Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am
Steven Chamberlin, the former president of Milwaukee-based construction company C.G. Schmidt Inc., recently started his own construction consulting firm, and the new company is off to a flying start with an impressive roster of inaugural clients.
His firm, Chamberlin Group LLC, provides construction project management and corporate development services for construction companies.
Chamberlin already has six active clients, the most noteworthy of which is the massive and complex World Trade Center construction project in New York.
Chamberlin worked for C.G. Schmidt for 21 years and was the president of the company for the last 10 years. He left the company last October. In December, Richard (Rick) Schmidt Jr. succeeded his father, Richard Schmidt Sr., as chief executive officer of C.G. Schmidt.
Chamberlin said he left the company on good terms.
“Richard Schmidt (Sr.) had asked that I lead the charge to help grow the company,” Chamberlin said. “All along, he made it clear that he wanted his family to continue the firm. It got to the point that the next generation of Schmidts, and the rest of the team, were ready.”
During his tenure at C.G. Schmidt, Chamberlin had an opportunity to work on several major construction projects, including the $120 million Santiago Calatrava-designed addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The art museum addition was “kind of my baby,” Chamberlin said. Although Chamberlin was extensively involved with the project, he is quick to say that the entire community, including the donors and subcontractors that worked on the project, deserve the credit for building Milwaukee’s most notable landmark.
As he stepped away from C.G. Schmidt, Chamberlin did not know what his next career move would be.
“I was trying to decide exactly what I wanted to do, and then I got the call from New York,” he said. “That’s when the light went on.”
During his work with the Milwaukee Art Museum addition, Chamberlin had made contacts that opened the door to him working on the World Trade Center project.
“They found me somehow” Chamberlin said. “It was kind of a quiet day. All of a sudden, the phone rang.”
Chamberlin was asked to provide construction consulting for the massive World Trade Center project. The project, in lower Manhattan where terrorists destroyed the twin 110-story World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, includes several new office towers (including the 1,776-foot tall Freedom Tower), a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attack and a transit center designed by Calatrava. The 16-acre site is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Many in Milwaukee were shocked at the $120 million cost of the Calatrava-designed addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
However, Chamberlin said many outside of Milwaukee were impressed that such an impressive project was accomplished at that cost.
“It’s very clear that the Milwaukee Art Museum Calatrava addition is highly regarded in New York and around the country,” Chamberlin said. “Many mentioned to me how impressed they were that the museum was able to develop an international show-piece for such a reasonable cost. I think what was done here, with the Calatrava project, is the ultimate example of what our community is capable of doing. It’s Milwaukee at its best.”
Chamberlin recently spent two weeks in New York to help out with the World Trade Center project.
“It was a value optimization consulting role that they hired me for,” Chamberlin said. “There’s a real commitment in New York to making the most of the World Trade Center site, and I was hired to help ensure the World Trade Center re-building projects had optimum planning and constructability. People are so passionate about rebuilding the World Trade Center in the best way possible. That project is arguably the highest-profile job in the U.S., maybe the world.”
With the World Trade Center project as his first client, Chamberlin decided to establish his construction consulting firm. The company is providing consulting services on two levels: total project management to provide maximum value for construction projects and strategic corporate development to help construction companies grow.
Chamberlin believes his experience in managing construction projects and construction companies will benefit his clients.
“The construction industry is changing very rapidly,” he said. “It’s becoming more complex in terms of what really is the right design-construction solution. I think building owners need the best solution, not just a good solution.”
His work with the World Trade Center project perfectly fits the business model of his new consulting firm, Chamberlin said.
“Take a complex project, simplify it and get optimal value,” he said.
Chamberlin said several studies have indicated that the average building owner only gets about 80 percent of the optimal value from a building project. He wants to help owners get close to 100 percent.
“The firm is designed around value optimization,” he said. “Meeting the budget and schedule requirements, that should be an expectation of any building owner. Your objective shouldn’t just be to meet the budget and complete it on time. It should be to achieve full optimal value when considering things such as aesthetics, functional issues and life-cycle costs.”
As his new company grows, Chamberlin expects most of his clients to be local, but some will be from outside the state.
While working as president of C.G. Schmidt, Chamberlin said, doing so much work at the corporate management level sometimes meant he missed doing more work at the construction sites.
“You kind of miss the action,” he said. “It’s nice (as a consultant) to get back to helping companies grow and work on some unique projects.”
Commercial construction in the metro Milwaukee area has slowed in recent months, Chamberlin said.
“There could be a false sense of activity because there are a lot of projects in the developmental stages that may or may not happen,” he said.
The residential construction market in the area also has slowed, but school construction is picking up, Chamberlin said.
However, major community projects that were so prominent during the 1980s and 90s, including the Bradley Center, Miller Park, the Midwest Airlines Center and the Milwaukee Art Museum expansion, have “really hit a lull,” Chamberlin said.
Still, Milwaukee will continue to be a steady construction market overall, he said.
“Milwaukee has not historically had super high peaks or super low valleys,” Chamberlin said.
Company: Chamberlin Group LLC
Services provided: Construction industry professional services, specializing in total project management and strategic corporate development
Web site: www.chamberlingroup.net