Woodward Design+Build, established in 1923 by architect and builder Carl Ellsworth Woodward, is a design-build firm delivering turn-key commercial construction services. In its early days, the company provided mostly residential architecture and construction services in and around the uptown New Orleans area. Following his storied service in World War II, Mr. Woodward returned to New Orleans and reopened the business, Carl E. Woodward, Inc., with a focus on commercial and light industrial construction.
In the 1950s, with the arrival of key leaders including the firm’s next President & CEO, Armand ‘Ace’ LeGardeur, Construction Manager John McCaskell, General Superintendent Jules Lea, and Architect Larry Case, the firm generated substantial momentum by providing innovative, budget-conscious design, construction, and pre-engineered metal building solutions to local businesses such as Coca-Cola, K&B, Shell, and the Benson Motor Company. and Shell. Larry Case reflects on the time saying, “we weren’t trying to land on the cover of a design magazine, we just wanted to give the client exactly what they wanted for the price they needed it to be.” As simple as it sounds, this humble approach jolted the business forward and allowed Woodward to earn the trust of many clients and businesses that still rely upon the firm today.
1980s Oil Bust and Recovery
A global recession and oil crisis in the 80s brought challenges for the nation and the City of New Orleans; jobs were cut in half, changing the city’s landscape and economy forever. Carl E. Woodward, Inc. was not exempt from the struggle. Through determination, ingenuity, and local support, Woodward made it through the downturn and found light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a new leader and new opportunity.
Paul Flower joined Woodward in 1970 as a structural engineer. With his powerful combination of passion, technical expertise, business acumen, and most importantly, work ethic, Paul advanced rapidly into a leadership position in the company and took the helm as President and CEO in 1986. With leaders Ace and John, plus new faces like Superintendent Donnie Johnston, Woodward muscled through the rest of the downturn to build back the business. They credit the business’s recovery to the team’s action following an unassuming call from a contact at Avondale Shipyard. Ready to jump on every opportunity, Woodward was soon awarded the opportunity to design and build a four-story floating military residence by McDermott. This pre-engineered metal structure was built on skids over water in Avondale then ferried to its destination in Norfolk, Virginia. The successful completion of this complex, transformative project signaled to the firm that they had weathered the storm, allowing leaders to look optimistically toward the future.
Under Paul’s direction, Woodward expanded service to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and diversified revenue streams to include real estate development and self-performing divisions of finish carpentry and structural steel erection. While Woodward’s offerings expanded, the firm’s original mission was steadfast—to provide design-build solutions that meet the owner’s schedule and budget. The portfolio at this time still included many light industrial and manufacturing projects for clients such as Laitram, Elmer’s, and Airgas, while growing to incorporate commercial offices, auto dealerships, education, hospitality, and multi-family developments. Most notably, Woodward built upon the mutual trust and respect earned with The Benson Organization to deliver design-build services for New Orleans Saints Indoor Practice Facility, where the Black and Gold still practice today.
Hurricane Katrina and Post-K Recovery
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding areas, leaving widespread damage to residences, businesses, institutions, and infrastructure. Woodward responded quickly to its clients and community, providing construction support in the name of recovery. The firm took immediate action at Tulane and Dillard Universities helping to ensure both campuses were able to reopen for the Spring 2006 semester. Over the two years following Katrina, Woodward executed $100 million of hurricane renovation/restoration to these esteemed universities. Other notable Katrina recovery and redevelopment efforts included extensive renovations to the U.S. Customs House, the renovation of multiple RTA maintenance facilities, and most significantly, the construction of a $100 million Marine Support Facility in Algiers at the former Naval Support site. Hurricane Katrina was a major event in Woodward’s history. Through helping our region’s businesses and institutions recover, the business grew from a $75 million company in 2005, to a $250 million company in 2008.
As Woodward experienced this post-Katrina growth in business, the company reorganized to meet the new demands. Ken Flower, who joined the firm in 2001, assumed the position of Preconstruction Manager, providing a unified leader over the architectural, engineering, and estimating departments. His foresight and leadership in all aspects of pre-construction solidified Woodward’s ability to align design goals with construction goals, inspiring the company’s name and brand change from Carl E. Woodward to Woodward Design+Build.
100th Year and Beyond
As Woodward neared its 100th year, new leadership emerged to maintain the firm’s current services while also incorporating ever-evolving methods and technologies to support efficient practices. Ken Flower stepped into the role as President in 2016. Through his leadership, Woodward has taken great steps toward sustainability, technology, diversity, and lean construction practices and has invested in the growth and success of its most important asset, its people.
From its humble beginnings as a three-person shop to now providing jobs to 200 employees building projects across the Southeast, Woodward enters its centennial celebration with respect for its founding leaders, appreciation of its trusted clients, and gratitude for all Woodward employees, past and present, who remain the single source of the company’s success and impact on our region.