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BL Harbert International A Look Back

For the past 20 years, BL Harbert International has built a reputation for providing top-quality construction on the foundation of trust. Billy, along with a team of seasoned builders, put his trust in his people and maintained the same level of excellence he learned while working for his father, Bill. Over the years, BLHI has been shaped by many highs and lows, lessons learned, and always the highest quality of people.

(L to R) U.S. Embassy Compound in Paramaribo, Suriname; LaPlaya Condominiums in Perdido Key, Florida; The Marriott Aruba Surf Club in Aruba, Dutch Caribbean

Billy's love for construction ignited at a young age under the influence of his father. He learned how important it is to be humble and to respect and trust people.

"Billy is a lot like his dad. They both had a lot of trust in people...they allowed people to explore different directions and grow the company to be entrepreneurial and to have authority to make decisions. That has carried through even to this day. It is pretty amazing." Ben Patrick, Vice President of U.S. Group

Projects and Awards through the Years

"I cannot name one project that stands out, as they all stand out in their own way, big and small alike. I cannot name one event, as we have had so many, in so many locations around the world." - Billy Harbert

The video below offers a yearly highlight of notable projects and awards.

In the Beginning

It all began in 2000 with just a handful of projects keeping the company operating. Domestically, it was projects such as the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky (pictured), the Kirklin Cancer Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, and the School of Medicine – the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Alabama. Internationally, it was the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia and a water treatment plant in Mangrove Lagoon in St. Thomas.

The Honda Manufacturing Plant Phase 2, which we worked on from 2003 through 2004, was a bright light during our time of very little backlog. Despite the fact we were working on other projects, it was Honda that maintained the company for the next 18 months. We had several employees that we needed to keep busy, and luckily, that project required a lot of hands. Completed as a joint venture of Harbert-Hanscomb-Global, construction was performed utilizing an aggressive, fast-track schedule and the plant was operational in just 18 months. Its success was a huge stepping-stone for breaking into the industrial/automotive industry, and it would later lead to similar projects with clients including BMW, GE Aviation, and Mercedes Benz.

Under the guidance of Jim Rein, then Chief Operating Officer, a management change was made in late 2003 that brought together Chuck Bohn (Operations), Pat Mitchell (Administration) and Eric Agnew (Estimating) as the new face of the International Group. They had all worked together before but never in the high-stakes role of trying to rescue the division. They agreed to leave egos at home, respect differing points of view and not interfere with each other's area of expertise. The leadership changes led to a turning point for the International Operations in 2004. Having not won any U.S. Embassy projects in 2003, the new look division bid on nine U.S. Embassy projects in 2004, and were awarded four: Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar); Lome, Togo (pictured); Accra, Ghana; and Kampala, Uganda; for a total value of $196 million. Only time would tell if it was the right decision to pursue the U.S. Embassy market.

From 2004 through 2006, we did a lot of onsite training. We took our American mechanical, electrical and concrete employees overseas to train the hired labor. With the new TCN workforce, together we built the process that would sustain and create the successful model our International Group continues to enjoy today.

BL Harbert's relationship with Dynetics started in 2004 when we were selected to build their new headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama. Little did we know that they would become a long-term, repeat client that has opened countless doors for BLHI in the private defense market. Over the years, we've worked on several notable projects for Dynetics, such as the Solutions Complex, the Test Stand, as well as an addition to its Research and Development Facility and the Hardware Integration Facility.

Dynetics Aerospace Complex in Decatur, Alabama
Dynetics Research & Development Facility in Huntsville, Alabama

Between 2006 and 2008, the Embassy Program grew very strong for BL Harbert. Another big award in 2008 was the U.S. Embassy Compound in Kyiv, Ukraine. At $234 million, this had been the largest International contract to date.

In 2008, we were also awarded the Army Materiel Command AMC / USASAC Headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a $114M design-build contract for the government. At the time of inception, the AMC was the only building in the state of Alabama designed and built with fiber data directly connected to every desktop and workstation, with 378 miles of horizontal fiber optic cable and over 1 million linear feet of horizontal CAT 6 cabling. It was a game-changing project for BLHI. Its successful completion in 2011 allowed us to qualify for similar work for the next seven to eight years, and ultimately allowed us to pursue even larger work after that.

Auburn University Basketball Arena in Auburn, Alabama

2011 - 2018 | U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan

"I now see that we did more than just build a U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. We took a group of people who, six years ago, had limited English skills, minimal knowledge of safety, and usually only general knowledge of their trade, and taught them. Now, it's rewarding seeing these same men and women at the completion of the project. They leave with English skills, safety awareness, and are now highly marketable in their field. They will carry this with them to make a better life for their families and community." - Billy Packer, Construction Manager

In 2012, our Industrial work began to soar with clients such as GE Aviation and a year later, Mercedes-Benz. The GE Aviation relationship led to hundreds of millions in work because of its success. Projects like Praxair and other GE projects were made possible because of it. Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz was completely different from projects we had previously completed because of its aggressive schedule. Then-U.S. Group President Gary Savage took a risk in giving a personal guarantee to Jim Rein that it could be completed, meeting both expectations and schedule. The task, while daunting, reaffirmed BLHI’s due diligence on the front-end as well as the company’s entrepreneurial spirit and trust in its employees. It turned into a very successful project.

2012 | International Headquarters Ribbon Cutting

In 2013, we saw the opportunity to leverage our BRAC experience in the healthcare market. We knew we didn’t have the extensive resumé that some of the big healthcare contractors had, but we knew we were uniquely positioned to go after work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which was actively looking for ways to replace outdated VA clinics across the country.

The VA work began with the Molasky Group. They were the lead developer that BLHI partnered with on the development and construction of the Birmingham VA’s Primary Care Annex and Parking Garage.

The U.S. Embassy in London was awarded in 2013 and was completed in 2018. Since then, it has won several national and global awards, including the 2018 ENR Global Best Project award.

In 2016, BLHI’s U.S. Group leveraged the International Group’s experience working with the Diplomatic Security Services to win the award to construct a $27.5 million expansion to its Hazardous Devices School (HDS) program located at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The project allowed the FBI to increase existing training and provide new training programs that certify bomb technicians and enhance the nationwide render of safe responses. Our success on that project has led to our current work with the FBI.

From 2016 - 2018, BL Harbert was awarded three major hospitality projects: 10 West Edge in Charleston, South Carolina; Timbers Kauai Ocean Club & Residences in Lihue, Hawaii; and Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
2017 | Logistics Center Ribbon Cutting

Over the last 15 years, from our Logistics Center, we have shipped 17,000 un-secured containers and over 2,500 secured containers to jobsite across the world!

Respect Challenge Tour

Our International Group set out on a mission to celebrate diversity through the Respect Challenge Tour. The goal is to unite all International Group employees by learning that our differences make us stronger. Throughout the Tour, every employee receives a Respect Challenge Coin and signs a banner, pledging to be respectful in the workplace and within their communities. With more than 8,000 employees worldwide, representing 56 nationalities, we have an unique opportunity to make a global difference. To date, we have challenged more than 3,500 employees at our projects and offices in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Niger, Qatar, Turkey, Guatemala and the United States. Respect is something that resonates, and it is not forgotten.

Other significant milestones in 2018 included Safety. BL Harbert International enjoyed the safest year in our company’s history! With over 13 million work-hours worldwide, our company experienced the best ratings ever.

The U.S. Group booked nearly $500 million in new work in 2018, expanding our geographical footprint into new terrories beyond the Southeast U.S.

The International Group completed jobs in four countries and were awarded six new projects, worth more than $1.2 billion.

While 2019 closed with an all-time record backlog, one of the things we are most proud of is our Harbert Hope initiative. It began with a challenge to find ways to spread the joy of giving beyond the Christmas season. Driven not only by our passion for building but by our compassion for others, we actively sought ways to accomplish this goal. Throughout the year, we built a Habitat House for a single mom, gave time and money to orphanages and schools around the globe, helped a single mom and her two children with major house repairs, along with helping many others.

2020

Little did we know that 2020 would end up being the year people neither wanted, nor expected due to COVID-19. In the middle of March, everyone that could work from home, was asked to do so. Even while working from home, the workflow never stopped. Phone calls and video conferences were the new norm, and continue to be. With everything changing during unprecedented times, Harbert has proven over and over that we are stronger together.

Even during the current pandemic, our future is still bright as we have solidified several projects including the General Purpose Maintenance Shop at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Auburn Bank Office Building and Parking Deck (pictured above right) in Auburn, Alabama; BJCC Legacy Arena Renovations in Birmingham, Alabama; and multiple Veterans Affairs facilities across the country. Internationally, we were awarded the $409.7 million Bangkok New Office Annex (NOX) and Chancery Upgrade in Bangkok, Thailand. We mobilized on our projects in Windhoek, Namibia; Merida Mexico (pictured above left); Casablanca, Morocco; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Pyongtaek, South Korea.

Around the World in 20 Years

Across the USA in 20 Years

Each of these employees below has worked for the Harbert family at least twenty years or more.

I think we have a great corporate culture. That is what lured me here and also what keeps me here. - Jeremy Pipkin
Thank you to all employees for your passion and dedication to the Harbert family!
"All of the Harbert family members are very special to me. There are many legends, past and present, that we continue to learn from every day." - Billy Harbert

Employee Remarks

Angie Battle recalls her first day at BLHI back in 1993, "I remember my first day, being greeted by a beautiful red head, Mrs. Kathy George. She was so classy, and looked like a movie star! She patiently trained me, and showed me the ropes, immediately making me feel like part of the Harbert family. It was great working with Kathy so many years, and I hope she's enjoying her retirement."

"Since joining the Harbert organization in 1993, I have had the opportunity to work amongst some of the most highly-capable and inspiring individuals in the international construction industry. In the early 2000s, Mr. Bill Harbert Sr., Billy Harbert, and Jim Rein set the stage for BLHI's International Group. In 2005, I then had the very good fortune of being able to work for the new leaders of the International Group, Chuck Bohn and Pat Mitchell. Over the last 15 years, the company has experienced tremendous growth in its worldwide footprint and within its team of dedicated personnel. I feel very lucky to continue to be a part of that." - Mike Veal, Sr. Vice President

"James Stone has placed more construction equipment around the planet than anyone else in history." - Freddy Ard

2017 | Freddy Ard and James Stone

"I can’t believe it has been over twenty years. Time flies! It seems like only yesterday that BLHI gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to build a career and work with exceptional people from all areas of the world. I could not be more proud to be a part of this great organization that is focused on doing things the right way and continues to provide opportunities for hardworking men and women around the globe." - Mike Devalk, Sr. Vice President

"Throughout my tenure, the Harberts' have always supported their people, regardless, and I have always been treated like family. Whenever Mr. Harbert or Billy would come to a job site, they would always make sure and try to speak to everyone, if nothing else, just to say hi. And that has always meant a lot to me." - Carl McDowell

“Although it’s been a few years since I had the pleasure of working with Frank Hosteller on a project site, when I think about what it takes to be a great Finance/Admin Manager on an overseas BLHI project, Frank always comes to mind. When Frank and I worked together on the Marriott Aruba Surf Club project, I learned that I could trust Frank implicitly, and I always knew Frank would do the right thing for fellow employees and the company. Being able to truly count on someone in an overseas business environment is priceless. Frank may disagree, but I think many of Frank’s strong professional characteristics were in part instilled by former BLHI Senior VP, Patrick Mitchell, who oversaw and mentored BLHI’s Finance/Admin Managers up until his retirement in 2015. Like Patrick Mitchell, Frank truly cares about the people on the projects and will do anything to help them. Frank is dedicated to the BLHI family, and his work ethic, trustworthiness, and positive attitude truly represent the values of the company.” –Mike Veal, Sr. Vice President

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since we first opened our doors as BL Harbert International.

BLHI Annual Blood Drive
Respect Tour in Guatemala
8West in Atlanta, Georgia
U.S. Embassy Topping Out in Harare, Zimbabwe
Auburn Recruiting Facility Topping Out in Auburn, Alabama
BLHI Documentary Beyond the Building
University of Alabama Tutwiler Residence Hall in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Christmas in Islamabad

It’s been an incredibly exciting journey filled with countless successes and even our fair share of challenges that we're proud to say have only made us stronger over the years.

None of our success would have been possible without you: our clients, subcontractors, vendors, team members, employees, and friends. Because of your confidence and support, we’ve grown to become one of the globe's most trusted contractors.