A Watertight Business
Oscar Orduno, Inc. is putting down deep roots in big Texas projects
When Oscar Orduno saw his shot, he took it–and hit the bullseye.
In the six years that have passed since Oscar formed Oscar Orduno, Inc., the Texas-based company has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, employing more than 200 people and working on contracts throughout the state. Operating primarily as a subcontractor, the company, of which Oscar is President, has made a name for itself in earth retention, shotcrete applications and geotechnical engineering.
Most new companies start out with small projects, but Oscar Orduno, Inc. went in another direction entirely. Oscar’s first project consisted of providing architectural shotcrete on the $2.7 billion construction of an underground express lane/toll road system beneath what may be the busiest stretch of road in Dallas: the portion of I-635 (LBJ Freeway) that runs between U.S. 75 and I-35E.
Before launching his company and securing this contract, Oscar graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in construction management, then went to work for Craig Olden, Inc. In 2007, he became a project manager, then when Craig Olden, Inc. was acquired by Hayward Baker, Inc. (now rebranded as part of the Keller group of companies), he was promoted to senior project manager.
“The tunnel project began in 2011,” Oscar says. “From 2011 to 2014, I was managing all the below-grade wall construction on I-635.” Taking a Shot(crete) In April 2014, as a contract for architectural shotcrete on the LBJ Freeway expansion came up for bid, Oscar saw the opportunity to go into business for himself.
It wasn’t his first foray into business. Oscar has a family background in the bakery business; his father, uncles and brothers all have bakeries, and Oscar and his wife started their own bakery—El Sol Panaderia Y Pasteleria in Irving, Texas—back in 2011. When Oscar decided to start Oscar Orduno, Inc., the bakery served as collateral. But he had to move fast, particularly because his newly formed company was trying to land a piece of one of the largest construction projects in Dallas at the time.
“It helped that I had already been on the project for three years,” Oscar says. “Managing the largest, most complex portion of the project under my previous employer gave the general contractor confidence I knew what I was doing.”
“We had to rush,” Oscar continues. “In a matter of two to three weeks, the general contractor needed to get this contract started. I already had a legal tax consultant working on the legal setup for the bakery, and had him set up Oscar Orduno, Inc. very quickly. We set up the financials, secured a line of credit to gear up, got the equipment we needed and started the job on time with 10 employees. Fortunately, the general contractor paid very quickly, so when I was paid, I would take that back to the bank to increase my line of credit, which gave me more bandwidth to grow.”
Though the company’s first contract was in shotcrete application, Oscar had bigger ideas. He secured additional contracts to provide earth retention systems on the ongoing LBJ expansion. In addition to expanding into earth retention work, the company has added wall remediation, underpinning/specialty foundations, erosion control and geotechnical applications to its portfolio of services. The company’s initial success has echoed through its work that has followed, leading to a record of substantial growth.
“In 2014, we generated $6 million in gross revenue,” Oscar recalls. “In 2015, it was $11 million. In 2016, $22 million. In 2017 it was almost $33 million, then $36 million in 2018. In 2019 we brought in $38 million. We were targeting $50 million in 2020, but with the COVID pandemic, we’ll likely fall somewhere in the mid- $40 million range.”
That financial success is reflected in the company’s growing fleet of equipment. Oscar Orduno, Inc. is the largest owner of Doosan equipment in North America, with nearly 60 pieces from the South Korean manufacturer. The company also owns more than 20 drills, employs five full-time mechanics to maintain all the equipment, and fabricates its own steel. With 220 employees today, Oscar Orduno, Inc. has the ability to handle 16 to 18 different projects at a time.
“An in-house engineering firm was a must-have. Having in-house engineering allows us to innovate, optimize designs and makes us more competitive.” Oscar Orduno, President, Oscar Orduno, Inc.
Oscar expanded his company further in 2018 by adding Orduno Design Services, LLC, an in-house design and engineering entity.
“An in-house engineering firm was a must-have,” Oscar says. “Having in-house engineering allows us to innovate, optimize designs and makes us more competitive.”
Water is one of the most challenging obstacles a company like Oscar’s can face, and the common theme in two of his most difficult projects to date. A new Austin-based Google building was one (see “Signature Projects” sidebar for more details), and the other was a Dallas project where his crew encountered unforeseen water.
“Nobody knew water would be there,” Oscar says. “The wall started to move as we were building it. For something like that, the remediation is very complicated. When something starts going bad, you’re reacting, and it has to be fast. That was Thanksgiving weekend in 2017. We jumped on it with our engineering and operations team and had to work through the holiday to come up with the right solution, but we got it done and completed the project successfully.”
“Those jobs are the ones that push you to the next level,” he adds. “They make you better or they break you. This unified our company, brought us closer together and we knocked it out.”
Oscar saw a slowdown in business with the onset of COVID-19, which had a big impact on U.S. construction in its first three to four months. Since then, however, infrastructure work has picked up tremendously, he says, with highway projects being awarded all over the state.
“We have lots of new infrastructure projects scheduled to start in the next two to three months,” Oscar adds. “We still have lots of commercial projects on hand, but by the first of next year, infrastructure will overtake it.”
A New Home
There is one project Oscar is particularly anxious to get started—a new headquarters for Oscar Orduno, Inc. Currently, the company leases its office space in Las Colinas and maintains its shop facilities in Saginaw, about 30 miles apart. Recently, Oscar purchased a 10-acre piece of land in Grand Prairie, where he will build his company’s new home.
“We have the plans and permits ready to go,” Oscar says. “This piece of land used to be part of a golf course. We designed a modern office building where the clubhouse was, plus a big industrial building for shop operations. We were about to start construction in March, but when COVID-19 happened, we hit the brakes. We’re eager to get it going. When it’s complete, we’ll have about 30,000 square feet of space combined.”
Oscar is quick to share credit for his success with his clients and business contacts, with his employees, and with his partnership with The Blue Book Network. When his company was just getting started, he says The Blue Book Network was a huge help in putting the name forward, and the networking opportunities provided an invaluable resource to meet other contractors and find potential opportunities.
“Sometimes we get calls from companies I don’t know that find us through Blue Book,” Oscar says. “They’ve not only helped us find contracts, but helped contractors find us. The work we do is very specialized. General contractors that are new to the area don’t know who to call, but Blue Book puts them in touch with us.”
Oscar is still in his 30s; recently, he was honored with inclusion in the Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list for 2020. That youth gives him a long view as to the future of his company. “I’m not shy about taking this company out of Texas,” Oscar says. “We’ll do another push and we’ll take it to another level somewhere else. We’re still very young. We’re going to achieve a lot of things. I’m not eager to be really, really big. But we have potential and we have time.”