AP Central Texas Thought Leadership Q&A

With Will Pender and Eric Churchill

AP Gulf States President, Will Pender, recently sat down with Eric Churchill, AP’s new Director of Business Development in Central Texas, to talk about Austin and Central Texas, the trends he’s seeing and his 18 years of experience in the market.

1. Eric, you are the new Director of Business Development for AP in Central Texas. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your new role?

Having spent the last 18+ years in Austin working in the construction industry, I am looking forward to helping grow AP’s Austin office. I have previously worked with several large national contractors and have always been impressed with AP and their exceptional work. Getting to lead their Austin office as they focus on the Capital City is a phenomenal opportunity.

With amazing growth in the last few years, Austin continues to welcome new companies into the real estate market. One of my responsibilities in this new role is to leverage relationships to help grow the Austin office. This will include my relationships and AP’s existing Austin clients, as well as leveraging AP’s Central Texas staff as the company increases its Austin footprint. This is a great opportunity to help clients achieve their facility goals.

I’ve lived here for nearly two decades, so I’m a big fan of Austin. Currently, I am involved in the community and professional organizations like ULI (Urban Land Institute), RECA (Real Estate Council of Austin) and SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services). Outside of work, I love to spend time with my family, including my wife, Tricia, and our four children.

2. How long have you been working in Austin? What drew you to this Capital City initially?

I’m a born-and-raised Texan, and after leaving the state for a while, I returned 18 years ago and settled in Austin, as I’ve always felt drawn to the Capitol City. It has a magnetic energy that continues to draw in new people and companies. I also enjoy the variety Austin offers, such as live music and festivals, as well as the plethora of outdoor activities.

3. What are the key trends you are seeing in construction throughout Austin and the Central Texas region?

Companies continue to relocate or expand in areas that are economically viable for both business and people which, in turn, attracts top talent. The Austin and Central Texas region fit this need well by offering a pro-business environment along with having a vibrant local culture, relatively good weather and a strong talent pool. This continued influx will be one of the main trends we continue to see.

Austin’s continued growth will require a diligent effort to retain this business-friendly environment and maintain its culture and identity in the future.

4. Austin and Central Texas are currently seen as “hot” markets in construction and commercial real estate. What is your opinion on this? Are there certain asset classes that are the most desirable in Austin right now?

I agree Austin is one of the hottest markets in Texas both literally and figuratively. Several asset classes are seeing a new resurgence. For example:

  • Multifamily – with 115 people moving to Austin every day, high demand persists because of housing shortages and costs. For instance, there is a two-month supply for single-family homes. A “healthy market” has six months. At one point in the last six months, Austin was down to two weeks of available inventory. This creates a need for multifamily housing throughout the area, meaning multifamily will likely be desirable for both investors and builders.
  • Industrial – With ample land and central location, Austin continues to be an in-demand region for industrial development. Huge recent investments from companies like Telsa and Samsung have increased this need even further.
  • Infrastructure – To support the unprecedented growth we have seen in Austin, our infrastructure desperately needs attention. This includes schools, higher education and healthcare along with facilities for the state, city and county.
  • Office – Apple, Google, Facebook, TikTok, Indeed and Oracle, to name just a few, have all moved to Austin and continue to grow. As people return to work, the latest term for getting everyone back to the office is “commute-worthy.” In other words, your office must be worth the commute to get employees to leave the comfort and convenience of their home office.

5. What do you see as the key driver for this recent uptick in construction and real estate activity in Austin? How long do you see this trend continuing?

I know I sound redundant, but the region’s population growth is the key reason why there’s increased real estate activity. Factors impacting this growth include the fact that Texas has no state income tax along with the state’s business-friendly climate and tax incentives.

To determine how long this will last, I think the potential recession being forecasted will be a critical factor. When looking at previous recessions and the 2020 pandemic, Austin tends to go slowly into a recession, doesn’t go in too deep and gets out quickly. Though not recession-proof, Austin recently diversified beyond being just the “Capitol City” to include high-tech, medical, manufacturing and higher education. Further, Austin offers an educated workforce from the University of Texas and local community college with workforce development programs. The city is not dependent on one market, which experience shows often leads to fewer downturns as the various industries help keep the economy and workforce afloat. As people continue to move here, this diversification lessens the blow of a down market.

6. As great as things are currently, what drawbacks do you see in this region? How can companies deal with these challenges?

No place is perfect, even Austin. Housing is a hindrance, in both cost and shortages, and this presents a roadblock for attracting company relocations as well as for companies recruiting and retaining employees. Additionally, an infrastructure system in need of repairs and upgrades creates longer commute times. Affordable housing and traffic are huge issues and are not easy problems to solve.

7. What is your best advice for AP as we continue our work throughout Central Texas and grow projects in Austin?

Be patient and strategic, as well as thoughtful and intentional to select clients that see the value AP provides. There are a lot of contractors in Austin, and AP needs to identify clients with values that align with AP’s and are a good cultural fit in order to complete successful and impactful projects. Austin is currently very open for business and ready to accept good work, so this is a great time for AP to continue its focus in Austin.

8. I know you’ve only been in this role a very short time, but what goals would you like to reach straight out of the gate?

My main objective is to hit our business plan goals while setting ourselves up on a good foundation to move forward. This plan will include continuing to establish ourselves in the region through building our brand recognition. The ultimate goal is to make AP top of mind for construction needs throughout Central Texas. We will accomplish this goal by helping our clients bring their visions to reality. We also know we will achieve more with quality people who exceed expectations for our clients, so leveraging our current Central Texas staff and hiring more quality team members will be crucial.

9. From your perspective, what does AP bring to the market that makes it unique?

Even in the short time I’ve been here so far, I can easily say AP’s biggest differentiator is our people, as our team members work daily to meet and exceed client goals and needs. This is evidenced by our long-term relationships with clients throughout Texas. Further, AP also prides itself on being responsive to clients, so they get what they need when they need it. All of this comes from a focus of truly listening to our clients.

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