tunnel," said Bill Pfister, vice president emeritus at AUSTAL USA. "From that time over 17 years ago, Thompson and John Baker have been selected competitively to build much, much more. We rely on their technical expertise in almost all things of a soils, environmental and waterfront nature." The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has turned to Thompson time and again to assist with everything from geotechnical investigation work to design services and debris monitoring management. "We rely on them a lot to help support us from a technical standpoint," said Matthew Ericksen, assistant regional engineer for ALDOT's Southwest Region. "They have always given us a high quality of work and are responsible to our needs in a timely manner." Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager for Final Assembly Line USA with Airbus Americas, echoes the many benefits he sees of working with Thompson. "Thompson Engineering is a long-standing member of the Mobile community and was a perfect addition to the team that brought the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility to reality," he said. "They brought innovative solution-driven approaches to our project, and through the Thompson Foundation, continues to partner with the Brookley Field aerospace community in encouraging STEM education for local children. John Baker has been and continues to be fully supportive of Airbus and the growing aerospace industry in Mobile. We congratulate John on his new position as he takes Thompson Engineering into the future." Although the company has experienced so much success in its history, Baker and the rest of the Thompson team is not resting on its laurels or slowing down. The company is as focused on success and succeeding for its customers as it ever was. "We are incredibly proud of our legacy and our people," said Baker. "We will continue to provide timely, cost effective design solutions. We have a proud history, and we have a proud future in front of us." "We will continue to provide timely, cost effective design solutions. We have a proud history, and we have a proud future in front of us." –John Baker

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