Ask A Construction VP: Rich Hazel
by Carla Pruitt (MPC ’14)
Working in the construction industry, I am blown away by the caliber of large projects currently underway that will forever change the skyline of the Salt Lake Valley. One such project is just down the street from Westminster’s campus in Sugar House. I’m talking about the Park Avenue project that is rising from the ground just off the I-80 interchange at 1300 East. The leader of that project happens to be Westminster College alum Rich Hazel (MBA ’93), senior vice president at Big-D Construction.
Okay first, what is this massive Park Avenue project exactly?
“The Park Avenue project is what Salt Lake City officials have called a ‘premier’ residential and business development in the community of Sugar House. The building most are seeing now is a 170,000-square-foot medical office being built for University of Utah Health and Huntsman Cancer Institute. The steel shell that stands adjacent to the medical office building is a 150,000-square-foot class office building. Underneath this building will be a parking structure that can hold more than 1,000 vehicles.”
What brought you to the construction industry?
“It was a fluke, really. I went to business school and was hired directly to help run a construction company. I met a board member at the SLC Chamber of Commerce where I was the small business development director, while going to Westminster at night. I joined Big-D in 2010, weathered the recession, and have been with the firm since.”
There’s this perception that there’s no money working in construction. Is that true?
“Not at all. In fact, most people don’t understand the size and complexity of construction companies. Big-D will have 2018 revenue of $1.5 billion from construction projects across the country. The firm is growing—and growing fast. We currently employ 1,500 people and operate in 19 states. There is an enormous business infrastructure to manage all of that growth.”
How does your coursework from Westminster’s MBA program transfer to working in construction? There aren’t MBA courses that teach you how to weld, are there?
“No welding courses, but the coursework I experienced during the MBA program at Westminster College was very specific and challenging. Many of my instructors were business people in the marketplace. Many MBA classes such as finance, business law, and technical writing are subjects that cross many businesses—including construction.”
Any advice for Westminster students who may be interested in working in construction?
“If you are thinking of a business career or applied technology, construction could be the market segment for you. Diversity, fast pace, and challenge are all trademarks of this industry. As we move into the future, the construction business will be at the cutting edge of technology and progressive management strategies. I would highly recommend students at a minimum take a look at construction management and its ancillary industries.”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.