We met up with B&B Construction’s Vance Ballard at East 59 Cafe in East Lake.
Vance Ballard grew up in a family where both grandparents were in the construction and real estate business with apartment complexes. “I learned how to get things done efficiently and all of the tricks of the trade. Anyone in any business who is good knows how to be efficient.”
From those roots, Ballard has built a construction company that focuses primarily on home renovation and remodeling. And he has located the business in a corridor along Oporto-Madrid Boulevard, staking out a claim for commercial renewal in an area of town in need of it.
“I have roots in East Lake. I went to St. Barnabas Catholic School when I was a kid. I can remember playing basketball in playgrounds along Oporto-Madrid. People are scared of Gate City, which is a pretty rough housing project, but it doesn’t scare me. I can make a bigger difference here than I could locating anywhere else. We have four acres of commercial property that is very affordable,” Ballard says.
Ballard is a 1995 graduate of Mountain Brook High School. In 1999, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in mechanical engineering. In addition, Ballard received his MBA from the Capstone in 2003 and went on to work for U.S. Steel as a maintenance manager, leading a team of highly skilled engineers to handle on-site repairs. Most recently, Ballard accomplished a lifelong goal by receiving a Juris Doctorate degree from Birmingham School of Law.
Prior to starting his own construction business, he was employed by McCrory Building, working on Soho Square and Broadway Park in Homewood and rebuilding schools damaged by tornadoes in Carbon Hill.
His current niche in the construction industry suits his goals and personality. “I enjoy working with customers. They are inviting you into their home, and that is an awesome responsibility. I worked by myself for a while just a Chuck and a truck, but I realized that did not offer enough legitimacy. In order to be taken seriously and be in line for bigger contracts I needed to have a home base. I created B&B and the office on Oporto-Madrid after wandering through Homewood and Avondale and Southside and basically being priced out of the market in those areas. I was fighting my way through law school and trying to build a construction company. I found this place on Oporto about four years ago. I turned up the two owners of the property and worked out a deal for both buildings,” Ballard says.
He took a slow but steady approach to creating his office complex, the former Dodd Roofing and Magic City Plumbing buildings. “When we had paying jobs we worked on those; when we had down time we worked on the office. It is amazing how slow and steady wins the race. I knew we wanted the office to have flavor and personality and speak to customers. There is an intentional wow effect when you walk in. And we used Alabama based materials throughout the construction,” he says.
Now Ballard is looking into purchasing the armory in front of Lawson Field, which would add an additional 45,000 square feet to the enterprise. “We will grow into it,” he says. Next door to B&B, space has been leased to Silverliner, which renovates and repairs Airstream trailers. He has opened up his office to include offshoots, B&B Cabinets and B&B Electric. “It is collaborative. Almost like Innovation Depot, I am planting seeds,” Ballard says.
Ballard has been pleased to see other commercial development along the Oporto corridor since he has moved in. “We have had a cabinet shop open across the street, and the mini-storage has totally redone their building. There is a new screen-printing shop. A new flooring company has located three doors down. I am not going to take credit for their success, but sometimes it just takes one to make a first move,” Ballard says.∞