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Executive Q&A: Mark Payne

Ohio native Mark Payne is vice president and division manager for the San Diego office of Swinerton Inc.

Swinerton, whose roots date back to 1888 in Los Angeles in the post-gold rush building boom, has a dozen offices in six states.

The office in San Diego was started in 1993, and Swinerton has been in the top 10 of the San Diego Business Journal’s list of general contractors for years.

This year, the company is No. 2 on the list with revenue of $333 million (see lists on pages 38 and 42).

Payne took some time to share his thoughts on the construction industry in San Diego as well as a little bit about himself.

In your recent submission for the Largest Construction Firms list and the Largest Construction projects, there is a mix of commercial and public projects. Is this your typical mix of business?

We normally try to have a mixture of public versus private sector work, although our primary focus is the private sector, which comprises approximately 80 percent of our current work volume. Our focus markets for our San Diego division are health care, education, multifamily residential, gaming, hospitality and office tenant improvements.

How many of the company’s recent projects are tenant improvement or ground-up construction?

Of the projects we currently have under construction, 12 are ground-up buildings and 23 are interior tenant improvement projects.

What is your opinion of the current climate in San Diego County for construction projects?

Commercial construction in San Diego is still somewhat stagnant, but there are good signs of pending growth during the last half of 2014 and throughout 2015.

The overall construction market is still extremely competitive, although cost escalation is now starting to drive up costs in certain trades.

How is it relative to pre-recession projects?

Now is still a good time to be a buyer of construction-related services, but costs are on the upswing.

What is your educational background?

I studied civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and Youngstown State University, and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

What was your career path to your
current position?

My father was a superintendent for a general engineering contractor in the Ohio and Pennsylvania area. He often took me to his jobsites, and I also worked summers during college as a construction laborer for him. This is where I developed a passion for building and knew that this was the career I wanted.

I have been fortunate in my 15-years with Swinerton to have had the opportunity to wear a lot of different hats, which allowed me to gain valuable experience as I progressed through my career. Positions included laborer, land surveyor, field engineer, project engineer, estimator, project manager, chief estimator and operations manager prior to my current position of division manager.

Did you have any specific teachers or mentors or “lucky breaks”?

My father was my catalyst into construction and also taught me at an early age the value of getting an education. I have had several mentors throughout my career who gave me the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities and grow.

What is your biggest stressor or the thing that causes you the most angst?

Continuing to provide jobs and career growth for our employees and the impact to them and their families if we cannot.

How do you relax?

Golf, fishing and spending time with my family, especially the grandkids.

What was the most recent book you read? Did you read it as an “e-book” or a printed book?

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, a moving story of one person’s strength and perseverance during WWII. Printed book.

How would you define yourself?

Competitive, driven, fair, honest, direct, caring and fun loving.

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