Sundt and joint-venture partner Trinity Hughes Construction are nearing the finish of a $34.3 million project at Midwestern State University (MSU). The new 88,000-square-foot building will house several programs in the Gunn College of Health Sciences and Human Services, with updated facilities and space for Dental Hygiene, Social Work, Radiologic Sciences, Respiratory Care and the Wilson School of Nursing. Substantial completion is slated for the end of this month, and classes start August 26. In other words, it’s crunch time. The team is kicking things into whatever-it-takes gear to complete what will be a huge addition to the university and its student body.
Skilled craft professionals work diligently to complete the the building’s complex interior.
“There are lots of moving parts and pieces to the inner workings of this building, with all of the different things it will be able to do,” said Sundt Project Executive Bob Aniol. New hospital equipment, dental equipment, and simulators will assist Midwestern State faculty in providing hands-on instruction, which is part of MSU’s larger goal to be a premier education provider for healthcare and human services fields. “The challenge is to coordinate all the consultants and installers of the different equipment, to make sure everyone’s on the same page,” said Bob.
Crews work on the exterior of the building to prepare for students arriving in late August.
Another factor behind our progress has been consistent performances from skilled craft, many of whom worked with Sundt’s Building Group in North Texas on the successful Wichita Falls Regional Airport Terminal project. “We’ve had great showings from key trades, including MEP, drywall, and masonry,” said Bob. “They’ve given us a consistent level of service and skill to drive this project forward.” Sundt worked hard to hire from the local workforce in Wichita Falls, bringing in outside work for niche scopes when absolutely necessary. According to Bob, “Sundt really maximized participation from the local workforce to the best of our ability.”
Similar architectural features seamlessly connect the building to the existing campus.
On the subject of creating jobs, the impact of this project will extend far beyond its completion. “For Midwestern State’s programs like nursing and dental, this provides a huge upgrade in how they train and equip their graduates, as well as how they attract new students,” said Bob. As the finish line approaches, the Trinity Hughes | Sundt joint venture has worked some long hours, had hard conversations and made tough decisions. Turning the vision behind this project into a reality, however, has been well worth the sacrifice. “It’s a small team, and I’m extremely proud of them,” said Bob. “Nobody has given up. Nobody has complained. We’re all bought in here—it’s whatever it takes to make it happen.”
Every morning for the past two weeks, patients at El Paso Children’s Hospital have looked out their windows to find some fun characters hanging around the construction site next door. Some with pink fur, some with tails of fire or lightning, and all with big, adorable eyes. Yes, Pokémon have taken over Sundt’s jobsite on the neighboring Texas Tech El Paso Medical Sciences Building II project. Early each morning, crew members place life-size cut-outs of characters in new positions around the site. The Pokémon characters can be seen mingling with workers or operating equipment (safely, of course), and kids next door can’t help but crack a smile as they search each morning for where the characters have moved.
A few months after Sundt’s spinoff of “Elf on the Shelf” in December, El Paso Children’s Hospital contacted Sundt Project Manager Larry Kurtz to brainstorm another interactive idea. “Their initial plan was ‘Where’s Waldo?’” said Larry, “but I had just seen the Detective Pikachu movie with my grandkids, and they loved it, so I suggested Pokémon instead.” In mid-June, Sundt team members including Larry paid the patients a visit, bringing Pokémon cards, coloring sheets and a Pokémon book which they read to the kids.
Sundt Project Manager Larry Kurtz and El Paso Children’s Hospital oncology patients display their freshly painted Charmander
Afterwards, life-size Pokémon cut-outs began popping up all over the project’s hospital-facing side. Each day, a new character was added, and existing ones changed locations, greeting kids with the morning sun. After a week, Sundt enlisted the kids’ help in painting and signing the new characters to go up next.
Some might wonder: why add this event to an already busy schedule? “We do this for the kids,” said Larry. “They’re tired and sick, and this gives them a reason to get up and be active. Reading, coloring, painting—it’s all a healing experience. It makes them forget about their ailments for a while.”
Both patients and staff at El Paso Children’s Hospital had a great time with the Pokémon takeover. “We’ve had the pleasure of a fruitful and rewarding relationship with Sundt for more than 18 months now,” said Taylor Moreno, Director of Institutional Development. “From donations to help with service line growth, to Elf on the Shelf and this event, we cannot be more grateful for the continued support.”
El Paso Children’s Hospital oncology patients pose with Pikachu, Jigglypuff and the Sundt team
Patients Axia and Hailee have been big fans of their colorful new neighbors. “It was fun. Every time I would wake up, I’d look out the window to see what new character popped up,” said Axia, 12 years old. Hailee, who is 10, said “I loved it, and it was very interactive. My friends and I would share pictures and compare.”
Sundt employee-owners who attended the reading or helped create the cut-outs (or did both) include Larry Kurtz, Mike Dominguez Jr., Matt Gomez, Larry Hulett, Joe Riccillo and Angie Rosales. Our subcontractor Diversified Interiors’ Justin Hernandez and his daughter also contributed.
Every year, Girls Inc., proud recipient of a Sundt Foundation grant, hosts the RockIt Into the Future Science Festival in San Antonio. The event celebrates and promotes careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It provides young girls, and their families, the opportunity to connect with experts within the different fields and participate in various STEM activities. “It’s not just technology. It’s not just computers. It’s not just engineering,” said Girls Inc., San Antonio president and CEO Leah Rosenhauer. “The scientific process of discovery, or disrupting things, of finding new solutions to things is all around us.”
This year, Sundt San Antonio women participated by hosting three “mind-on” activities: “Building Our Future” Lego table for children age 3-6 years old, a pulley system to teach how weight is distributed for children between 7 and 12 years old, and a video game, “Ant you Crazy about Safety,” to teach them about jobsite safety for ages 13 and up.
Sundt’s own Ryan Silbernagel built the pulley system, and Swapna Biju, one of Sundt’s virtual construction engineers, created the video game. Each participant within the video game would identify different jobsite hazards in order to become aware of the importance of jobsite safety.
Sundt’s Alexis Marshall, Traci Cadena, Swapna Biju, Terri Pasley, Meagan Garcia, and Amy Yount participate in the 13th Annual RockIt Into the Future STEM Festival.
Alexis Marshall and Amy Yount demonstrate the pulley system.
What started as a $100 bet turned into a $130,000 fundraiser for the Sundt Foundation. Shave It or Save It was born when Sundt CEO Mike Hoover (half) jokingly told recently-promoted Concrete Operations Manager Danny Gumm that he’d donate $100 an inch for Danny to shave his beard. Others countered, saying, “No, save it!” And soon it became a full-on competition and GoFundMe campaign. In less than two weeks, 265 people had raised nearly $65,000 to either shave or save Danny’s famous beard.
Between the event and Facebook Live stream on Monday, hundreds gathered to show their support and learn the fate of Danny’s beard. With an Airstream barbershop in tow, Mike revealed the final results: the “shave it” side donated almost $10,000 more than the “save it” side, and Danny said goodbye to the most coveted (and expensive) beard in Sundt history. However, the big surprise was when Mike announced the company would not only match the winning side, but both sides, bringing the total to an incredible $129,196 donated to the Sundt Foundation.
Hats off to the employee-owners, family, friends, subcontractors, sponsors, vendors and everybody else who gave to Shave It or Save It and made this effort a success.
Phoenix-based barbershop Nippers Clippers came in style with their fully custom Airstream trailer.
Danny Gumm raised a toast to the crowd as the final look was revealed.
Sundt CEO Mike Hoover and Danny Gumm hold the final check addressed to the Sundt Foundation.
Selected as one of the top 20 under 40 construction professionals by Engineering News Record (ENR) Southwest, Sundt Project Executive Garren Echols is certainly not new to the field. Garren started his career early, working for his father’s construction company 22 years ago. After serving as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army, he founded and operated two small construction companies and also traveled the globe for nearly a decade working for Parsons (technology-focused defense, security, and infrastructure firm). Not one for seeking the spotlight, Garren said he was surprised and honored to win the award, and he was glad to share some of his story.
With such a broad background in construction, what led you to your current role at Sundt?
I worked for Parsons basically traveling nonstop for ten years. My family was living overseas, and I wanted my daughter to be able to attend high school in the U.S. So, in many ways, I was ready to come home. When Sundt was beginning a high-rise project, some people reached out to me since I’d been building several towers with my previous company. So, I came back to Phoenix and joined Sundt doing similar work as a project executive, and it’s been an awesome fit.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on in your career, which one is the most memorable?
The Union Tempe project has been my most enjoyable project in 20 years, just because it felt like a family; it was never an adversarial relationship with owner, architect, engineer, and contractor. I made a lot of lifetime relationships and friendships. The most unique project I’ve worked on, though, was a giant desalination plant in Iraq; it was extremely difficult. I had consultants and engineers across nine different countries. Language and the time schedule were tough—I was working 20-hour days sometimes just to be on nine different time zones. On top of that, the client was demanding, and the area was challenging. So, those two projects were the most notable for me.
On a similar note, what kind of work gives you the most pride?
Overall, I’d say the building projects, just for the image they leave behind. But I’ve also taken pride in the environmental clean-up projects I’ve done because those have had the most impact on the local community. Those aren’t as sexy—they’re very behind-the-scenes work, but they’re definitely fun and challenging. Buildings are kind of the opposite; they’re this cool thing you can drive past for decades and say, “I built that.” They signify the effort you put in, and they have an impact on the community as well.
What’s it like serving on the Sundt Ethics Committee, and how does that impact our operations?
I’m a member of the committee charged with making ethics more of a focal point for everyone, making it more than just an annual mandatory online class but really something that’s recognized in our day-to-day operations. This year, we’re rolling out monthly videos with “ethics shares”—like safety shares. Similar to our focus on safety, we want to keep ethics at the forefront of everything we do. I’m excited to be a part of it. Ethics are a big thing for me, coming from the Army and with my upbringing, and having worked internationally I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is to have those standards in place. It’s kind of a fun fit; I’m able to leverage that past experience to educate people on things they might not consider.
One of Sundt’s core values is Community and Industry Service: what does it look like to live out that value?
In the Southwest District, we live and breathe our work, so we’re already very involved in the industry. But what impresses me about Sundt is how much our leadership supports us in our community efforts. As a Tempe Diablo with 40 other guys, we raise over $1 million a year for teachers, students and other community programs here in Tempe, and Sundt’s been a huge supporter. Anytime I put something on, they’ve been right behind us. And I like that—I think the people here are what really makes a difference, and what makes this feel like more than just a job.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.