Steve Ayers makes no bones about his vocal hope that several local contractors will be involved in the highly anticipated design and construction of a sports and entertainment facility in downtown Sacramento. And while he’s known as a humble person whose industry acumen, political clout and philanthropic activities stay largely under the radar, Ayers wants to be a prominent part of the project he believes will launch a downtown renaissance.
Ayers, 53, is the CEO of locally based Armour Steel. A second-generation steelworker (his father was a member of Iron Workers Local 1 in Chicago), he started in the business right after high school graduation. For the next 20 years, he followed projects around the country while working his way up the proverbial career ladder. It was after his daughter Katherine was born that he decided it was time to settle in and call Sacramento home.
In 1989, Ayers, his father and two brothers established Armour Steel. Originally a family business with a handful of employees, the company now employs more than 100 and has diversified into mechanical construction, metal stud manufacturing, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Throughout the construction industry, the company has a well-established reputation for problem solving and taking on “the impossible to-do” projects.
Ayers recently sat down with Comstock’s to share his views on the impending downtown renaissance as well as the overall state of the steel and construction industry in northern California and beyond.
“While it’s assumed that a lot of local guys don’t have the level of talent to participate in such a large project, there are several notable exceptions. There are at least a couple strong, Northern California companies that could handle the general contractor duties. If we get a local general involved, it’s more than likely many local subs will also be brought on.”
“The lead architecture firm will be an international company with arena experience. There are a lot of great companies out there that have designed sports and entertainment facilities across the country and around the world. However, there may be an opportunity for a local company to partner as the firm of record.”
“I know the new Kings ownership group wants to look for local guys to be part of the process. This is going to be a huge economic shot in the arm for the entire region. Where it’s possible, it would be best to share as much of the wealth as possible locally.”
“I’m a very hands-on person. I take pride in saying that I have touched every single project. And not in a small way, in a very active way. I spend a great deal of time on every job site, being part of the team to find solutions to scheduling, budgeting and design. In the past 24 years, Armour Steel has participated in more than 800 projects. In my total career, I have done more than 1,500.”
“Our expertise is in fast-tracked projects that are almost impossible. Those types of projects usually have scheduling and timeframe challenges as well as logistic difficulties. Right now we are working on a new Apple storefront at the Arden Fair Mall. We are bringing into the mall materials that weigh more than 20,000 pounds apiece and then placing them underneath an existing store. We are doing this without disrupting the mall’s business.”
“We’re doing the seismic retrofit at the railyard depot for the city. Nearly two years ago when we’re doing the walk through, there were five other steel companies on the site as well. While I was up climbing around the girders, the other guys were just shaking their heads. In the end, they all walked away. They said, ‘Armour, this is your cup of tea. We can’t do this.’”
“When I look at a flat set of plans, I actually see them in 3-D. As I roll open a floor plan, I visualize every bit of it. It’s interesting for me when I see these new computer programs that do the fly-by of a project. In my mind, I’ve been visualizing the same thing for probably 25 years. When I walk onto a job site, I often spot issues that others haven’t noticed for months. It’s just something that I have grown accustomed to.”
“I’m willing to go anywhere in the world for the right client. If tomorrow Turner Construction asked me to do a project in Antarctica, my response would be, ‘When do you want it done?’ That’s how I am. Many of our clients we have been doing business with since day one. We’ve done more than 100 projects with Otto Construction alone.
“The U.S. was the dominant manufacturer in the steel industry when I started my career. That has changed over time. Today, you have international standards. There is some great quality steel out there from many countries. Our firm buys steel anywhere from South Africa, Russia, South America, Japan and India. China has bought into large iron ore mines in Australia. They ship 1,000 rail cars of ore a day from Australia to China.”
“I have always worked hard and played hard. By the same token, I have always tried to balance that because life is a balance. A person has to balance family and friends, work and social life, play and charitable endeavors. To achieve that balance, a person needs a home. When my daughter was born is when I realized I needed to put my roots somewhere. And that became Sacramento.”
“I look at the new arena as a catalyst for Sacramento. It will totally reshape the landscape of the city in a positive way. It’s Sacramento. It’s about the local guys being involved. I look forward to the opportunity of being a part of it.”
Already embraced by business and city leaders as a catalyst that will ultimately launch a regional renaissance, Sacramento’s long sought and hotly debated entertainment and sports complex is finally taking shape.
It’s been quite a year for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, topped in most people’s minds by his stunning, come-from-behind effort to block the Maloof family from selling and relocating the Sacramento Kings. We sat down with him recently to discuss basketball and several other topics important to the Capital Region.