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A New Goal

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  • | 6:54 a.m. February 11, 2011
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The Gramatica brothers have always followed a similar path, from working at their family's restaurant and farm in La Belle to becoming notorious football kickers. So it stands to reason that they would go into business together.

The trio — Martin, Bill and Santiago — formed Gramatica SIPS International Inc. in Tampa a year ago and opened a factory in Sarasota to make structurally insulated panel systems. The lightweight fiber cement panels, suitable for building houses as well as commercial structures, have a range of qualities from energy savings to resisting termites.

While the Gramaticas are better known for kicking field goals than construction, they did plenty of research before putting their collective wealth on the line to start manufacturing their own brand of SIPS in January 2010.

“We felt, and we still feel today, that this is the future of building,” says Santiago Gramatica, the youngest brother who played for the University of South Florida Bulls in the early 2000s. He adds that they spent up to a year and a half researching the panels before committing to making them.

Martin Gramatica, 35, who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1999 to 2004 and played in Super Bowl XXXVII, played for three other National Football League teams during his nine-year career. He was on the New Orleans Saints roster three years after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and noticed rebuilding efforts involved the same materials that were problematic before.

That experience led him and his brothers to pursue more modern building methods as they decided what to do with their post-football careers. “We would be doing something together,” Martin said in a recent interview with the Sarasota Observer, a sister publication of the Business Review.

Guillermo “Bill” Gramatica, 32, played for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins from 2001-04, while Santiago Gramatica, 28, briefly kicked for the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League. Their game-winning abilities won legions of fans along the Gulf Coast, but that alone isn't enough to sustain a business.

“It does help open doors to meetings, but if we didn't know what we were talking about and have a great product, that's as far as we would get,” says Santiago Gramatica, who handles business development for Gramatica SIPS.

The brothers spend a lot of time lately educating potential clients on the benefits of building with their panels, offering tours of the Sarasota plant on 19th Street East and showing finished buildings at United Business Park along West Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa.

They are also raising money to build six SIPS homes in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, offering permanent shelter in a village setting that can withstand hurricanes and seismic activity. Martin and Bill Gramatica promoted the effort while attending Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, and the NFL has already pledged support toward the effort to ship, build and paint the 12-by-40-foot homes, which will cost $10,000 each.

“We expect these homes to be around for many years,” Santiago Gramatica says, adding that each will be able to shelter 10 to 12 people. The homes are in keeping with Haitian culture, including large front porches and outdoor areas for communal cooking, he says.

The Gramaticas, natives of Argentina, view the Haitian project as a legacy and one more way to repay the fortunes they received as college and professional kickers. Santiago Gramatica says: “You realize how easily it can be taken away.”


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