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Balfour Beatty—doesn’t that sound like a World War I treaty? Or a character in an old Humphrey Bogart movie?

Actually, it’s one of the largest construction companies in Europe—established in Britain 100 years ago.

We were puzzled when they called about ads; why would they care about this region? Turns out on April 1 Centex Construction, a division of homebuilding giant Centex Corporation, got bought by Balfour Beattyand changed its name.

"What, who?" That’s what John Tarpey, president of the mid-Atlantic division of Centex, who’s kept the same job with Balfour Beatty, tells me is the usual reaction when he mentions that new identity.


Which is quite a switch, because Centex Construction was really well known here: it built the Air Force Memorial (above), the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, and is just about finished with the 570,000 SF US Capitol Visitors Center. It’s also building Station Place for Dreyfus, Wisconsin Place for Boston Properties, and 2101 L for Vornado.


If they’re so successful (that’s Tarpey above right, with DefenseSecretary Gates at Pentagon Memorial signing), why did they need a new owner and name?

They didn’t, but Balfour came calling. Balfour already has such a huge market share in Britain, it was looking for new territories. Centex Corp. wasn’t looking to sell, but the downturn in the housing market made it receptive to cashing out some of its portfolio.

Although the Centex division had been doing $2 billion a year in revenue, its new owner does $13 billion. This means the division is now part of a global engineering and construction firm that also does a ton of transportation and rail projects, which gives it a new calling card. Balfour Beatty also has its own capital arm that can bring equity to projects, whereas Centex never did.


Man, Tarpey’s getting more international by the day. In 2005, through someone he met doing the Capitol Visitors Center work, he went to India to learn about construction—and has since been there four times for a combination of intellectual and charitable pursuits. Here he stands in the Himalayas with a local cricket team.

Anyway, it’ll be sad to lose the Centex name around here, but do you know its derivation? "Central Texas."