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Investment firm believes in local construction

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  • | 2:00 p.m. March 23, 2012
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The people behind Gravitas, a Sarasota-based investment firm, continue to hold a serious belief in the comeback ability of the Gulf Coast construction market.

The most recent proof: The firm took over operations of Quality Mine in Charlotte County. Gravitas set up Colonial Mining Materials LLC to operate the mine, in Placida, which Naples-based Stock Development owned. Stock Development executives approached Colonial and Gravitas last summer about taking over operations, according to Gravitas.

This marks the third time in the past year Gravitas invested in a construction-related firm — preserving up to 400 jobs in the process.

Run by Susan Flynn, a former executive with several banks in Sarasota, Gravitas now has an ownership stake in 31 businesses, both in and out of Florida. In addition to construction related companies, the investment partnership has multifamily real estate properties in its portfolio.

“Gravitas is pretty eclectic,” Flynn tells Coffee Talk. “We don't take every opportunity that comes on our plate. The goal isn't just to break even. We want companies that are looking to make profits.”
Adds Flynn: We have to believe in the management team and the business (model).”

At Quality Mine, the model is to sell a variety of sand and shell products, from beach and playground sand to driveway mix, according to a Gravitas press release. The mine is also a recyclable concrete products drop-off site that's open to the public.

Colonial Mining Materials repaired equipment at the mine, and it also added a new wash plant to clean shell and sand. “The equipment and operational changes that have been implemented have made the mine a lot more efficient,” Colonial CEO Vic Mellor says in the release.

Gravitas has financed similar reclamation projects at other construction entities. Last summer, for example, it bought Kenton Industries, a shuttered masonry firm in Hendry County. It renamed the firm Industria Block Company, rehired most of the Kenton employees, and reinvested in the business.

Plus, earlier in 2011, Gravitas bought the debts of Charlotte County-based Colonial Construction Co., which filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Colonial produces pre-stressed structural floor and roof concrete. Those acquisitions have started to show returns, says Flynn, which boosts her confidence.

“It was a struggle in the beginning,” says Flynn, “but now they are stronger than they have ever been.”



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