Like a meteorologist mulling weather patterns, Mike Pierce studies real estate trends.
New residential neighborhoods usually spawn strip retail centers, followed by churches, and then by apartments, according to the longtime Tarrant County contractor.
“It’s cyclical,” said Pierce, 59, president of Pierce General Contractors Inc., which specializes in banks but also handles office and other real estate projects. The ability to juggle multiple projects – and to foresee industry trends while adapting to clients’ shifting needs – has kept the Richland Hills-based company afloat since 1990.
But the ride has been anything but smooth for the firm, which is celebrating its 25th year in business. At least three recessions have rocked its world, but its founder refused to give up. As an executive who began running his company from a spare bedroom in his former residence, Pierce learned to save money for the lean times while focusing on market segments in most demand.
“We pride ourselves on responsiveness in that we’re available to whoever has my cell number and can call me day or night,” said Pierce, who takes no project, client or challenge for granted.
That mindset was formed in 1978 after the Aledo resident earned a bachelor’s degree in building construction from Texas A&M University. Pierce was hired by J.W. Bateson Co., as the Dallas division of Balfour Beatty Construction was then known, and learned the local construction industry. He later left to join Texas Constructors Inc.
Pierce served as estimator-project manager and then began overseeing interior construction for Julian P. Barry General Contractors. In his six years with that firm, Pierce was awarded more than $12 million in construction contracts and turned profits each year. He helped the firm grow to offer full turnkey services, from facility groundbreaking to tenant occupancy.
But a desire to run his own ship led to Pierce General Contractors. Achieving that vision did not come overnight.
“In the first year, I lay on the couch with no money and no job,” Pierce said. But he pursued his vision, forming Pierce General Contractors before a friend asked Pierce to build the Iron Horse Golf Course Clubhouse in North Richland Hills. Comerica Bank soon sought his services in renovating branch facilities.
The Comerica project would help focus his energy on banks.
“I’ve always done banks,” said Pierce, who views them as another barometer of how the economy is faring.
“If the economy slows down, they reduce the office size, and when it starts growing, they want to expand,” Pierce said.
Among the projects Pierce and his three-person crew have tackled are renovating First Financial Bank in Southlake and Liberty Bank in Hurst, both in 2011, and converting 31 Dallas-area Wachovia Banks into Wells Fargo Banks in 2010.
For every mammoth bank branch overhaul, there have been long periods without work, a reality that keeps Pierce from buying his own office. He leases the same office space he and his staff have occupied since 1997 at 4146 Willman Ave. in Richland Hills.
Rounding out the Pierce team are Scott Chapman, general manager; Rick Hickey, superintendent; and Nate Haner, superintendent.
“When I start getting cash in the bank and start thinking about building my own facility, that’s when it happens,” Pierce said, referring to recessions. “The times I get enough money to do that, the bottom falls out.”
Yet Pierce soldiers on, planning to expand while maintaining his spendthrift ways.
“We’re thinking of expanding our market to Parker County out west,” he said. He foresees considerable commercial and residential growth, which is already evident in the 7,200-acre Walsh Ranch residential development just west of Fort Worth.
“I do have some contacts out there, and the residential market is definitely coming up.”
4146 Willman Ave., Suite 103
Fort Worth 76180