Bay Area Firm Moves South: Skyline’s Plans for Southern California Expansion

Skyline, Sean Holliday, Rene Olivo, Rudolph & Sletten, San Diego, Orange County, Inland Empire, Balfour Beatty
Courtesy of Pedro Marroquin

By Meghan Hall

Rene Olivo, President of Skyline Construction

Skyline Enterprises has been part of the Bay Area’s commercial real estate community since 1996, and over the past five years has experienced tremendous growth as it pursues a national expansion plan. Most recently, the firm has targeted Southern California, a market that is an almost natural extension from the company’s current home base in San Francisco. The Registry spoke with Rene Olivo, president of Skyline Construction, and Sean Holliday, President of Skyline Capital Builders, on the company’s perspective of the California market.

Skyline has been involved in commercial construction in the Bay Area since 1996. Now, Skyline has made the decision to expand to Southern California.  What is it about the market that made Southern California an ideal place for Skyline to expand?  

Sean Holliday, President of Skyline Capital Builders

Sean Holliday (SH): As part of our national expansion plan, we have had our eye on Southern California for quite some time based on our existing clients’ needs up and down the West Coast, the thriving life science, biotech and multi-family markets, and the close proximity to our Northern California headquarters. We strongly believe that the key to entering new markets is hiring well engrained, local talent. They bring deep client relationships, local subcontractor knowledge, and an understanding of their market’s unique nuances. 

Last year, Rene Olivo joined Skyline’s executive team. Rene is a San Diego native who spent his entire career building Rudolph & Sletten’s Southern California presence. More recently, a group of 12 San Diego based construction professionals approached us looking for an opportunity to leverage their existing relationships to build larger, more complex commercial projects throughout San Diego, Orange County and the Inland Empire. The addition of these local industry professionals, coupled with my own experience working throughout Southern California during my 14-year career at Balfour Beatty, made for a logical decision to enter the market. 

What fundamentals does Southern California share with other markets where Skyline has grown?

Rene Olivo (RO): The Southern California construction market has a great pipeline of life science and multifamily residential work, which complements our recently expanded service offerings throughout Northern California. It gives us a chance to further grow into these markets in both geographies, and allows us to continue to service our valued clients and development partners throughout California.

On the flip side, how do you believe the Southern California market is different? 

SH:  While many of our existing clients have already asked us to build for them in San Diego or Orange County, there are a few noticeable intricacies in SoCal. One, the subcontractor market is vastly different which makes hiring local talent with deep subcontractor relationships critical to success. Also project jobsites are spread over a 100 mile radius, creating unique challenges when discussing manpower and proximity. Finally, the SoCal construction market, which has a heavier concentration in life science and multifamily projects, did not experience the same COVID-19 impact as Northern California. This allowed construction activity to remain robust throughout the pandemic.  

What are some of the challenges involved in jumping into a new market and how is Skyline navigating those hurdles? 

RO: There are many great obstacles to overcome when entering a new region. First, developing a market presence and becoming a well-known name in the industry takes time and resources, which starts with the local “boots on the ground” team located in Southern California. Also properly investing in training and integration to ensure that the new location is a seamless extension of the company.  This includes exceptional customer service on projects and internal cultural alignment. Fortunately, we have a highly proficient corporate team with executive level leadership in IT, security, human resources, safety, finance, branding, legal and more. This group is responsible for guiding the new office locations through their expansion needs and ensuring continuity between all regions.

With decades of experience in the construction industry and in the Bay Area markets, how have your previous professional experiences prepared you for Skyline’s expansion to Southern California? 

RO: I spent 12 years as Senior Vice President of Rudolph and Sletten, establishing and growing their Southern California presence into a $500 million organization with three major offices. The idea of bringing the Skyline name into SoCal, where I have a deep understanding of the marketplace and many connections, is one of the many reasons I joined the company last year.  I also spent a bulk of my career building life science and biotech projects in San Diego. This is a market sector Skyline is actively entering in both regions, so my relationships and experience lend nicely to growth in these sectors for Skyline. 

Are there any future projects that Skyline is working on currently/in the future in the Southern California region? If so, which ones are you most excited about? 

SH: We are preparing to break ground on two exciting projects, and we are seeing quite a bit of market activity despite the pandemic. In two weeks, we will break ground on a multifamily project in the Hillcrest area of San Diego and shortly thereafter we will begin a high-end retail complex in Orange County. We are also in early discussions on a significant ground up, multifamily tower in the East Village of downtown San Diego.

Looking ahead, what are Skyline’s plans for further national expansion? What markets will the firm be targeting next and why? 

SH: Our plans for national expansion are lofty. We are actively pursuing geographical and service line expansion opportunities, which are mostly driven by our clients’ needs and our desire to say “yes” to service them throughout the country. Texas and Arizona are at the top of our target list at the moment, given the continual nature of clients asking us to build there, coupled with their individual economic booms and micro economies. The key, of course, is seeking the right local leadership in each location to ensure cultural alignment and operational excellence. We are actively seeking local leaders or brands to acquire in those states.

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