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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 5, 2014 6 years ago

Betting on Tampa

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Orlando-based ODC Construction has succeeded by seeking potential. Its key executive is now focusing on custom-home construction in Tampa.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

In 2010, Isaac Lidsky grew sick of working 80-hour weeks at a law firm. Lidsky and his wife were expecting triplets, and he needed a change of pace. So he started talking to his Harvard Law school roommate, Zac Merriman, about what business they could buy that was “at or near all-time lows,” Lidsky says. That's how they landed on construction.

In June 2011, they found a small mom-and-pop construction company in Orlando that specialized in foundations and masonry work, but was struggling in the recession. They bought it, hoping to improve its value and scalability. “That was the challenge we undertook,” Lidsky says.

It wasn't easy. Lidsky, 35, says they learned the business from scratch. Although his law degree provided him with skills for negotiating contracts, “It was not the most logical career move for me,” he admits.

Logic aside, Lidsky's company, ODC Construction, has managed to not only survive the construction world, but excel in it. Over the last three years, the company has expanded to offer framing and shell contracting to its portfolio, and it acquired a small business in Tampa, Farro Construction, to widen the company's reach. From 2011 to 2013, the company's revenue grew six-fold. Last year the company brought in $65 million in revenue, with $6.7 million from Tampa.

Although Lidsky declined to share specifics on growth, he says, “Business is great this year, even better.”

Now Lidsky is taking a gamble again, acting on what he believes to be a hot Tampa market.

Although ODC is based in Orlando, it has set up its own operations team in Tampa, with a director of sales and director of construction leading the charge. There are around 400 full-time laborers that work for ODC, servicing both Orlando and Tampa as needed. About 50 of those focus on the Tampa business alone. Tampa currently makes up around 15% of the company's business, Lidsky says.

In February, the company was contacted by John Lum of List Developers to work on a couple projects in South Tampa that had stalled. Both multifamily residential projects, Chelsea Place was sitting dormant for nearly a decade, and Rattlesnake Point hadn't been touched in five years. With promising job growth indicators, Lum was ready to start building back up in the areas near Tampa's MacDill Air Force base and Westshore business district.

In its meeting with List Developers, Lidsky says his company helped value-engineer the project to make it feasible from a cost perspective. It's where ODC has found its niche — leveraging its scale and operational efficiencies to create a pricing advantage for materials like concrete, without losing hands-on project management.

Part of what has enabled the company to maintain a high level of service is the proprietary software that the company built after Lidsky bought the business.

He says he searched in vain for a good software to dispatch crews, materials and equipment for specific jobs. But it's no surprise Lidsky found a reason to develop software, he admits. He previously started a software company with his brother-in-law that is still thriving in Manhattan today.

ODC's software is a cloud-based technology that can organize the dispatches by task and customer in real time. “That way we can adjust the state of affairs from the war room in Orlando,” Lidsky says. ODC is working on more bells and whistles for the technology, and may eventually sell it to other companies.

For now, Lidsky is just focused on growing his construction business, especially the division in Tampa. “The way I read the tea leaves, I'm excited about the homebuilding industry,” he says. “I'm starting to sleep well for the first time in three-and-a-half years.”

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