Archive for Friday, March 6, 2009

Harris Construction Co. closes Lawrence office, plans to partner with K.C. company

March 6, 2009


Harris Construction Co. Inc.’s Lawrence office is now closed, with some of its employees and leaders partnering with a St. Louis-based company in Kansas City, Mo.

Harris closed its Lawrence office, at 730 N.H., this week and sent half of its six-employee staff to Kansas City, Mo., where Harris now is operating as Harris Wilson. Jobs for the other three were eliminated.

A separate-but-related Harris Construction Services company remains in Lawrence, as provider of property maintenance and management. That operation has returned to its previous location, at 720 E. Ninth St.

For Harris Construction — which builds and develops commercial buildings, and also handles renovations and historic-preservation jobs — the assumption of the Harris Wilson name reflects a “strategic partnership” with S.M. Wilson & Co., a company that did $515 million in construction last year and is considered strong in retail and medical-related projects, said Bo Harris, president and chief executive officer of Harris Construction.

While Harris Construction still exists, the two companies are working to formalize a relationship that builds on each one’s strengths, Harris said. That formal relationship, whatever form it takes, could come within the next month.

“It’s kind of like we’re dating right now, seeing how things work and seeing if we want to get married,” Harris said.

Harris Construction has been working on a $13 million renovation of an office building across the street from a new performing arts center in Kansas City, Mo., a job now being handled by Harris Wilson. The building’s first two floors will be used by the Kansas City Symphony.

While some Harris Construction employees remain with the company, most have been switched over to S.M. Wilson’s payroll, Harris said. Three employees in Harris Construction’s Kansas City office lost their jobs as part of the partnership.

None of this week’s changes affects Harris’ own personal commitment to renovate buildings along Pennsylvania Street in east Lawrence, he said.

“We’ll continue to pursue that,” Harris said.


Tom McCune 9 years, 2 months ago

I worked with Bo Harris on some construction projects many years ago, and I always thought they were a good company. No nonsense; just a knowledgeable, get the job done well kind of company.

ladymay 9 years, 2 months ago

Mark Fagan, did you even attempt to make sure your "facts" were correct? This story sounds like this is a happy ending for almost everyone at Harris Construction, but it is far from that. First of all, more than 6 employees work at Harris Construction Company--there are several who work out on the job site and not in the office; second, way more than 3 employees lost their job in the event of the merger, and you neglect to acknowledge all those who were laid off previously at the start of the new year; third, this story does not even begin to express the true devastation that many are suffering from since this merger, myself included. Once again, the Journal World has produced a poorly written, certainly rushed (seeing as you called the office just yesterday in a desperation to speak with the owner), and perhaps just badly spun story.

weluvbowling 9 years, 2 months ago

Ladymay, I read this article last night and was amazed at only 6 employees myself.

My ex husband worked for Harris for over 20 years before he went into business for himself and all I could think of was "WOW! Only 6 employees?" They were such a big company!

I am glad that you have informed me differently. Thank you!

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

They had to sell out because Harris was horrible about paying their subs and it got to the point that no one would work for them. They would go over 180 days, then ridicule the subs for coming and asking for their money. They plain and simple ran their business into the ground. It's a shame too - they did nice work..

This attempt to slant this as a positive is hilarious! I can tell you, no one in this town (except sadly the displaced employees and their families) care a lick about Harris.

BigPrune 9 years, 2 months ago

This sounds more like a "going out of business" story. Yet another construction related business leaves Lawrence. How many years was Harris in business in Lawrence anyway, 50 years?

Brought to you by the "Growth NEVER pays" liars that have ruined this town. But it's okay, just keep raising our taxes.

Uilleann 9 years, 2 months ago

Gootsie, stop for a moment and ponder your comment: "no one cares a lick about Harris." Well, regardless of your feelings about the company, every time a company goes through something like this and people lose jobs, it has a ripple effect that affects the entire community, sending shock waves through the economy. This is happening all over the country and its effects are being felt, and will continue to be felt by everyone, you included, for years to come. Your view is incredibly myopic.

Sharon Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

A shame that a business that used to be well respected in this community has been driven into the ground. A lot of people worked for them over the years, both as employees and subs. I think Mr. Harris just tried to become too big and unfortunately, he did it on the backs of others. When it came to subs, he either didn't pay or didn't pay them all they were due. And they had to repeatedly ask for what they got. He was living large and had an office full of people, far more than six, plus a lot of supervisors and workers on projects. Too bad that these people will be out of jobs but at least his back will be covered. This article paints a pretty picture but I'm guessing that looking at the underbelly of this thing, it's far different than described here. Too bad he has ruined the legacy of his father, a wonderful man. No, I don't nor have I ever worked for the man. But I do know people who have. And we are left with a big white elephant in tribute to him on the east side of town.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

"Brought to you by the “Growth NEVER pays”"

Absolutely no one says this. In Lawrence, it's paid quite well for a rather narrow segment of the population. But growth also costs, and too much of those costs are born by people who see little or no benefit from the growth.

ladymay 9 years, 2 months ago

redmoonrising, it is apparent that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Attempting to bash Bo Harris' character, as well as saying he has ruined his father's legacy is unnecessary and utterly distasteful. You make Bo Harris seem like the bad guy in this situation, but you could not be more off. As you said, you do not and have never worked for him, so you have no room whatsoever to make such harsh remarks. This article does not even begin to paint the full picture here and it is indeed far different than described, so I would recommend that you and anyone else who feels the need to put in their two cents to stop and think before rattling off terribly uninformed arguments.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

"When it came to subs, he either didn't pay or didn't pay them all they were due. And they had to repeatedly ask for what they got."

I've heard this from subs who worked for him, as well. But he's hardly alone-- it's standard operating procedure for most large contractors here and elsewhere.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 2 months ago

Face it folks there are only so many dollars in Lawrence,Kansas a small town. Lawrence cannot support big city lifestyles. Bedroom communities and sprawl growth = fiscal recklessness.

Consider this: Donovan Scruggs, Ocean Springs director of community development and planning, said the city's current budget. crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

"If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch," Scruggs said. "But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality."

Scruggs said there have been two studies done on impact fees. One 100-page study was on services for police and fire protection, administration and parks. A second study was done on infrastructure related impacts on roads, water and water.

The current proposal calls for the fees to be collected separately.

"We want. to make sure we tie the fees as closely as possible to when the demand is being generated," Scruggs said. "Water and sewer fees would be collected when the subdivision is constructed. Services more related to occupancy and homes being constructed would be collected later. For example, no one will have a need for a park until there are kids in that neighborhood."

While developers pay for onsite water, sewer and road infrastructure, Scruggs said it is costly to pay for offsite upgrades needed, such as enlarging lift stations and raising water towers.

"Now if we have to upgrade a lift station, it is paid for by the general fund revenue paid by each taxpayer in the city," Scruggs said. "Someone on the west side of town would have to pay for subsidizing the growth in demand caused by the development in the east part of town."

The eastern part of town is where the greatest residential growth is being seen. Scruggs said there has been so much growth in recent years that the city has to elevate its water towers to keep pressure at adequate levels. "That was a direct result caused by the growth," he said.

Scruggs said that impact fees are legal if they are done properly.

"Madison's impact fee program had problems," Scruggs said. "Ours will not have those problems. It can be done right."

Ocean Springs had 120 homes constructed in 2000, 90 in 2001 and is on track to have 120 homes constructed in 2002. If impact fees had been collected on the 310 homes built in three years, the city would have extra revenues of about $2.1 million.

In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be responsible for a certain amount of the infrastructure. Most builders understand impact fees are for a purpose that improves their development."

Richard Heckler 9 years, 2 months ago

Harris Construction has been doing some nice projects in the downtown KCMO rehab project that seems to be in perpetual motion.

Restoring old neighborhoods and down towns is where the action is. When we say restore we don't mean bulldoze and replace with T-111 cookie cutter style.... we mean restore.

At 17th and Summit in KCMO there is a tremendous amount of restoration taking place. What beautiful old homes!!! This area I am told is one of the oldest neighborhoods in KCMO which is reasonably close to downtown,crossroads and the new performing arts center. It has also become an "artsy" kind of area.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

Uilleann - you twisted my meaning. The lack of caring refers to the 'owner' Harris because of the way he treated his subs. There is no way I would think otherwise about the impact on the community and the families. I know quite a few of them. The humiliation he tried to impose on the subs when they came asking for their money after six months of excuses was pathetic. And yes, it was Bo himself that did it.

Myopic? Certainly not! My family was at one time severely affected by the Harris way but were smart enough to quit being their sub. And I now know of one sub in town who is out $200,000 because of Harris' non-payment plan. And I know others who had to go out of business because of it.

Redmoon is right on target. The details of this hopefully will come out so you can all understand.

cowboy 9 years, 2 months ago

I don't know anything about Harris but as a contractor if anyone misses an agreed upon payment to me the work is halted and legal proceedings begun , you have to protect yourself.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

true that, Cowboy. Why this sub allowed himself to go that far behind with them is beyond me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

It's just part of the game (maybe "trap" is a better word) of working for large contractors. These subs usually have a fair number of employees, and just overall high overhead. That means they have to have a steady flow of large contracts. The contractors know that, and string them along anyway they can, essentially using these subs to partially finance their projects (and compensate for all-too-frequent bad planning and management that can lead to large cost overruns. )

Once a contractor owes you tens of thousands, or even more, you can't afford to see them go under, taking your money with them. So you just keep taking on new projects with them hoping that you don't get any further behind.

Don Zimmer 9 years, 2 months ago

As someone who has to listen to Bo's excuses and promises for over two years and still remian unpaid and hear subcontractors similar stories lawrence is probably fortunate that Bo's dream for his East Lawrence project never materialized.

With todays economic environment when even strong projects and reputable developers and builders cannot find financing marginal projects like that would have created a major problem with broken promises and unpaid bills, especially if public funds were involved.

Jo_Jo 9 years, 2 months ago

SM Wilson:

Looks like a pretty solid firm. Mergers are part of the business world - they happen every day. I can think of Treanor/GLPM Architects and Huxtable/P1 to name a couple of industry specific examples. Hopefully with this merger they will be in a position to succeed for years to come.

Uilleann 9 years, 2 months ago

Gootsie: First, I didn't twist your meaning. Second, I am a member of a family directly affected by what happened. I wish the details could come out. However, until then, most of what's written on this subject is merely ill-informed conjecture and just plain old hearsay within hearsay.

Uilleann 9 years, 2 months ago

Well, Gootsie doesn't make much of an argument. Her rationale is analogous to Rush Limbaugh hoping President Obama fails. Implicit in that wish for failure is wishing for the failure of the country. In this case, Gootsie doesn't care if Harris Construction fails because Gootsie doesn't like Bo Harris. Regardless of her sympathy for the displaced employees, if Harris Construction fails, Bo, AND the employees suffer. That is very myopic. I know what the situation is at Harris and I guarantee Gootsie doesn't know anything more than what she's heard third-hand. Much of what I've read regarding on this board is flat-out wrong or only half-true at best. Much of it is just ill-informed character assassination. That's all I'll say.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

Uilleann, I read your post and see where what I said might be interpreted the way you did and I apologize. I do have a great amount of sympathy for the families of the company as well as the families of the subs and companies who will not be paid or will be put out of business because of this. I regret if I was unclear to you, U, and hope you understand that my meaning was not cruel or harsh or unfeeling, as the way you read it. That was not at all my intention.

I will still stick by the wait-and-see strategy, though, on how this all came about. And I stick by what I have heard and seen. If I am wrong, though, I will again apologize. Will you, Uilleann?

You seem to know what is going on and wish it would come out. Well, then, inform us! If we are all way off base, I will not only apologize to you directly, but will see that you get a free Klondike bar and some fresh biscuits and gravy from TOB for causing you such grief and anger and anxiety.

ladymay 9 years, 2 months ago

Gootsie--I'm guessing that you are much older than me, yet you still have not grown out of gossiping. Why do you need to know every little detail? So you can go gossip some more and find amusement in someone else's downfall, whom you don't like? Honestly, it's just sad. Your life obviously hasn't been affected by this merger, so save your Klondike bar and go enjoy it with everyone else here who has too much time on their hands, allowing them to post multiple times on an article that in reality, they are clueless about.


Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

Will do!

Thank you for straightening me and all the other gossipers out. We obviously needed it!

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