Exploring Industry Evolution with Liam Coakley

A Deep Dive into Construction and Community with Liam Coakley

Join us as Henry Harrison uncovers the layers of construction industry evolution and community impact with Liam Coakley.

Henry Harrison Dallas TX Podcast Liam Coakley

Henry Harrison Interviews Liam Coakley

Explore the detailed conversation between Henry Harrison and Liam Coakley as they discuss the dynamic changes in the construction industry and the enduring legacy of the Coakley family business.

Introduction to the Podcast

Insights and Innovations in Construction

This podcast episode features a candid discussion between Henry Harrison and Liam Coakley, highlighting the significant transformations within the construction sector and the personal journey of the Coakley family. Discover how their business adapted over decades to lead and innovate in a competitive market.

CJ Coakley Company Milestones

Explore the key milestones in the evolution of CJ Coakley Company, from its inception to its current standing as an industry leader.


Foundation of CJ Coakley

The journey began when Cornelius Coakley established the company, initially focusing on plastering services.


Strategic Expansion

The company transitioned from union to non-union, merging with Dominion Applicators, significantly expanding its scale and scope.


Leadership Transition

Leadership passed to the next generation, with Michael and Liam Coakley becoming co-presidents, ushering in a new era of innovation.


Diversification into New Markets

CJ Coakley ventured into new services like prefab construction, responding to evolving market demands.

Liam Coakley Interview Transcript

Henry Harrison:  
Well, hello, Liam. Thank you for coming on.

Liam Coakley:
Good to see you, Henry.

Henry Harrison:  
Yeah, so welcome to Entrepreneurs Business and Finance. For those of you that don’t know Liam, he is a long time resident of Arlington and McLean, Virginia. And so our families knew each other and we at a young age, play tennis together, play golf together, ping pong together, you name it together.

We were single together, so we, in some cases, you know, when on double dates, I can’t remember exactly. It’s been so long and he’s nice enough when I come and stay in Arlington. Sometimes I’ll stay at he and Caroline’s house with their used to be four kids at home now, only three kids at home.

Yeah, but we’re here today because he is the co president CJ Coakley company, and it’s an extraordinary story. In addition, we’re also here because he’s a friend, but we’re here to podcast because it’s an extraordinary story. His father, Cornelius, I always called him Mr. Coakley, so not sure I even knew his first name was Cornelius, but started a company in 1962 that continues to this day.

With he and his brother and his sister running it now that his parents, unfortunately, after a long life had passed away. You want to talk about how you’re, I mean, I’ll read from your website because I can’t remember all the things they do now, but I know that. You didn’t do these when you started.


Liam Coakley:
I can talk about that. I can talk about it.

Henry Harrison:
Go ahead. Yeah.

Liam Coakley:
So my dad started out came from came from Ireland and when he was 18. And he came to my Uncle Fergus’s home. My, my Uncle Fergus had whom I, whom I’m named after, had been after my dad to come over to the United States.

And so he came, he came and stayed with my Aunt Margaret and my Aunt Margaret, Aunt Molly. And Uncle Fergus. And my Uncle Fergus was in the plasters union and he got him into the plastering apprenticeship. And he went on to work for a large commercial plastering company called Rubino and Ferris.

And at some point in time they made him a superintendent. And At that time, he stayed at that for, for a long period of time, a couple of years, and decided to go out on his own in 1962. And back in those days, plastering, that’s pretty much everything there was. All the walls and all the ceilings were plastered.

Metal and plaster and as everything does, it evolves and it, it evolved into drywall drywall and then acoustical ceilings and through the plastering also became fireproofing. So, as the business of all other opportunities came about, and

so he continued to change as the market changed. And we used to do a lot of work for George Hyman which was. A very large general contractor, and I forget what year it was, but when the union, with the union market kind of started entertaining non union, uh, as an, as an option George Hyman opened up Omni Construction and at that time we followed suit with Dominion Applicators.

And my mom was the president of that company and that ran in existence until 1993 when pretty much we left the union and decided to merge with Dominion applicators as did George, George Hyman and Omni and they moved merged into Clark construction and we became Just 1 company, C. J.

Coakley with all of the employees from Dominion applicators and, and the management team and the field staff all came into C. J. Coakley. And so we grew, you know, obviously a lot that year because at the time they were probably, we probably did 15 to 20Million dollars a year. That was in 1993 with C.

J. Coakley, and we did somewhere between 12 and 15 to with Dominion applicators. And then we immediately started to, you know, take on more work with the additional senior staff that we had that was managing the work with Doug Roach and Doug Ayers. At the leadership staff, so that went on for the existence of changing from union to non union.

And over the years, we’ve continued to, you know, add different types of businesses and things that we, we offered and in 2013, doug air stepped down and Michael and I took over the company as co presidents. And we continue to again, start changes and, and start taking other lines of work a few years later.

And now we’re doing metal panels, rain screen man and material hoists. All different kinds of things that we had never done before. So in about just before the pandemic, we had started a prefab company and that’s when we we started prefabbing exterior wall, exterior wall, framing, sheathing and air barrier.

All under one contract one sole responsibility and we performed all of those things along with the rain screen materials, which there’s fiber cement terracotta and metal panels are all kind of under the rain screen umbrella. And we have Continue to do that for the last since 2019.

So that we continue to evolve in terms of looking at what the marketplace is doing and what the needs are and opportunities are and listen to what our customers want and give them what they’re, they’re looking for.

Henry Harrison:
Give people an idea of some of the scope. I mean, some of these projects is the most iconic projects in the whole Washington, D.

C. Metroplex Baltimore area. I mean, 1 that sticks out of my mind is the stadium. So it’s

Liam Coakley:
kind of, it’s kind of, it’s kind of wild. We’ve done. You talk about from kind of how the markets evolved. We did the IRS headquarters when I came out of school. We did the Pentagon renovation. We’ve done, we’ve done malls.

We did Boston mall and Apple small Tyson’s corner mall. Montgomery mall, Nordstrom’s all those kinds of things. Redskin Stadium was another you know, big project. We’re currently working on as the markets change, we’ve, we’ve gone from, you know, we’ve done hospitals. We’re, we’re back into doing hospital.

We’re doing a big hospital at NIH currently right now. And we’re doing work at the federal reserve, the Eccles building, which is a huge. Okay. Huge project that is coming up

days, but we used to do a lot of tenant work back in the days, but we are you know, changing with with where the market is over the last 10 years, been a ton of residential, which we’ve done lots and lots of residential, we did the Verizon building right, right next to where Amazon headquarters is going in.

There’s another big project going on currently right now called Bell Street. The East Tower we’re finishing that up now and finished up the 1st, 1 of the 1st phases of the Amazon project, which is another huge project, but we’ve done a lot of big jobs over the year, a lot of government jobs, a lot of private jobs, but, we do a lot of large, large jobs.

Henry Harrison:
And for people that aren’t experts in construction, you’re doing interior walls. And then in many cases, you know, there’s the contractors are building with steel structures or concrete structures. And now you’re also doing the exterior you know, so picture. 30 story high rise and CJ may be doing inside and outside of the walls of that structured.

Liam Coakley:
Yeah, we did a, we did our 1st, 33 story residential tower in Roslyn called Roslyn central place. And we pretty much did all the exterior. Well, that one had a lot of curtain wall, but to your point, we do the whole exterior, you know, from concrete. It’s all us. So we, we frame the exterior wall, which is structural studs sheathing, you know, potentially air barrier.

And then if we’re doing the skin, which we didn’t do in years past only up until about 2000 2019. so from then, you know, there’s a potential that we could have done that, but we do all the interior walls. Hang all the, you know, all the sheetrock, all the bathroom towel around the bathrooms whatever type of board that may be all the framing of all the ceilings, all the ceilings ceilings have really been a evolving thing.

Now in our trade, there’s all kinds of fancy wood ceilings. We did the Newseum you know, you’re, you’ve been around a long time when you, you’re renovating the same building again, you know, 15 years later, 20 years later that’s happened on occasion and in that building, that’s exactly what happened.

We just did that for John Hopkins, which has a lot of really fancy wood ceilings and and ceilings in general that You, you see there, acoustical or, or what a, what may have you, but it’s on our website, which I’m sure you’re, you’ve seen. But that was a huge, huge project that we’re just finishing up.

Henry Harrison:
Well the Coleys as a family, I know that Caroline has her own charity, but the family has a charity. Your mom. It’s involved in charity support of the Catholic Church, so very much a part of the community when it comes to Giving back not only creating jobs but to working hard and giving back.

I remember when you were 1415. I hardly knew you that much then, but you were somewhere right around. Then you start getting up on Saturday mornings and going out and hanging drywall,

Liam Coakley:
yeah, I’ve worked in the field for a lot of different years. And, was in the shop for my, you know, 18 just was always around all the equipment, all the trucks.

And when we were doing Tyson’s Corner Mall was out there. Building scaffold with the guys and, and hanging drywall, putting on beads, there’s all kinds of fancy beads in the, in the when they renovate, when we, when we renovated the Tyson’s Corner Mall, the whole lower level was, was for, All the trucking to go into the different different spaces and they got rid of that and they made it they expanded the mall to be this, this, the lower level.

And so they, when they renovated, they put skylights in, they put all kinds of you know, shops, all the lower level, which was nothing but storage and, and trucking to get goods in and out of there. So, but yeah, it’s been quite a journey and an evolution of, of, You know, all the different materials that are offered now that stuff has changed and continues to change.

Henry Harrison:
That’s a really neat success story to wrap up on because, yeah, you think something’s changed since 1962 to 2024. Oh, my gosh. And the fact that the family’s still in business and making all those adjustments and. Continuing to adapt there’s been huge companies that have come and gone in that time.

Many of them that have come and gone.

Liam Coakley:
No question about it. We, we talk about it all the time. If you’re not changing, you’re dying. That’s something that’s inevitable and so, you know, you have to be careful with that. In that regard, because technology is so costly and, and you can spend too much or you can spend not enough.

So there’s a big balance there that needs to happen is not too soon and not too late with all those kinds of things. And the marketplace is really changing quickly with all the cameras and and all the technology that allows you to overlay. Documents and then of course, you know, AI that’s getting ready to come in and do all the kind of take offs that you need.

And it’s, it’s quite wild what’s happening in our industry and continues to happen.

Henry Harrison:
I’m glad that you’re there and CJ Kirkland is there. And I know a lot of people are glad for the families charitable. Enterprises like Caroline, your wife, and I know your sister and the whole family and your mom has been honored so many times and you know, God bless her up there in heaven.

So thanks for coming on the show. Really terrific. I think people are going to enjoy hearing about this.

Liam Coakley
Well, thanks for having me, Henry. It’s always good seeing you and appreciate your friendship. And if I can help in any way, I’m always here.

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