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Career building.

Deb King Advances From Clerk To Executive At Conway's Nabholz Construction Corp.

When Deb King received word she would be named the nation's "Outstanding Woman in Construction" for 1992, she was more than surprised.

"I was shocked," says King, an estimator/project manager for Nabholz Construction Corp. at Conway. "... I knew I was nominated, but I had gotten honorable mention in 1990 ... I thought that was the end of it.

"Short of the birth of my two children, it was the most wonderful moment in my life. I felt like I was accepting for all the women in construction."

The 44-year-old executive received the award at an October banquet in Tempe, Ariz. The award was presented by Arizona State University's department of construction and the National Association of Women in Construction.

King is no stranger to accolades from peers.

She was named "Constructor of the Year" in 1989 by the American Institute of Constructors' Arkansas chapter.

The national award highlighted a year in which King also became a vice president at Nabholz. That achievement is especially noteworthy since the construction industry is considered a highly competitive, closed fraternity.

King's construction career began in 1978 when she joined Nabholz as a job-cost accountant earning $4.50 an hour.

Thirteen years later, King is the first woman elected as a Nabholz corporate officer and the first woman to hold stock in the company.

What kind of hourly wage is King pulling down these days?

"$4.50 plus," she answers with a laugh.

King has spent the past 2 1/2 years working as project coordinator on Nabholz's largest contract to date, the new St. Joseph's Regional Health Center at Hot Springs.

The development, encompassing 500,000 SF in a hospital and adjoining physicians' office building, will cost $73 million. About $50 million of that is going through Nabholz.

Prior to the mammoth Hot Springs undertaking, King was project manager on five projects totaling more than $7.3 million. They were:

* The Red Cross Building in Little Rock (expansion and renovation), completed in 1988 at a cost of $2.1 million.

* TCBY Enterprises Inc. in Little Rock (four-floor finish out of corporate offices), completed in 1988 at a cost of $1.7 million.

* Southwest Homes in Little Rock (nursing home addition), completed in 1989 at a cost of $1.6 million.

* Christ The King Family Life Center in Little Rock, completed in 1985 at a cost of $1.2 million.

* Comfort Inn in Conway, completed in 1985 at a cost of $740,000.

King's job entails working with owners, architects and engineers. It also involves taking bids, creating budgets, issuing contracts, expediting materials, processing change orders and visiting job sites.

King's first job after graduating as valedictorian of her 10-member senior class at Enola High School in Faulkner County was not in construction.

It was her love of computers and willingness to work hard that ultimately led King to Nabholz and the construction industry.

"Deb led the company through its computerization in the 1980s," says Dan Nabholz, the Conway firm's chief executive officer.

Career Track

King pursued her interest in computers with the aid of a scholarship from what is now the University of Central Arkansas. But she dropped out of college to get married and raise a family. Her career track shifted from computers to retailing in 1968.

King worked for 10 years at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Conway store before taking a job with Nabholz. She had advanced to positions as merchandise manager and office manager for Wal-Mart. The logical progression would have been to become a store manager. But that would have involved relocations every few years.

"My children were in school, and that just wasn't a consideration," King says.

Even though she didn't want to move, King says, "I'm a person who doesn't like status quo. I like to have a challenge in front of me. |It's~ quite a change going from retailing to construction.

"I saw an ad in the paper for an accounting position with Nabholz. |I~ went over and interviewed. They told me I was overqualified."

King ultimately cajoled her way into a clerk's position with the construction company and helped estimators prepare job bids.

"That gave me an opportunity to learn ... about different parts of the company," King says. "To me, construction is wide open to anyone. I took advantage of learning. Don't ever look on any job as being too small or menial. If you do a good job, people will recognize you."

King became an estimator trainee in 1982.

Her big break came when she was chosen to fill the No. 2 slot on the job-site management team for two expansions of Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Conway plant. The expansions cost $10.1 million in 1982 and $4.8 million in 1984.

That led to other projects.

On the Christ The King project, King showed she could be tough when a supplier missed a scheduled delivery of important building materials.

When King called to check on the materials, the supplier promised the shipment was on a truck en route to the construction site. When the delivery still had not arrived by late in the day, King checked again. She discovered the shipment wasn't even loaded yet.

"I called him up and had a real discussion," King says. "I probably put a few choice words in with that. He was down the next day helping unload the shipment.

"I find you get people to do more if it doesn't reach that point. But there are times |when~ you have to be firm."

Where will King's career go from here?

She's in no hurry for future chapters to be written.

"I still feel I have half my life left," King says. "Age doesn't bother me. If the next 44 years are as good as the first, it will be wonderful.

"I think I've got the best of both worlds. Because I'm a woman, I get noticed when I do a good job |whereas~ that's just expected of a man."

Still, some people are taken aback when King is introduced as the person who will be heading their project.

That was the reaction of Monsignor J. Gaston Hebert of Christ The King.

"He looked at me and said, 'I wasn't expecting a woman,'" King says. "I could tell he wasn't happy, and he tested me. But by the time we left there, we were good friends.

"I just looked at it as a challenge, a chance to prove myself."

King continues proving herself and receiving recognition along the way.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:New Businesses; Deb King of Nabholz Construction Corp.
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 9, 1991
Words:1092
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