GOODWYN MILLS & CAWOOD
AIRPORT DIVISION TAKES OFF
Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood grows company by adding disciplines
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
When clients of Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood asked if the company could help with airport work, the Montgomery-based firm saw an opportunity.
Airports are big business in the state – $4.8 billion in 2010 with aviation-related payroll about $1.8 billion, according to retired Air Force Colonel Al Allenback, who is vice president of the firm’s airport planning and engineering division. There are 84 airports in Alabama and another 52 heliports.
“One of three people work for a company that in some way uses aviation in Alabama,” Allenback said. “The state is growing and aviation is very important to the state.”
There are also hundreds of more airports in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee, where Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood (GMC) also has offices.
“Our position is that your airport runway is the most important main street in town,” Allenback said. “That’s how we look at it. You can build a mile of roads and that’s a good thing, but if you build a mile of runways – you have a highway to the world. That’s something that more and more people are recognizing.”
The company’s first airport client – Lanett Airport in Chambers County – came on board in early 2007 and since then – well, the airport division has been flying high ever since. Very high and very fast. GMC now has 14 airport clients and last year the division generated more than $2 million. “It’s a significant impact for something that is really a start-up,” said David Reed, a principal in charge of civil engineering and an executive vice president.
The airport clients have five-year contracts and the division really took hold with work at Montgomery Regional Airport. GMC rehabbed the main, 10,000-foot runway; put in new carpet through the main terminal; worked on aprons and taxiways; worked on storm drainage on the airfield and one of the most high-profile projects was the intermodal facility, an enclosed area for taxi, limousine, bus and delivery drivers and a cell phone parking lot.
“Getting the Montgomery airport – this contract – is what made the airport division go,” Reed said. “If we had not gotten this contract, we would have been at the least a small player with the airports in the state of Alabama. When we got this airport, we took off on a path that we’ve been able to make the airport division successful.”
The company has continually grown by adding divisions to take care of clients’ multifaceted needs.
Reed stressed that it was the company’s focus on community involvement that resulted in landing a contract with the Montgomery Regional Airport. He said community involvement is one of the company’s keys to success.
“Without community involvement, we wouldn’t know Al,” Reed said, referring to Al Allenback. “Without community involvement, we wouldn’t know the airport board. Without community involvement, we wouldn’t know the Chamber; and the Chamber is critically important for what we do out here (airport) and what we do in economic development.”
He understood that without the company’s community involvement and involvement with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, there may never have been projects at the airport.
There are other reasons for the company’s success and part of that can be traced back to 10 years ago when GMC made a conscious effort to become a multi-discipline firm or one-stop shop. Reed likened that to a “kind of cradle to the grave consultant for our clients.”
Perhaps the bottom line for GMC is its employees are not your everyday type of employee, but highly trained professionals.
“One of the primary things we try to instill in our employees is an entrepreneurial spirit and not worry about the principals or what the department heads are doing,” Reed said.
“Each individual can go out and act as their own boss. They operate in a sphere where they have a lot of influence of their own destinies.”
Allenback, who returned to the firm in January 2011 after taking a two-year hiatus, said the company is “agile and innovative.” He said, “I hate to use the term out-of-the-box because it’s been used too much – we think out of a cube.
“This place is as close to a fighter squadron as I am ever going to get in the civilian world working for Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood. These guys – are all fighter pilots. I mean that – that’s their attitude. They attack problems and find solutions.” •