BFL Construction Company’s president featured in Biz Tucson magazine

September 2010

It’s got to be plumb, level, square and done with integity…

Garry Brav, owner and president of BFL Construction Company, Inc., refers to the carpenter’s rule as the only acceptable marker of a project’s successful completion. This dedication to precision applies to his philosophy for business and life, where he says “achieving ninety-five percent doesn’t count.”

Brav attributes much of his drive for perfection to observing and working from an early age with his persevering father, who owned a food manufacturing business in Chicago. That’s where Brav was born and raised.

He ventured West to Tucson in 1964 to attend the University of Arizona. He planned to return to the Midwest after graduation to rejoin his father’s company, but it was sold before he completed his studies. Armed with a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a focus on marketing and psychology, Brav decided to make Tucson his permanent home.

Brav recalls there was limited opportunity for employment back when the city’s population was about 250,000. After a jaunt to Mexico for the filming of the movie Catch 22 as an acting extra, Brav settled in, opening and operating the Balcony Saloon on Fourth Avenue.

In 1973 he ventured into custom home building, forming Brav & Foreman Construction Company, and helped introduce solar homes to the area. Not yet content with his professional path, Brav concluded that residential construction, much like the bar business, did not offer the opportunity to build lasting relationships with his clients – something Brav believes is fundamental for long-term business growth.

Brav’s company shifted focus to the commercial sector, taking on tenant improvements for Del E. Webb Property Management at the Home Federal Savings Tower (now occupied by Pima County) and the Alameda Plaza Building downtown. Brav moved into his first professional office at that point – a six-foot by seven-foot space equipped with the desk he still uses today.

In 1977 Brav & Foreman Construction partnered with Lazar Construction of New York to become BFL Construction Company, which enabled the contractor to embark on larger commercial projects. The first was the 22- story Arizona Bank Plaza Tower (now Bank of America Plaza), also downtown.

Six years later, Brav acquired sole ownership of the corporation. Fast-forward almost four decades and BFL is ranked as one of Tucson’s “top 10” commercial contractors. Brav is particularly proud that the average tenure for his 26 employees is more than 10 years; half have been with the company from 10 to 35 years.

For Brav, certain contracts stand out as watershed events that gave the company unique and important experience. They include the construction of Century Park 16 movie theaters, major remodeling at the IBM facility and the medical pavilion at Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, and the Ventana Medical Systems campus at Innovation Park in Oro Valley.

“When BFL built a state-of-the-art campus for us ten years ago, it allowed us to bring our scientists, engineers and others together under one roof. That close collaboration enables us to bring products to market more quickly,” said Gregg Forszt, Principal Project Manager at Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., which develops and manufactures medical diagnostic instruments used for cancer detection. This new facility “has had a tremendous impact on our growth.”

BFL continues to be involved in the expansion of the Ventana Medical Systems facilities, which presently total 350,000 square feet.

Over time, BFL has completed a wide range of projects, including new construction, renovation and expansion of medical facilities, office complexes, retail centers, churches and schools.

Most of BFL’s projects have been in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties and southeastern Arizona. There are some notable exceptions, including the construction of the Hon-Dah Resort and Casino in Pinetop, Arizona and Cineplex Odeon movie theaters in three states,  in addition to the Foothills Mall location in Tucson. Brav said his decision to keep BFL primarily local is based on his love of the desert and his preference to live in Tucson.

Projects currently underway include the Pima County Joint Technological Education District (JTED) campus on Tucson’s eastside and a clinic for El Rio Community Health Center in the El Pueblo Neighborhood.

The advancement of technology has played a key role in the evolution of BFL and the industry at large.

“Today technology is a critical managerial tool for ensuring that we stay on top of the thousands of details that come together to make a project work,” he said.

Technology has stepped up the flow of information, allowing the company to communicate and move rapidly – whether estimating costs, scheduling subcontractors, digitizing plans for distribution or providing clients with reports and photos. BFL operates on a paperless system – at least as paperless as possible in a field that relies on big rolls of site maps and floorplans.

How has the recession affected BFL?

Brav states BFL has no debt, and remains strong by continuing to be fiscally conservative and making strategic adjustments as necessary.

“It takes a tremendous amount of experience to understand the pitfalls of the profession. Business is cyclical and construction is inherently risky financially,” he said. “But there is an aspect of a slower time that is very exciting. We have more time to talk with people and expand our client base.”

Brav says BFL strives to create its market by proactively seeking business from companies that want to engage in a collaborative process and who recognize the advantage of bringing the contractor in at the beginning for the design phase.

“It takes more effort to be involved up front,” Brav said. But this approach – known in the industry as an integrated project team delivery method – is more effective than the traditional linear process of design, bid and build. Early involvement enables BFL to provide input at the point where construction costs are determined and can best be controlled.

Brav also puts his seemingly limitless energy to work on behalf of the community.

“Because BFL has built, renovated and expanded several of our clinic sites, Garry understands the important role El Rio plays in keeping Tucsonans healthy,” said Brenda Goldsmith, executive director of El Rio Health Center Foundation. “He and his employees have been extremely generous in helping us provide life-changing medical and dental care for people who are living below the federal poverty level.”

Brav has been actively engaged with the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Tucson for more than 20 years, spearheading several of the organization’s fundraising efforts. According to Denis Cournoyer, district executive director of the Great West Division for ACS, Brav was largely responsible for the success of the society’s campaign to secure new local headquarters in the late ’90s. For his dedication, in 2005 ACS honored him with the Gift of Life Award.

Brav and BFL have also supported United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Tucson Urban League, COPE Community Services, Carondelet Foundation and many other charitable organizations. Other honors include the Urban League’s Man of The Year and the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Community Service Award.

BFL was voted “Best Place to Work” in the 2004 Wells Fargo Copper Cactus Awards.

Brav said he relishes commercial construction because it’s entrepreneurial. “There are no limits to what you can do,” he said. “Every job is different; every day is different.”

While Brav thrives on the creativity and variety in his work, he stresses there are standards of performance and accountability that remain the same
regardless of the project.

“In our business, there are so many moving parts, and endless obstacles are put in our path every day. But we don’t let that stop us from moving forward. I convey to every new employee that when you work here, you take responsibility for what you are supposed to be doing. You must have a vision to be successful.”