UT and UTC contracts a tasty testament to Leon Williams’ understanding of the college dining scene

    The college lunch lady is long gone, but students are eating better than ever

    Long-gone are the days of the college-level lunch lady, passing out portions on a cafeteria plate.
    Forget the meat-and-threes and fish Fridays on college campuses. College students today want choices, choices and more choices. And they love their tried-and-true brands like Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels. We have built those and more – Subway, Pizza Hut, and Dunkin’ Donuts among them – on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus.

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    Our design-build firm has also built numerous restaurants on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus and are commencing a project that will bring a Dippers, Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Provisions on Demand (P.O.D.) convenience store to a new dormitory complex.

    We know what Vols and Mocs want, and we know how to build their favorite franchises. We also keep on top of campus dining trends to make sure we are ready to roll with any new concepts or opportunities that might come our way.

    Here are five things to consider about college campus dining these days:

    1. Options. Prospective students will take available food and dining options into account when deciding on a college. Thus the drive to transform and improve campus food options across the country.

    2. Customization. Food allergies are on the rise and college kids want to customize their orders because of health or dietary concerns, explaining the lure of pizza places and sandwich shops with customizable options.

    3. Demand. Food services directors take feedback seriously, and their restaurant selections will reflect demand. That may explain the meteoric rise of franchises like Starbucks and fast-food restaurants.

    4. Grab and go. College life can be demanding and hectic, and students avoiding fast food still want to pop in and out of a place with a banana and juice or a coffee and muffin. Premade food options are in demand, and explain the prevalence of convenience-type stores like Provisions on Demand.

    5. Cost. Traditional meal plans at colleges cost thousands of dollars a year, offering limited hours and heavy and hearty choices. College students these days want to set their own budgets and want access to lighter fare. Why wade through a cafeteria line when all you want is a bagel or simple sandwich?

    Of course, trends come and go, but it’s likely the dining options we provide on campuses will be in demand for quite some time. We’ll be listening and keeping up with the food trends, and likely won’t rue the loss of the lunch line, and lunch lady, anytime soon.

    See a sampling of our college dining work here, and contact us for more information on our campus design-build solutions.

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    Leon Williams Contractors can handle site selection and accompanying challenges

    We can navigate the complications and variables of where to locate your business

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    When it comes time to choosing a site for your East Tennessee or Knoxville-area restaurant, retail shop, clinic or church, we are sure you are aware of the “three Ls:” Location, location, location.

    While this is a prime and obvious consideration for virtually any new commercial construction, there are other things to take into consideration before committing to a project location, including building size, visibility, taxes, site access and parking.

    Leon Williams Contractors’ preplanning and consultation services and design-build approach can limit the headaches involved for business owners wanting to construct a new business or expand an existing one. Here are five things we keep in mind.

    1. Building size: Is the site large enough to accommodate your building? It could appear so, but you must take into account other needs, including parking, storm water detention, required setbacks, buffers, signage, and other features such as a deck or patio.
    2. Visibility: This is obviously a function of location, but is not necessarily based on how much vehicular traffic passes by the site. Pedestrian traffic is a factor, too. There are location analyses available, but one surprising rule of thumb is to locate near competitors. This means there’s an established pattern of people coming to the area for a similar service.
    3. Soil and Environmental: Many sites may appear to be a great spot for your new business, but what is not as evident is what could be underground. Sites can have environmental issues that may require remediation such as contaminants in the soil or hazardous materials in existing buildings. Other concealed concerns with sites can be soils that are unsuitable for typical foundations, sink holes, and bedrock.
    4. Site access: Just because a business is sited next to a busy roadway doesn’t mean automatic big paydays. If ingress or egress to your location is difficult, that could sink sales quickly. Avoid complicated intersections or sites from where it’s difficult to make a left turn or otherwise enter the roadway. Depending on the road classification, proximity to intersections, and other governing requirements, the number of access points may be limited. Limited access can cause problems with deliveries, drive-thru queuing, and general circulation on the site.
    5. Parking: Many municipalities have formulas of varying complexity determining how much parking must be provided for various types of businesses or services (for instance, one parking spot per 200 square feet of retail building). There are also ADA requirements to keep in mind for handicapped parking, and some local governments even require landscaped medians and a set number of trees. The rules can get even more complicated if municipalities govern or limit the extent of impervious surfaces.

    Building and opening a new office or shop entails much more than hanging a shingle and opening your doors. Site selection is but one step in the complicated journey toward planning and opening a new business. Our construction preplanning services and design-build approach can streamline the process so you can get on with the business of raising your profile and running your business.

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    Leon Williams reflects on East Tennessee design-build highlights of 2017

    From Dairy Queen to Which Wich, it was another great year

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    Thanks to a fantastic crew and clients, it was another great year at Leon Williams Contractors LLC!

    We worked on campuses, in shopping centers and in cities across East Tennessee. We put our design-build talents to work on restaurants and retail, and have a raft of projects to focus on in the coming year. We will continue to aspire to being the best design-build firm for our customers in the retail, franchise, worship and restaurant sectors.

    As we look forward to 2018, let’s pause for a quick look back at some of our most notable achievements of 2017.

    • We rang in the new year with the finishing touches on a new Dairy Queen Grill and Chill on West Broadway in Maryville, bringing the iconic burger and ice-cream destination back to Blount County. The project, built from the ground up, was contracted by Fourteen Foods, the leading franchisor of Dairy Queen restaurants.
    • We partnered with Studio Four Design to construct two new Which Wich Superior Sandwiches restaurants, one in Alcoa and one in Fountain City. We worked with franchisee Jeff Hensley to bring the unique restaurant to Alcoa, and it opened its doors in April. The Fountain City location, also operated by Jeff Hensley, has been serving patrons since June.
    • We built the new Sleep Outfitters, a division of Innovative Sleep Solutions, on Foch Street in Maryville. This brings a range of mattress brands and top sleep specialists to Blount County consumers. Check out a time-lapse video of the store construction
    • We designed and built three new food-service options for students, staff and the public at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. We were contracted to build a new Panda Express, a Steak ‘N Shake and a Provisions on Demand, a new concept in campus food services.
    • We also remodeled the Thompson-Boling Arena dining area. Food options at Thompson-Boling now include Which Wich, Bento Sushi, Grab n Go salads and sandwiches and the Southern Kitchen hot bar. This was the 22nd project we have done for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
    • We were still grading the site and finalizing building plans at the end of last year, but we were able to bring Foothills Church in Maryville out of the ground this year and are excited for its completion in 2018.

    We owe yet another year of success to the dedication of our partners, clients and employees, and we wish you and your family a prosperous New Year. Contact us today for information on how we can help you meet your design-build needs in 2018.

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    Leon Williams Contractors stands up to weather

    We have ways to avoid common construction delays

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    As sure as the sun will rise, weather is a No. 1 schedule-killer in the construction industry.

    Utilizing the services of a design-build firm can certainly help bank project time on the front end. Our preconstruction planning and careful client consultation allows us to commence work quickly, order materials up front and plan ahead for any expected delays because of inclement weather in Knoxville or elsewhere in East Tennessee.

    But then there’s the weather, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. However there are some processes in place that can limit the weather delays that commonly prevent construction projects from coming in on time and on budget. Here are some ways we ensure that weather delays are kept at a minimum on our projects, saving our client’s money and getting the job done on time:

    1. Understand the climate. There is a difference between climate and weather, yes, but weather trends help dictate climate. In East Tennessee, fall is typically the driest season of the year. This provides a good window for work such as grading and site preparation, but comes just ahead of the coldest time of year.
    2. Schedule wisely. March is known as a windy month, so it doesn’t always make sense to schedule projects such as roofing or framing during that period. Winter, which can be cold and rainy in East Tennessee, might be a good time for interior work if the building under construction is sufficiently sealed against the elements.
    3. Protect employees. In the summer, work days can start early, especially during the peak hot-weather months. Daily high temperatures typically occur around 3 or 4 p.m., so it’s wise to get workers off the site by then. This will avoid heat-related injuries that could set projects back even more if you have to replace stricken employees.
    4. Make hay while the sun shines. As the old saying suggests, it makes sense to accelerate work when conditions are most favorable or poor weather is on the horizon.
    5. Site preparation. It’s good practice to make sure a period of heavy rain won’t wash out erosion- control measures, flood the site or damage project roadways or walkways. This means keeping an eye on the weather and taking appropriate precautions ahead of time. Having to repair storm damage to a site only makes a weather delay all the longer.

     

    Be it heat, cold, sleet, snow or rain, we’ll finish your design-build project as quickly as possible, regardless of what Mother Nature has to say.

     

    Contact us today for more information on our design-build services in Knoxville, Maryville and throughout East Tennessee.

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    Construction labor crunch = Greater Knoxville opportunities

    Leon Williams Contractors an attractive place to work

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    “Labor shortage.”

    “Major fixes needed.”

    “Shifting construction plans.”

    Google it if you dare, but that’s just the hint of headlines that abound about a growing labor scarcity in the design-build construction fields.

    But what some may call scarcity, we call opportunity. Our current labor force at Leon Williams Contractors is qualified, skilled and highly sufficient, but we are always looking for skilled additions to our team.

    The U.S. unemployment rate – at 4.3 percent as of Aug. 10, is back to pre-Recession levels, if not less. Many markets – including Knoxville – are seeing jobless rates below 3 percent. That means there is stiff competition for construction laborers and skilled craftsmen in the Knoxville and Maryville areas.

    That also means skilled workers can shop themselves around before committing to new opportunities. But our history and reputation as a leading East Tennessee design-build firm already makes us stand apart from other companies, and we tend to attract and retain the best minds and hands in the industry.

    Send your resume today to info@lwcontractorstn.com if you are interested in joining our team and taking your construction career to the next level.

    In the meantime, for some perspective on the opportunities that await, here is a quick by-the-numbers snapshot of the current labor situation:

    • 56 percent of home builders report a lack of skilled laborers is a major issue.
    • 75 percent of builders say they have recently increased wages.
    • 40 percent of the workforce in some markets is foreign born. Many of those workers left the American workforce during the Recession.
    • 500,000 skilled electricians and carpenters are needed nationally. If a national infrastructure-repair plan ever came to fruition that number would grow to 1.1 million.

    The issue is complex, and the answers are not easy, but we are committed to maintaining a workforce that can build the Maryville, Knoxville and East Tennessee economies.

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    Leon Williams Contractors can ensure your medical facility buildout goes well

     

    Be it urgent care or a full doctor’s office, we keep patients in mind

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    By some counts, there are nearly 11,000 urgent-care and retail medical clinics in the U.S.

    The reasons for their proliferation are manifold, but most patients cite convenience, better accessibility and lower relative costs for care. Most doctors agree such clinics are largely acceptable for urgent services such as colds and flu or routine services such as blood tests, but the clinics should not be considered primary-care centers. Regular medical checkups are best handled by your personal physician to ensure continuity of care. And of course, if you just cut your fingers off with a table saw, you want to head straight for the emergency room.

    While convenient and cost-effective, retail clinics and walk-in medical providers are very utilitarian in nature. That means they probably lack design features customary in some health care settings to put patients more at ease and reduce the cold, clinical feel of a medical environment.

    Leon Williams Contractors has designed and built medical facilities for years. We can put our design-build expertise to work on a new eye clinic, dentist office or even urgent-care center. But we will never scrimp on design and appearance. That’s one benefit to our design-build system: Clients can engage early and often to ensure the design of their medical facility is exactly what they want.

    Here are a few things we will keep in mind when envisioning, and ultimately building your medical facility, in Knoxville, Maryville or beyond:

    • Tech-savvy. Technology is a major driver in medical facility design. Some technology components, such as check-in kiosks, should definitely be accounted for at the design stage. Some medical facilities even incorporate pneumatic tubes to more quickly move lab results around a building.
    • Room to grow. Allow for expansion and reorientation. Given the vast changes in the way health care is provided, we can ensure your design allows for reconfiguration if another doctor joins the practice or new services are offered.
    • Let in the light. Research indicates patient outcomes improve when medical facilities are well-lighted via sunlight. Our experts can ensure your design includes ample light and other features, including color choice, so your patients are relaxed and receptive when their name is called for care.
    • Meet halfway. Some medical facilities overdo it with fancy and redundant accoutrements that can drive up prices. We can help ensure your facility is attractive and aesthetically pleasing without becoming too showy.

    There are enough patients to go around, and there’s a reason for the explosive growth of urgent-care centers and walk-in retail clinics. But whether you are an eye doctor, dentist or physician wanting to build or expand a “traditional” medical facility, we will bring decades of expertise. Our design-build process can accelerate you toward your ultimate goal: Offering the best care and service to your patients.

    Contact us today for more information about medical facility design trends or to discuss your doctor’s office design-build options.

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    Start thinking outside the big box

    Leon Williams Contractors customers should be aware of changing retail scene

    There’s so much bad press about the future of brick-and-mortar retail lately, it’s as if we’re all going to revert to a hunter-gatherer society with occasional drone deliveries to our crude shelters.

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    Leon Williams Contractors – a leading design-build firm specializing in franchise, medical facility and church construction — has no shortage of robust retail projects in the Knoxville area, make no mistake. But we are not blind to the fact traditional models of retail are undergoing substantial change, thanks in large part to the proliferation of online shopping and home-delivery systems.

    We are by no means experts in retail trends, but it’s good for our customers to keep in mind some of these changes when it comes time to siting a store.

    While multiple industries, including journalism, department stores and network television, have indeed seen some dramatic shifts courtesy of the digital revolution, all is not lost – at all. Some evolution is in order in the retail industry, that is true, but here are some ways to stanch the bleeding of traditional retail storefronts:

     -Make your brand stand for something. Millennials, a future gold mine of a generation increasingly coming into its own in terms of buying power and wealth, don’t just want to buy a new button-down Oxford. They want to support brands like REI that have core values like conservation and philanthropy. This is where robust social media comes into play: Trumpet your values to stand apart and ultimately bring traffic into your store.

    -Position yourself. Some feel the future of retail lies in its presence in mixed-use developments that are anchored by establishments and services that won’t likely fade from fashion any time soon. Think fitness centers, restaurants and movie theaters. Many developments are even incorporating the ultimate destination place into their layouts: Residential units or houses. They represent a literally captive customer base.

    -Engage the community. Incorporate meeting spaces into your store, and offer classes or lessons that coincide with your brands and products. Own a clothing store? Consider seasonal fashion shows that have a charitable component. Own a restaurant? Offer cooking classes that feature your signature dishes.

    -Unleash your employees. Happy employees can be your best brand ambassadors. Encourage them to tout your store, its values and offerings on social media. Make sure they exercise common sense, of course, and you want to have a solid social-media policy in place, but the buzz for virtually all brands now begins in the digital sphere. The risk of a rogue employee is outweighed by the weight people give to online engagement.

    Traditional storefronts are rapidly entering the evolve-or-die reality of modern consumerism. There will always be a place for hands-on commerce in our economy, but it’s time to start thinking outside the big box.

    As an East Tennessee design-build firm with endless creative contacts, Leon Williams Contractors can help you do that. Give us a call today at 865-982-1734.

    Keeping these tips in mind will help you better navigate the changing consumer landscape and ensure you have a clear vision in mind when it comes time to step into the design-build process. When that time comes, give us a call at 865-982-1734.

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    Five ways preconstruction planning saves money

    How to benefit from streamlining your next commercial construction project

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    Studies indicate a direct correlation between project preconstruction planning and ultimate cost savings.

    It makes good business sense to get all clients and contractors on board before a project commences. At Leon Williams Contractors, a leading design-build firm in East Tennessee, preconstruction consultation is offered on all our projects as part of our comprehensive business model.

    Here are five ways the preconstruction process can yield savings over the life of a project:

    1. Preconstruction establishes the scope of work and an overall budget ahead of time to ensure proper financing is in place. Our design-build model brings all stakeholders – designers, contractors and clients – to the table ahead of time to discuss goals, feasibility, timelines, materials and expectations before a project begins. This prevents expensive change orders or delays should the project begin to creep past its budget.
    2. Site evaluation. The preconstruction process can be used to communicate the need for any possible additional site work before construction begins. Unanticipated site remediation or additional excavating costs can be identified and planned for ahead of time, eliminating delays or unexpected cost overruns. Infrastructure or utility needs and challenges can also be identified ahead of time.
    3. Preconstruction planning ensures all necessary permits are identified and in place before work begins, an assurance that can prevent costly work delays and citations.
    4. The longer a project takes, the more expensive it becomes. Preconstruction meetings can allow us – and our clients – to set schedules for equipment or materials deliveries, plan around holidays and anticipate potential issues that may arise during the life of the project. This prevents work delays and scheduling snafus.
    5. Value engineering. Preconstruction planning allows us to take a wider look at the scope of a project and immediately identify potential cost savings in design, infrastructure, and electrical or plumbing plans.

     

    This is just a sampling of the ways preconstruction planning can benefit our clients and streamline projects. It’s also a reminder that we will be with you every step of the way and see your project to fruition from beginning to end.

    Contact us today to learn how our comprehensive design-build process can bring your project in on time and under budget.

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    Building a church can be a challenge, but keep the faith

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    There are some potential pitfalls and challenges, but Leon Williams Contractors can help ensure construction of a new worship facility goes as smoothly as possible.

    Most churches encounter cost-overruns the congregation is unprepared – or unable – to cover. That’s why working with a design-build firm can ensure your project comes in on time and under budget. At Leon Williams Contractors, we’ve been building houses of worship in the Maryville and Knoxville areas for years and we subscribe to the design-build process because of its ability to keep costs in check and produce the facility that is right for the needs of your church and congregation.

    Here’s a quick look at common challenges associated with church construction:

    Planning and design

    Make sure your church planning committee has a good idea of what purposes and needs the new church will meet. You should also know your budget constraints and commit to staying within those guidelines. We can help with this process on the front end to help mold the design to meet both the program and budget.

    Cost

    Churches typically pay for construction costs through money on-hand; capital fundraising; and traditional borrowing. Needless to say, failure to remain within the financing footprint can wreak havoc on an entire ministry and threaten the very future viability of a congregation. Make sure “soft” costs –such as fees, permits, furnishings, audio, video, lighting, signage – beyond the scope of the building contract are kept in mind.

    Contracting

    This step is key to locking in a cost and reducing financial risk. Your congregation or diocese should make sure you have a qualified representative in place to negotiate and set terms on your behalf. One advantage to a design-build firm is the streamlining of negotiations. At Leon Williams Contractors, we can contract the designer of the project and walk thru the process as your representative. We also have decades of experiences building houses of worship, and understand and can anticipate the needs and challenges that may arise.

    Variables

    The cost per square foot of church construction hinges on a range of factors, including location, size, style, and volume. The site of the church can have a big impact on cost, depending on the amount of necessary site preparation, including ease of excavation and utility infrastructure needs. Site preparation can be a big determining factor in the ultimate cost of your worship facility. Ensure your budgeting is liberal to avoid potentially devastating cost overruns. Site assessment is a primary part of our pre-construction consultation.

    Master plan

    Make sure your church has a master plan – and make sure the project falls within the master plan. The plan should entail midrange and long-range visions for your congregation and its mission. It’s important to ensure your ultimate building plans fall within this master plan.

    Building a new worship facility – or expanding an existing one – may seem like a daunting proposition, but Leon Williams Contractors, which has built more than a dozen worship facilities in the Knoxville area, can ensure it blossoms.

    If you or your congregation is interested in learning more about how design-build construction can more efficiently and effectively manage costs and deadlines for your new church or expansion, give us a call at 865-982-1734 or fill out our contact form today.

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    A beginner’s guide to office renovation

    For many businesses, the idea of renovating an office space offers excitement about the possibilities that can be accomplished. From expanding an existing space to prepare for new employees to renovating a new location to meet the demands for products and services, the team at Leon Williams Contractors have worked with business owners to design and manage office renovations that have helped drive growth for our clients. Office Renovation

    A company that is looking for an office renovation partner may be beginners when it comes to planning out the extent of changes for their office designs. The design/build, pre-construction consultation and value engineering services offered by Leon Williams Contractors can help ensure success for your office renovation in Blount County, Maryville, Knoxville, Lenoir City and East Tennessee.

    Before you get started on an office renovation product, there are a number of factors that you need to keep in mind to help drive success for your renovation, including:

    Plan Ahead
    Before starting on your office renovation project, the best advice is to plan ahead for what your business is trying to accomplish. Are you designing the renovations to add staff, to offer more products and services or are you simply tired of the way that your interior looks? Planning ahead for the future of your business in one year, three years and even ten years in the future can help you determine the best plans for your office renovations. The design/build services of Leon Williams Contractors can be incorporated into your planning to help decide the best use of your office space to meet the future demands of your business.

    Assess your current property
    If your current business property is older, having the team at Leon Williams Contractors engage in a site assessment can help save you money in the long run. Your existing building may not be up to code, which will necessitate updating of your plans for your office renovation prior to the beginning of work. In addition, while using existing systems might save you money in your upfront costs during a renovation, your business may be better served by updating to new systems to lower long term operating costs in your renovated office space.

    Determine your budget
    While it may be exciting to think about all of the changes that you could implement during your office renovation, determining your budget for your office renovation can help you prevent over-extending what you want to accomplish for your business in the long term. Extensive renovations to your office space need to be prepared with your future business goals in mind, especially if you determine that growth in your business means that you move to a larger space in the future. Decide if the renovations that you are making will make your building more likely to sell if you decide to expand your business operations and incorporate value engineering services from Leon Williams Contractors to find the best use of your office renovation budget.

    When your business has determined that the time is right for an office renovation, leverage the experience and knowledge of our teams to help you prepare your business for your future needs. For more information on how we can assist you with your office renovation requirements, contact the team at Leon Williams Contractors today to learn how our knowledge and expertise can be used to your advantage.

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