The Memphis Builder's Exchange
Photography by Amie Vanderford
In the fiercely competitive construction industry, contractors and subcontractors are constantly looking for that next job.
For more than 100 years, many of those businesses have turned to the Memphis Builder’s Exchange to help find it.
The trade organization is essentially a clearinghouse for construction projects put out to bid. Members can visit the plan room – either online or in person – to get all the blueprints, drawings and specifications necessary to bid on a project.
Mike Jones, vice president of American Tile Co. Inc., estimates that about half of the tile, granite and terrazzo contractor’s work comes from bidding on projects found on the Exchange.
Jones is currently serving his third consecutive term as president of the trade organization, but has been using the plan room to build American Tile’s business for about 30 years.
Jones says that while the market for new construction has improved, competitors are still “cutting it to the bone” when it comes to pricing. Having a resource like the Builder’s Exchange to find new jobs has been a huge benefit.
Don Sloan describes the Exchange simply as a “source for potential business.”
Sloan, estimator/project manager of Chris Woods Construction Co. Inc., says his company doesn’t use the plan room for business generation as much as it used to because much of its work is negotiated. But he often uses the service to enlist subcontractor bids for various projects the general contractor might be working on. He currently has two active projects in the Exchange’s pipeline.
Members of the Builder’s Exchange pay an annual fee of $450 and have the option to subscribe to the online plan room for $50 per month. Sloan describes the online subscription as a “no brainer,” and says he logs in almost every day.
“When you think about money that any company spends on promotion and advertising, (membership is) pennies on an annual basis,” Sloan says.
Jones echoes the Builder’s Exchange value proposition.
“We feel like we’re getting our money’s worth on the leads and the information we need on who’s bidding and even the follow up on who got the job,” Jones says.
The Builder’s Exchange may be old, but it’s not antiquated. The organization has invested in technology and its online plan room, which has changed the game for many contractors and subcontractors who use the service.
Of course some remain old school, preferring to go to the Exchange offices in person and peruse plans. But members can get all the same documents by logging on to the online plan room at any time.
The Builder’s Exchange maintains a staff of four and counts about 425 members. One of the staff’s chief responsibilities is the weekly bulletin, which is sent every Wednesday to the organization’s membership and details the new projects coming up for bid.
All of the projects that make their way through the Builder’s Exchange are commercial and many are public projects that require an open bid process.
While contractors use it to solicit business, architects use the Builder’s Exchange to make sure they get as many qualified contractor and subcontractor bids as possible. Scott Dicus, partner with ANF Architects, says his firm primarily uses the Exchange for public work. Many private owners don’t want to publicize plans or they may have existing relationships with certain contractors and subcontractors.
Dicus contends the group is a good resource when applicable.
“They will get all the information and specifications and drawings,” Dicus says. “They’re really good at getting that in accurate form that they can give out to their members.”
While membership is primarily made up of Memphis-area businesses, projects from across the region make their way onto the Exchange on a regular basis. A Memphis-area business can bid on a project in Little Rock, Ark., or Biloxi, Miss., that it may not have otherwise known about.
The Builder’s Exchange also makes the bidding process smoother. Often subcontractors might have to call on the architect, the designer and the contractor to gather everything they need for a bid.
“The Exchange is really helpful for subcontractors because you can gather your information from one place,” Jones says.
Sloan, who also serves on the Builder’s Exchange board, is bullish on the organization’s value to the industry it serves.
“If you’re in the construction business, you need to be a member of the Builder’s Exchange.”