Solomon builds diverse clientele

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 1:00am

Working from the Solomon Builders Inc. office on Trousdale Drive in South Nashville, Osman oversees about 90 employees. The company serves as a general contractor/builder, with a focus on the Middle Tennessee market. Since 1990, when Solomon Builders was founded, Osman and business partner Gregg Turner have worked on about 500 projects, including those involving commercial buildings, schools, health care facilities, churches and the Nashville Zoo. Osman is perhaps best known for having led the rehabbing of the historic and treasured Cohen Building downtown.
When did Solomon Builders decide to become so diverse with its projects?

When we started, we focused on the interior build-out market. In 1995, we decided to venture into the world of new construction. Early on, we realized we didn't want to focus on one sector..
Ty Osman

Solomon Builders Inc., President

Hometown: Miami, Fla.

Age: 39

Education: Lipscomb University, bachelor's degree in business

First conventional job: Introduced Subway franchise to the Nashville market in 1986

Hypothetical dream job: Full-time philanthropist

Your Nashville Zoo efforts, such as the elephant barn and new elephant exhibit area, are a fine example of this diversity.

One of the things we like about the zoo is that every project is so unique. There is no prototype, and that has been the challenge of each zoo project. Unlike with the building of conventional commercial structures, the zoo projects have allowed us to accommodate a different set of circumstances. You have to talk to the curators, learn about the animals' particular quirks, and incorporate that into the design. The zoo designs have happened with our input.

Are many building companies tackling such an array of jobs?

I think it is unusual to be as diverse as we are. We have figured out how to be effective in a lot of building arenas - anything from a small interior build-out job to a large church to the elephant exhibit.

What is the status of Phase II of the Covenant Presbyterian Church project in Green Hills?

The church is in the preliminary design phase. The construction will provide the church with a gothic cathedral component that will be very distinctive and stately.

What are the strengths of Nashville's building company community?

Nashville has a broad base of talented companies located here. Anything there is to be built here can be accomplished with local talent.

What are Solomon Builders Inc.'s shortcomings?

We don't have the multi-generational name and contacts. We're kind of the new kid on the block.

What is turnover like at your company?

It is very low. It is very rare for someone to leave here who we want to keep. We are willing to try people. If they fit, great. If they don't, they move on. There is some turnover as in any company, but it's at our discretion. Our work environment has allowed us to attract talented people and keep them.

What is the main concern or complaint you hear from your employees?

A lot of our folks like what they see and want more than their current job. They want ownership in the company, but we haven't gone in that direction. However, we have provided ownership opportunities in other ventures.

Where will Solomon Builders be in 10 years?

Our goal is to be Nashville's premier contractor for commercial construction. We are not interested in residential work or being a national company that chases jobs. We're committed to Tennessee. As Nashville and Middle Tennessee grow, we want to grow also.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as company leader?

I'm not a good manager and that is a definite weakness. But I would like to think I communicate well with clients, employees and the media.

Do you have a personal favorite project?

Maybe not a project, but as far as a client, it is the Nashville Zoo. Zoo officials have been great to work with.

What will be some future trends in the building industry?

The industry will continue to move toward more "relational construction," where the contractor is not selected on price alone. That shift has been occurring and will continue.

How do you approach a job for which you think the building is ugly?

Usually, if the building is ugly it is because of budget constraints. So we try to make suggestions and get the owner the most bang for his buck. We want to make a positive contribution to the area's man-made environment, but we also have a responsibility to our clients.

What is the most noteworthy building - both in terms of design and construction - Nashville has seen in the past five years that has not been handled by Solomon?

I think it's the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for sure. American Constructors is doing a great job as the builder. They are local and do quality work.

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