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Construction News from Richardson & Richardson Construction

Boom and Bust in the 1980's

Posted by Hap Richardson | Oct 16, 2020 4:25:44 PM

We hope you are enjoying President Hap Richardson’s look back at our company history. Part III takes us into the 1980’s.

So, what were the mysterious bones we found in the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns? They appeared to be from a large bird, or maybe from a few ancient bats that died there. We even wondered if a small flock of birds somehow made their way into the Caverns and couldn’t find their way out.

Well, the truth was much simpler- after talking with some old folks that had been early visitors to the Caverns, we figured out they were chicken bones. In the early days, the lunchroom served fried chicken and when finished with a piece, people would just heave it over the rocks into the darkness!

The late 1970’s were pretty tough for construction. The country was in a recession, all the manufacturing in the Midwest had cratered, interest went to 13-15% (good if you have money, not so good if you borrow to build). We managed to get a couple of clients during this time that we worked with for many years. One was Southwestern Public Service (SPS, which became Xcel), whom we built a facility for in Carlsbad. SPS would prove to be a good client for us for the next several years

Another was The Western Company of North America (WCNA) and oilfield service company based in Fort Worth. Western was Halliburton’s main competition in fracking and acidizing oil wells, and we completed all sorts of projects for them throughout the southwest, including rebuilding a rail offloading tunnel and conveyor that had collapsed in Rock Springs, WY. Western was a very ethical company with a real character of a leader (more on that next issue).

The 1980’s opened with a bang - oil was booming and things were good. Until the bust. The oil bust of the 1980’s for the Southwestern US was far worse than the Great Recession- companies went bankrupt literally overnight. OPEC had flooded the market with oil and shut down the entire domestic oil industry in a matter of weeks. We reverted to any kind of project, no matter the size.

We managed to survive these times completing projects for GTE (telephone) and Mountain Bell (US West). In 1987, were awarded a contract for a 230,000 SF addition to the TMC Bus manufacturing plant in Roswell. Our connection to Southwestern Public Service played a big part in this, as their engineering group designed the plant. TMC had purchased General Motors’ city bus manufacturing operation and moved it to Roswell and had a very fast timeline for construction- we started in May 1987 and the plant was enclosed and equipment being set in November of that year. This contract was one of the largest in NM that year.

1988 marked a big year for R&R - in August we opened our office in Albuquerque, primarily to handle US West (now Century Link) and AT&T telephone projects. We also got a new customer in El Paso Natural Gas Company, who we completed projects for all over NM and in Arizona. These clients proved to be long term customers for us.

Topics: Insider, Manufacturing, History

Written by Hap Richardson

Hap is President of Richardson & Richardson, Inc.