In 2007 — just months before the Great Recession gripped the nation and especially the building industry — Barry Chasse took a big chance on himself, trusted partners, and the relationships they had developed during their two decades in the construction industry to date.
“We started Chasse Building Team with an eye to be a 100% local general contractor focused on building to make a difference for our teammates, our clients’ building experience, and within the local communities we serve,” Chasse said.
He earned projects across Maricopa County that kept the business going despite the real estate crash.
Taking on Tucson
By 2014, the team hit its stride and started earning projects in Pima County. It was so successful that, in 2016, Chasse and his team invested in a regional headquarters in the area.
“Pima County, and especially Tucson, has seen a whirlwind of strategic growth, and we are proud to have been a part of it for nearly 10 years now,” said Leigh-Anne Harrison, Chasse Tucson executive director. “We’ve grown right along with it, being honored with the Copper Cactus for Business Growth in 2018 and as Business of the Year in 2019.”
In addition to the honors, in late 2018, CHASSE expanded to a 3,800-square-foot Southern Arizona regional headquarter office, located at 5115 N. Oracle Road in Tucson, while working on such projects as the Tucson Premium Outlets, Gladden Farms Elementary School, and Mountain View High School College Career & Life Skills Center.
“We were growing by leaps and bounds, and then COVID-19 came along, changing the way we did everything from simple meetings to large-scale builds, not to mention the emotional toll on everyone,” Harrison said.
Resolute to help Southern Arizona cope with the pandemic while still getting critical work completed, Chasse sprang into action in several ways.
“As an essential business, we never shut down, so we had to be ultra-focused on creating systems to keep our team members, clients and their families safe first and foremost,” Harrison said. “From extra hand-washing stations to adjusting subcontractor schedules to displaying new COVID signage and coordinating deliveries to align with as little construction traffic as possible, you name it, and we did it,” Harrison said.
The Tucson team stayed in line with the new OSHA guidelines and managed to not lose a workday.
Chasse thought outside of the box to keep the lines of communication open among clients amid the pandemic and got to work on ways in which they could use their skills to help the community.
“We worked to help schools gain access to technology to allow for virtual learning as well as visited campuses to see how we could help,” Harrison said.
“We also built and installed custom hand-washing stations at 13 elementary schools across Pima County, including Butterfield, Coyote Trail, Degrazia, Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8, Estes, Gladden Farms, Ironwood, Picture Rocks, Quail Run, Rattle Snake, Roadrunner, Tanque Verde and Twin Peaks.”
Each station allowed for students to wash while safely separated and has a hose hookup so it can be moved virtually anywhere on campus.
During the height of the pandemic, Chasse completed one of its highest-profile Tucson projects, the Jan. 8 Memorial located in El Presidio Park adjacent to the Historic Pima County Courthouse. It honors the victims and survivors of the Jan. 8 when then-Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others were shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes.
“The memorial and its surrounding gardens represent a community embrace. In a single gesture, its landforms become healing arms protecting the inner memorial, where the story of Jan. 8 is told,” Harrison said.
“Carved into the landscape of El Presidio Park, the memorial is a place of contemplation and reflection where visitors can honor the victims and survivors of this tragic event, who were there to engage in democracy, and the first responders who stopped the violence and saved lives.”
Bouncing back big
Now with the pandemic easing, the Tucson team is experiencing its biggest growth.
“Today, we are 30 employees strong across Southern Arizona and counting,” Harrison said. “We are also now owners of the business.”
In late 2021, Chasse and fellow leadership surprised the entire firm by announcing it had become a 100% employee-owned firm by launching an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which Chasse nicknamed a Team Stock Ownership Plan, or TSOP for short.
“We want our employees to act and think like owners, and directly benefit from Chasse’s continued success as participants in the TSOP,” Chasse said. “The plan, which allows employees to earn stock in the firm, is designed as a long-term retirement benefit for all employees as owners.”
Under the plan, all eligible employees will earn a yearly allocation of stock and their value will increase as the value of the firm increases along with all other benefits already in place.
“The move made us feel like we like we were building our own futures right along with building up Southern Arizona,” Harrison said. “And if our current slate of projects is any indication, the future looks very bright for one and all.”
According to Harrison, just some of Chasse’s recent work includes:
• Pima Community College Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing, a 95,000-square-foot project recently completed with curriculum pathways of welding, machine tools, mechatronics, CAD design, a workforce development incubator, flexible industry training lab, and administrative offices. It also features a three-story gantry crane with 30,000-square-feet of outdoor learning space that enables the movement of materials throughout the facility for unified connection between multiple pathways.
• Mountain Vista School in the Oracle Unified School District, which received a new classroom building, which includes 10 state-of-the-art classrooms for students in fifth through eighth grades.
• Pima Community College Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, a 45,000-square-foot space that houses programs in automotive technology, diesel technology and electronic vehicle technology to meet the growing demand of dealerships and other employers for students certified in today’s technology.
Chasse also recently completed the 100,000-square-foot Tucson Airport Distribution Center as well as the Sprouts at the Landing, and they will soon wrap up the new Springhill Suites at The Bridges.