Five Questions with Les Juneau, President
SHB: What are you spending most of your time on right now?
Les Juneau: Right now, we’re focusing on ensuring all of our teams in projects under construction remain diligent in keeping sites clean, safe and sanitized to ensure there is no disruption in productivity. The safety of our employees and trade partners is always at the forefront of any decision we make, but right behind that comes the schedule, especially in student housing. We are currently under construction on over 3,000 beds, so our operations teams work tirelessly and creatively to maintain delivery dates. Both pre- and post-COVID-19, our preconstruction group has remained busy, primarily with off-campus student housing projects and some multiunit construction. We continue to see opportunities within the P3 market and expect to see more coming out of the pandemic as institutions deal with potential enrollment struggles.
SHB: Is business still moving forward? If so, how do you make that happen?
Les Juneau: While there is optimism within the student housing space, most are proceeding with caution as institutions and investors analyze the impacts of COVID-19, as well as assess what enrollment numbers will look like at colleges and universities returning to campus this fall. As a contractor, our primary focus is to monitor construction costs to help our clients create viable projects that balance the design of the program and the threshold of each proforma based on achievable rents.
SHB: If you had to predict, how do you think the overall year of 2020 will turn out? Ahead of 2019, on par with 2019, or behind 2019?
Les Juneau: Well no one could have predicted that we’d start 2020 with a world-wide pandemic, but we are cautiously optimistic that the second half of the year will produce favorable outcomes. Not likely what we saw pre-COVID- 19, but with the economy adjusting to this new “normal” we will likely see construction costs come down at some point with the opportunity for more projects to move forward into 2021.
SHB: Do you foresee the fundamentals of your business and how you interact with the student housing space changing as a result of COVID-19? If so, how?
Les Juneau: The best word to describe our current situation is “uncertain.” It could be late 2020 or early 2021 before the uncertainty related to COVID-19 resolves and the impact it is having on investors and institutions becomes clearer. Pushing the “go” button has been very difficult for some developers and institutions until enrollment levels stabilize and become known. Having said that, once we all figure out how to move forward in our new “normal” it’s likely that student housing will explode with private clients and higher education partners eager to get back to pre-COVID-19 life.
SHB: And on a personal level, what is the one thing you most look forward to doing once we get past this pandemic and life/society get back to “normal”?
Les Juneau: Without question, a greater emphasis within Juneau on moving the work-life balance more towards life. I definitely think that this pandemic has brought a new way of being able to do business, including flexible work hours and a more equal balance of being in the office and working from home. With that said, we are also eager to get back to the office in whatever capacity that might be. We built out our own office space in March and only got to “live” in it for a week before we started working from home, so I am eager to get back to our new space and engage with our employees on a more personal level gain.