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Business Observer Friday, May 15, 2015 6 years ago

Entrepreneurs of the Year | Chris LaFace

Ripa & Associates Tampa
by: Michael Hinman Tampa Bay Reporter

Why we chose him:
The last economic recession claimed many, including some once-prominent construction companies. Yet Ripa & Associates made it through to the recovery, and is now almost to the point of turning away work.

“The market is what it is, and everybody was going through what we went through,” says Ripa President Chris LaFace. “It was important for us to keep the team together and just hope there was another side.”

Ripa is a utilities contractor, the first workers at a construction site ready to complete ground and underground projects. It's been busy with projects ranging from subdivisions such as Starkey Ranch in Pasco County to larger jobs like the distribution center in Ruskin.

LaFace, 34, has sidestepped a lot of the cyclical aspects of construction by diversifying Ripa's services. While some contractors might specialize in residential or commercial, LaFace has pushed forward in all kinds of site work, especially multifamily that helped pull Ripa through the last market crash.

“You can never forget the lessons you learn during the most difficult times,” LaFace says. “Too many people forget what happen and fall into the same traps they did the last time. You can never get too high because there's always a low following right behind.”

LaFace's biggest challenge in the next year is to fill jobs with qualified candidates -- something that has been severely lacking. Many workers bolted Florida and the industry after the crash, but many more just don't realize it's an industry where money can be made. That might mean companies like Ripa becoming even more involved with local schools to encourage construction careers.

“The guys who do what we do are a dying breed,” LaFace says. “But we'll change that.”

2012: $70 million
2013: $115 million
2014: $170 million

2012: 200
2013: 325
2014: 425

- Michael Hinman

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