Oelrich builds strong career, community ties
Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 5:34 p.m.
NEWBERRY — Although he ascended to the presidency of the 610-plus member Builders Association of North Central Florida, Ivan Oelrich said he has no aspirations to follow his father into politics.
Occupation: President, Oelrich Construction Inc.
Personal: Married 14 years, one son, two daughters
Dream partner for lunch: John Adams
Best advice: “My grandfather used to say you get what you pay for, and you pay for what you get.”
Reading: “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump”
Playing in his car: Political talk radio
Hobbies: Hunting, fishing, “anything outdoors.”
Education: Bachelor of science in construction management, Colorado State
Oelrich is the son of state senator and former longtime Alachua County sheriff Steve Oelrich.
“I love my dad dearly. He does his thing, and I'll do mine.”
Even if he's not in government, Oelrich Construction still does a lot of work for government, having managed construction projects such as the Alachua County Fire Rescue Station 10 and the expansion and renovation of the branch library in the city of Alachua.
And the association he heads as this year's president has worked with local government for years, particularly on growth management regulations “so they don't just completely crush us,” he said.
“Our main focus with all government is to come to something sensible, reasonable and easy to understand,” he said. “Sometimes we get in a situation where agency X is in conflict with agency Y.”
The association also plans to get involved in a political campaign about growth management this year, opposing Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, known as Hometown Democracy.
The amendment would put all changes to local government comprehensive growth management plans up for citizen referendum.
Advocates say it would stop runaway growth caused by “rubber stamp” elected bodies. Opponents say it would stifle economic development and circumvent representative democracy.
Oelrich described the proposal as a “boondoggle” that would overwhelm election ballots with items many voters don't have a stake in.
Although builders want to protect their interests, they do so with the best interests of the community in mind, he said, pointing out that builders are sponsors of just about every charity event and organization in the county.
“The builders association is not at odds with local government, environmentalists or any of those people,” he said. “We're certainly not into clear-cutting Alachua County. We live here, too. We are the people who actually built this community.”
He points to the many energy-efficient innovations builders displayed during the last Parade of Homes.
“It's something that's near and dear to our hearts.”
After growing up in Gainesville, Oelrich went to Morehead State University in Kentucky, but said his first attempt at college didn't go well. He joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Hawaii.
“Somebody's got to guard that part of the country,” he said with a smile.
When he got out, he and then-fiancee, Aimee, whom he had known since elementary school in Gainesville, picked Colorado at random as their next home.
“We didn't want to go back home like everybody else was. We were getting married and wanted to do something different.”
Oelrich also wanted to go back to school and found out a friend from Gainesville was in construction management at Colorado State.
“He said ‘Check it out.' That's how I got started.”
With a degree and a son, his family returned to Gainesville in 1998 where he went to work for PPI Construction Management, where he learned the ropes of commercial and government construction work.
He formed his own company, based in Newberry, in 2004, starting with small government jobs such as changing doors or building interior walls, “anything to get our foot in the door.”
His government work has led to ongoing contracts with the University of Florida, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency and Alachua County School Board.
Initially, half their work was in the commercial sector, doing buildouts such as turning a laundry into a restaurant, but in the last couple years, “those have completely gone away,” he said.
Government construction also has seen a drop off in projects, especially large ones, he said, but hasn't been hurt nearly as bad as residential and commercial building.
Despite the woes of the construction industry, association membership is only down to about 610 from a peak of 650 at the height of the building boom.
“All our home builders are local folks, so they only built what they could manage,” he said. “We don't have the big out-of-town companies here. Companies that overbuilt big swaths of land are having to do a lot of catching up.”
Contact Anthony Clark at 374-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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