With 100 Years of Experience
Though most in Orlando’s urban core are familiar with SkyHouse, one of the premier downtown residential high-rises that is part of the Orlando skyline, few know the company that built the 23-story building in 2013. Batson-Cook has established its reputation on everything from the 51-story Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, to the stately Sykes College of Business building at the University of Tampa. But the foundation of their 100-year-old reputation was made building some of the leading healthcare facilities in the Southeast, dating back to the veterans’ hospital in Tuskegee, Ala. in 1926.
It was 1915 when Edmund F. Cook, a lumber and building materials salesman, called on W.C. Batson, who owned a hardware store in West Point, Ga. Instead of an order, Cook received an offer to join forces with Batson to sell building supplies. Little could the two men have known that the partnership they formed would be operating 100 years later as one of the Southeast’s premier construction firms with a portfolio expected to top $11 billion in 2015.
Batson-Cook Company was incorporated in 1916 and, in addition to selling building materials, began winning small construction jobs. The opportunity to build textile mills and villages followed, making Batson-Cook a significant contributor to the rise of the “Textile Belt” in Midwest Georgia during the 1920s. The firm built other types of manufacturing facilities for companies such as B.F. Goodrich, Buckeye Cotton Oil Company (Proctor & Gamble), and Goodyear.
Post office work helped Batson-Cook weather the Depression, and universities such as Auburn University, University of Alabama and Emory hired the firm to build on their campuses in the early 1930s.
Focusing On Florida
Batson-Cook entered the Florida market in the early 1940s when it won the contract for Naval Air Station Jacksonville, one of its most significant projects to this day. More contracts followed for construction at Mayport Naval Station, Cecil Field Naval Air Station and Banana River Seaplane Base. In all, Batson-Cook completed what represents in today’s dollars more than $1 billion worth of work during a three-year period, and records indicate that the workforce on these projects exceeded 5,000 people.
Since that time, Batson-Cook has continued to deliver projects which define skylines and dot landscapes across the Southeast. In 2008, it became part of Kajima, one of the world’s largest construction entities, but continues to operate as it has for 100 years – as a family-owned business that is large enough to meet customers’ needs, but small enough to deliver personalized service.
Operating with integrity and building with passion have served Batson-Cook well for 100 years. Though they have become part of Kajima, they have maintained their commitment to stay the course and preserve the legacy of their founders, Batson and Cook, while greatly expanding their capabilities.
Specialists in Healthcare Construction
Batson-Cook is ranked as the 18th largest healthcare contractor in the country (Modern Healthcare, 2015). Today, the highly-specialized field of hospital and healthcare construction comprises 25 percent of its overall volume.
Its expertise in healthcare construction has brought the company opportunities along the I-4 corridor market. Batson-Cook’s team of project managers and superintendents who specialize in healthcare construction has resumes that highlight extensive work with Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), and they manage the complexity of these types of projects with skill and professionalism. Ed Varnes, vice president of healthcare at Batson-Cook, commented, “To a person, we operate with a single goal: delivering your project in such a way that you will think of Batson-Cook first for your next project.”
Among its most notable Florida hospital and healthcare projects are: Pepin Heart Institute in Tampa; Benton House Assisted Living in Clermont; Glenmoor at World Golf Village; numerous projects at Vicar’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach; J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville; Terry Cancer Center, Chartrand Heart Center and Family Medicine Center at St. Vincent’s Riverside in Jacksonville. Batson-Cook currently has work in process on the campuses of Baptist Health, Florida Hospital, Mayo Clinic, UF Health and St. Vincent’s Health.
The Batson-Cook Difference: Relationships
Since 1915, Batson-Cook has been about building: building relationships, building projects, and building a reputation. The fact that nearly 90 percent of its work comes from existing clients is testament to the success of this philosophy.
“Forging relationships with clients and trade partners is a way of life for every employee of Batson-Cook,” Varnes said. The company has clients for whom they have worked for as many as 60 years and third-generation relationships with subcontractors. It’s had an account with its primary bank for more than 75 years, and a number of employees have been with Batson-Cook for their entire careers of 40-plus years.
Varnes concluded, “When a client tells you that he looked forward to stopping by the job site as often as possible to visit with the superintendent, you know that a great relationship was in the making. When a healthcare nursing administrator sends an unsolicited note of thanks and asks that you let your superintendents and workers know that ‘what they do makes a difference,’ you can bet they are going the extra mile on the job. When an electrical site superintendent says that your extremely challenging and demanding hospital project was the smoothest and most seamless of his 46-year career, you can bet that the project team’s ‘trailer chemistry’ was exceptional.”
For 100 years, Batson-Cook has built hundreds upon hundreds of projects, and in the process has become one of the Southeast’s top general contractors. For the Batson-Cook family, however, the relationships forged along the way yield the greatest reward. “The ‘Batson-Cook advantage’ is its people, and the relationships they build with the people who are our clients,” Varnes concluded.