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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 15, 2019 1 month ago

Seeing growth, construction firm puts more resources into Florida's west coast

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Pompano Beach-based Current Builders has opened an office in St. Petersburg.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

After a multiyear hiatus, a Florida builder is making its return to Florida’s west coast.

Pompano Beach-based Current Builders opened an office in St. Petersburg in October 2018. The move aims to increase the company’s presence in the area — and increase the number of construction projects the firm can secure.

The company had $220 million in gross revenue in 2018 and maintains a roll of a little over 200 full-time employees. Current Builders Vice President of Construction Chip Angenendt says the firm focuses on specific kinds of projects. “In Current Builders, we say the jobs that are in our wheelhouse are jobs that have beds in them,” he says. The company is comfortable with apartments, condos, senior housing and student housing. It’s also worked on industrial buildings and warehouses.

“We understand what our skill set is,” says Crystal Binford, director of business development. “We understand what we can deliver and deliver well.”

Chip Angenendt and Teresa Angenendt, Current Builders pre-construction manager, will lead the 47-year-old company’s efforts on the west coast. They plan to bring a key person or two from the east coast office to help manage the first project.

“That’s the basis of our business — if we can provide help to the customer, help to the subcontractor, help to the architect, I think that will come back in spades to us.” — Chip Angenendt, vice president of construction, Current Builders

Chip Angenendt says opening an office on the Gulf Coast came out of the company’s strategic planning sessions. It's a well-known and respected commodity in southeast Florida, he says, and Current Builders wanted to expand that goodwill. The company built great relationships when it was on the west coast before, Chip Angenendt adds. The plan? Do it again.

Current Builders initially opened a Florida west coast office in Tampa in 2002. It closed in 2008 during the recession.

Binford says strategic planning and research encouraged a return, and with two seasoned executives who know the area, the timing is right.“All roads lead back to the Gulf Coast,” she says. “Things are happening there and we need to be there.”

It helps that the Tampa area is among the top growth spots statewide, along with the Miami and Orlando areas. “We feel very good and bullish on the decision to be over there,” Binford says.

The company picked St. Petersburg because it represents a more central location, making travel to areas where Current Builders has business up and down the coast more convenient. Current Builders is hoping to increase the amount of work it does from the Interstate-4 corridor south through Fort Myers and Naples.

Teresa Angenendt says the first steps for growing Current Builders’ west coast office is to reach out to existing contacts in the area, as well as cultivate new contacts. That process includes “attending all of the events that we possibly can,” along with talking up the company at every opportunity.  

Recently, Chip Angenend says they met with a developer they did work for previously to rekindle the relationship. He says, “That’s part of it — getting back in touch with people.” They also met with an architectural firm in St. Petersburg that’s doing a lot of work in Sarasota. “That’s the basis of our business — if we can provide help to the customer, help to the subcontractor, help to the architect, I think that will come back in spades to us,” he says.

About 85% of Current Builders’ work is for repeat clients. “In the construction business that’s gold,” Chip Angenend says. “We try to do an extra special job to make sure our customers are taken care of.”

A physical presence on the west coast is important for more than just logistics and eliminating some challenges of operating from the other side of the state. There are benefits to customers of having people based more locally, too. “They want the project managers and project superintendents to live in that area,” Chip Angenendt says. Clients don’t want workers looking at their watches and thinking about when it’s time to make a long drive home or showing up late in the morning to work.  

Overall, the plan, company officials say, isn’t to come to the west coast and take over the market. Instead it’s to come and secure a couple of projects and make it manageable to do the work right, building the office for the long term.

“We do firmly believe that you have to have a presence and a real estate stake in a market in order to grow it,” Binford says. “We want to be over there and don’t see any other way to make it happen without having boots on the ground.”

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