From building to community service
Craig Souter was a frustrated artist in high school. His father, a machinist, had a wonderful shop where Souter discovered the fine art of tinkering and building small wood projects. He was accepted at Cal Poly but decided not to go. On their way home from a ski trip Craig and his wife, Dottie Ray, stopped by Grass Valley in 1975. Three years later they left their home in Long Beach to settle in Nevada County. Eventually he put the love of drawing and building together to create a career in building design and construction.
Souter Construction builds spec houses, custom homes and remodels. After 35 years in the business, Souter observes that the industry runs in about seven year cycles. It’s good for a long time and then the bottom drops out. Nevada County has been running on ten years of a good building cycle. The uncertainty of the times and complexities of our large cities is driving the market and encouraging so many people to move to this region. When the market drops off is when he feels it is important to have remodels to fall back on. When people feel they can’t build, they decide to put more energy into their existing home. Remodeling takes a whole other set of skills and a special contractor that can adjust to them. “You’re working in someone’s home. They want to come home and just relax and watch TV, but you have the whole living area torn up. It takes a certain sensitivity and better manners to work in those situations,” Souter commented.
Craig’s son, Tyler, began working for the company when he was still a teenager. For the last four years he has been the field supervisor allowing dad to focus more on what he is most passionate about” the design aspect of building. Souter also volunteers on the Executive Board of the Nevada County Contractors Association. He was recently appointed as chair of the Fire Safe Plan”working directly with Tony Clarabut, the Regional Director of CDF, to determine how that state mandated plan will be written. Souter was also appointed Chairman of the Building Standard Board of Appeals by Drew Bedwell. It is an independent, technical board where the consumer/home builder can appeal a decision made by the Building Department or Environmental Health. The board is the last stop for consumer complaints before going to court over their differences with the county.
Souter also enjoys his role as a teacher to young men coming into the field. He agrees with other contractors that we need a better system for encouraging and training young people for work in the trades. “Kids now days have it in their heads that to get a good job they have to go to college, but college is not right for everyone,” Craig commented. Many of the trainees have really paid off as they have become long-time employees of Souter Construction.
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