A Builder Branches Out

Timberline Construction Corporation is working in a diverse group of markets, avoiding dependency on a single sector

Timberline’s strategy is to go after clients who are constantly looking for help building or renovating a large number of facilities. A good example is Starbucks and its ever-expanding collection of coffeehouses.

At a Glance

Location
Canton, MA

Founded
1999

Employees
80

Specialty
Construction of commercial, healthcare, institutional, residential, hospitality, retail, and wireless telecommunications facilities

Annual Sales
$30 million

Surviving in Rough economic times is a tough order, and growing is virtually unheard of. However, Timberline Construction Corporation, a multifaceted contractor in Canton, Massachusetts, has done both since president Steven Kelly assumed control 10 years ago. At that time, the company’s annual revenues were about $900,000, and today its gross income is about $30 million. But Kelly continues to set the firm’s sights higher by pushing the diversification of its capabilities and carefully pinpointing strong new clients.

Working throughout New England, Timberline is trying to avoid putting its eggs in one basket. Instead, it continues to extend its varied general-contracting, project-management, construction-management, and design-build services to wildly disparate market niches—including the corporate, retail, healthcare, education, housing, hospitality, restaurant, supermarket, data-center and wireless telecommunications sectors. And the firm works on existing structures, too, offering interior-remodeling, renovation, and LEED-certification expertise.

This broad base reflects Timberline’s staff’s background. “We’ve built a solid team of professionals with a wide range of experience in many industries,” Kelly says. “Having them on board makes it a bit easier to penetrate new markets. It’s still challenging, though.”

The firm sees its ability to build relationships as another major asset. “We are relationship-driven, and we strive to make that clear in our presentations,” Kelly says. “Acquiring contracts is an inexact science, and the outcome is always subject to the [concerns of the] person on the other side of the table: ‘how much am I willing to risk?’ We want our honesty and integrity to shine through.”

Timberline strategically targets contracting prospects with active programs, which means there are plenty of opportunities for new construction, extensive renovations, cosmetic facelifts, and other projects throughout a given year. An example is Stop & Shop, a Massachusetts-based regional supermarket chain that operates 375 stores, many of which Timberline has worked on. “Once you demonstrate your capabilities with a client like that, you earn repeat business,” Kelly says. Timberline’s latest project for Stop & Shop was a 70,000-square-foot open-store renovation in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts.

Although the company is not exactly a household name in the contracting field, Timberline can often hold its own against much larger competitors. One way it does this is by self-performing work that would otherwise go to subcontractors. “Having the option to self-perform certain trades provides pricing efficiencies and, more importantly, tighter control of resources,” Kelly says. “For smaller fast-track projects [for firms] such as Starbucks, for whom we have built approximately 50 locations throughout New England, the ability to self-perform some of the work has enabled us to condense the schedule, at times running a double-shift operation seven days a week.”

Kelly’s not ready to discount the use of subcontractors entirely, though, and there are some he considers critical to his company’s success. “Timberline regularly uses JEM Electrical and HVAC Corp. [from] Manchester, New Hampshire,” he says. “The shop’s expertise in electrical and HVAC installation is valuable to our telecom division. JEM’s owners take client service very seriously, and they always come through for us.”

Such contractors help Timberline with its diverse project load, and Kelly ultimately sees this many-eggs-in-many-baskets approach as the key to his firm’s future growth. “I think 2012 will be a challenging year, but then I expect a slow, steady recovery,” he says. “We are well positioned in 10 different sectors, and I expect exponential growth across that platform throughout the recovery. We could be grossing $75 million within five years.” ABQ