Steve Whitworth, Vice President, Texas Region
Our series shining a light on Kitchell’s employee-owners continues with a conversation with Steve Whitworth, Vice President, Texas Region. While we had a base in Texas in the ‘80s, Kitchell opened its first office there since then in Austin in 2014 and we’re staffing our most recent office, in Houston.
While Steve is a recent transplant, he’s taken to the Lone Star State in a big way. (It certainly helps that he spent five years working on projects for Medical City Dallas). It’s welcomed him, and the entire Kitchell team with open arms proving that the great Texan Lyle Lovett knows what he’s talking about… “That’s right you’re not from Texas but Texas wants you anyway!”
Why did Kitchell open an office in Texas?
During the recession, Texas was able to weather the storm better than other regions and we saw great opportunity here. Kitchell’s longevity is based in large part on its nimbleness, our ability to quickly to make a big play in a new market or industry and create a home base where the demand is. Houston is the healthcare capital of the United States, and healthcare construction is our “sweet spot.” In fact we jumped into Texas via healthcare with projects for Baylor Scott & White Healthcare in Temple and in College Station.
Does the Texas market differ from other markets and how so?
Texans likes doing business with Texans. They are very loyal to their own and we’re the new kids on the block. But we’re doing a great job blending our Kitchell culture with Texas culture, hiring Texas natives who have inculcated the rest of us to the Texas way! It’s been fascinating to interview Texans, all of whom have stated they’ll move anywhere as long as it’s in Texas! They simply don’t want to go anywhere else and now I know why.
What’s the feeling amongst the Texas team?
There’s incredible energy as we ramp up and tell Texas our story. We tell people we bring the feel of a small contractor but with large contractor resources. It’s quite thrilling to have this sense of exploring new horizons, but bringing proven depth and strength. Internally, we have the feeling that we’re building something much larger than ourselves and we have the opportunity to shape it the way we want.
What’s the best thing about living in Texas?
Besides good barbeque, it’s a friendly place. People are so nice. There are four large cities but the majority of the state is ranchland. Most people I meet grew up in small towns and on ranches. It’s no lie, Texans are the friendliest, most open people you will meet. I love it here.
What took you the longest to grow accustomed to?
The difference between the markets is eye-opening. Austin is completely different from Houston which is different from Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s akin to the differences between Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles and the distances are kind of the same.
What are you looking for in an ideal Texas job candidate?
We are looking for exceptional project managers and superintendents, specifically those who have spent the majority of their careers in Texas. Prospects are excited by the fact that a 66-year-old company has planted a flag in their home state, and that they can build something from the ground up. It’s very appealing to them. We hear this a lot at our Texas A&M and Texas State recruitment events.