Homebuilder aims to disrupt industry with military-grade materials
Will being able to block 250 mph winds be enough for an optimistic startup to make headway in an established market?
| 6:00 a.m. December 13, 2019
A trio of Naples area businessmen led by Chuck Ardezzone, who also owns a film and TV production studio in town, believe their company — Galexa — has the goods to build homes that can radically change the construction/building industry.
The way there, Ardezzone says, is a panel for the walls of single-family or multifamily structures with a proprietary resin and fiberglass mix — a recipe used by military, law enforcement and others looking for extreme protection. The panel, he adds, is rated to withstand up to 250-mph winds, is noncombustible and can take the impact of a 9 mm bullet.
“We want to become the Apple or Tesla of construction,” Ardezzone says.
To meet that lofty goal and, by extension, get customers to buy into their disruptive vision will require, for starters, a substantial amount of investment capital — at least $25 million, Ardezzone says. The company hopes to raise that via hedge funds that believe in the company and its product. Three private investors have already put a combined $500,000 into the company, Ardezzone says.
Working against the effort: The company is a new entity with a new product in an entrenched market. Ardezzone and his partners founded Galexa about a year and a half ago. The company, situated out of a Naples warehouse and a separate sales center, submitted patents for the process and recently received approval from the necessary government agencies to build the unique structures, which come in a variety of sizes and designs like most other custom home developers.
'We want to become the Apple or Tesla of construction,' Chuck Ardezzone, Galexa
“It’s a new company, and it’s a new product,” he says. “But we feel it’s going to disrupt the building industry. We have big hitters from around the industry looking at us. They want to see if it’s going to be accepted into the market.”
Ardezzone says their current crew of 10 employees in the factory can put together roughly 100 shells of 2,000-square-foot homes per month. The company can provide just the basic shell to developers or sell a finished house with all of the essential equipment to an individual customer. A finished 1,300-square-foot Galexa home would cost a customer about $202,000, Ardezzone says, not including the cost of land.
Ardezzone says they believe that once people learn about the product, it will attract many different customers. They are targeting developers and general contractors, in addition to individuals who want to build a single-family house. The partners also plan to eventually break the company into different divisions, with one devoted to affordable housing and disaster relief structures, while their “Galexa Diamond Division” will focus on high-end, custom builds that take longer and cost more.
One client who has already signed up to buy Galexa’s product is Ario Buntzman, that chairman and CEO of the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance. The nonprofit was formed in 2018 to help build sustainable housing for low-income families in the farmworker community following Hurricane Irma, and it is planning a 128-unit affordable rental community on a 10-acre tract off Lake Trafford Road in Immokalee, with a mix of two- and three-bedroom units being split between eight two-story structures. The $13 million project, funded through donations, awaits final approval from Collier County commissioners.
Buntzman says the alliance’s board chose Galexa because the structures are hurricane resistant, cost less than traditional concrete block construction and can be built quickly. Plus, he says Ardezzone helped the group secure the land at a below market price. If they can find additional land and raise more money, he adds, the organization would be interested in building more Galexa apartments, given the affordable housing demand.
Ardezzone partnered with David Tingley, a previous business associate who is now Galexa’s chief financial officer, and Paul Inglese, who has worked in the construction industry since 1986 as a building contractor and president of a concrete composite manufacturing company. Inglese became Galexa’s chief design officer not long after presenting the fiberglass building option to Ardezzone and Tingley.
In addition to the pending order for 128 units in Immokalee, Galexa has already heard from other interested parties, including developers from Cape Coral and Atlanta. Ardezzone says that it would be easy to duplicate their factory in any other city; all they need is a warehouse and skilled labor to build the structures.
The company, Ardezzone says, already has an in-house broker, with hopes to grow its sales force as interest and business increases.