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February 2012
On Time and On Budget
By Zenda Douglas

     Marand Builders has no room for mediocrity.

     “We welcome high expectations,” touts Francisco Alvarado, president of Marand Builders, Inc., a $29 million dollar general contractor operating in the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern markets. Marand Builders delivers preconstruction, construction management, design-build and general contracting services within a variety of industry spaces including interiors, institution, retail, commercial and conversions and has begun to venture into health care.

     The company has completed numerous multi-million dollar facilities including financial institutions, communication facilities, restaurants and airport terminal buildings as well as manufacturing and distribution centers.

     With its business core in the financial industry, Marand Builders follows its clients’ geographic footprints.

     “We serve a lot of banks,” Alvarado explains. “As they expand or change hands, there is work to do. Our customers want us to provide the same level of quality work and customer service that we do in the Carolinas in all of their markets. With this expectation, they have given us the opportunities and we have been successful in exceeding their expectations.”

     Financial clients include Bank of America, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Branch Banking & Trust, Fifth Third Bank, SunTrust and Peoples Bank. Marand Builders has completed over $100 million in construction projects for the financial industry in the past four yours, according to Alvarado. Other commercial clients include NASCAR and Dell Computers.

     Marand Builders is also heavily involved with mid- and high-rise office space upfits. Well-known clients include C.B. Richard Ellis, Lincoln Harris and the Lauth Property Group. The company has the expertise to handle LEED projects and has completed many, most recently a Gold LEED project for Fifth Third Bank on Wilkinson Boulevard.

     Marand Builders is a member of the United States Green Building Council and of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

 

A Good Foundation

     “We welcome high expectations,” reiterates Alvarado. “There are three basic principles to our approach: take the necessary time to understand the costumer’s vision and requirements; execute every task with excellence in communications, quality control and customer service; and deliver what is promised.

     “At the end of the day, we want our customers full satisfaction with their needs and expectations exceeded in every way.

     “When I first started, I discovered that, with the abundance of work available in the construction industry, a certain level of mediocrity had settled in. I wanted to go in the opposite direction.”

     Alvarado says he also found that too often people in the construction industry brought excellent technical and craftsmanship to the table, but were less likely to have the necessary business and financial skills to fully succeed.

     “I spoke with many talented people who didn’t know if they were making money or not,” he says in amazement.

     With 14 years of corporate experience behind him, Alvarado knew he could offer these skills to the industry.

     “My expertise is in running companies and, along the way, I’ve learned a lot about construction. A successful company requires a team effort that starts with a proper execution of the trade and finishes with the proper management of the business,” says Alvarado.

     By 2008-2009, the economic recession had ripped through the construction industry and as Alvarado describes it, “The only work that was available was public work and we proactively went after it.”

     The company completed a $5.3 million high school project (Piedmont High School) in Union County, terminal projects at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Stanly County Airport, as well as construction projects for Gaston County Schools.

     “There’s an old Spanish saying that ‘Turbulent waters benefit the fishermen.’ That held true for us,” says Alvarado. “After closing our hatches and taking a step back to analyze the future, we decided not to just stay inside and weather storm, but rather to go out and have more influence of our own fate.”

     Not only did the company increase its number of customers, but it expanded its geographic footprint. And importantly, Marand Builders made the strategic decision to go into the health care space.

     “We are very excited over the development of a joint venture with Miami-based OHL-Arellano Construction Company which specializes in health care construction. OHL-Arellano’s extensive experience includes building hospitals, medical office buildings, clinics and laboratories,” says Alvarado.

     “This joint venture provides our healthcare customers with local presence, technical and financial resources and most importantly, our long-term commitment to serve the health care community in the Carolinas,” continues Alvarado.

     Arellano is owned by OHL, a $6.8 billion company headquartered in Spain. The company has a presence in 27 countries. Alvarado expects this joint-venture to open doors in the very challenging healthcare industry.

     “It’s difficult to penetrate the health care market because of the complexities of building these types of facilities,” explains Alvarado, also noting that working in an active facility such as a hospital, without disruption to services and staff, can only be learned through years of experience.

     “Companies that go into this market have to make a full commitment to understand the industry and meet the guidelines,” says Alvarado. “We’re that company. Our plan for the future is to solidify our position in the various markets and exceed customer expectations.”

 

Building a Future

     Born in Chicago, Alvarado’s family moved to San Salvador, El Salvador, when he was 5 and they lived there until he was 18. His mother sent him to a full-immersion German school where only German was spoken during school hours. Spanish was spoken at night. At that time in his life, Alvarado did not see the point of his involvement with German school or the German language.

     He started to learn English during eighth grade but recalls it was rather difficult. He made much more progress linguistically when he came to the U. S. the summer before he enrolled in Louisiana State University. It was from there he graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering.

     After graduation Alvarado went to work for two years as an electrical project engineer with Formosa Plastics Corporation in Baton Rouge, La., in the construction of power stations and electrical designs for production lines.

     Two years later, in 1985, he was offered a senior electrical engineer position with Hoechst Celanese in Delaware in charge of design and construction of new lines for the production of PVC films. Within two years he was promoted to marketing manager worldwide for PVC films and moved to Hoechst’s headquarters in Germany, were he resided for the next eight years.

     “They recognized management aptitude and potential in me, plus I spoke German, so I was moved from the technical side of the company to the business management side in marketing and sales.

     “I started to love my mother a little bit more,” says Alvarado, shaking his head and having to laugh. Alvarado married his fiancé who had joined him on the journey and had two sons while in Germany. During those years he traveled extensively for the company.

     In 1995, Francisco Alvarado returned to the United States on a two-year assignment as a business director of North America PVC/A-PET Films for Hoechst Celanese, with the task of selling the business unit.

     The return trip brought him to Charlotte. Two years later, with assignment completed, he decided to stay.

     “I wanted to do something on my own,” says Alvarado, although he confesses he didn’t know what that would be. “My first impulse was to stay in the chemical and films industry but nothing was really panning out,” he remembers.

     It didn’t take him long to figure it out. Alvarado had landed back in America in the heyday of construction. “Construction was going on everywhere,” he says. “It was all around the city, in the news and all around in my neighborhood!”

     Soon, he started to engage with people in the construction business and then made the important career decision to become a general contractor and to start Marand Builders.

 

Building a Legacy

     In addition to great weather, beautiful surroundings and a cosmopolitan flair, Alvarado considered Charlotte fertile grounds to start a business and raise a family.

     “For those who are committed to being involved and investing in the community, the return is great,” says Alvarado, although he admits that there are challenges for newcomers. “Charlotte’s conservative nature and loyalty to previous relationships can make it challenging to penetrate certain markets. Perseverance, commitment to your plan, and economy oscillations, coupled with generation changes, create opportunities.”

     Alvarado manages a diverse staff of 55. “We are capable of handling all the sectors we service which equates to customer satisfaction and repeat business.” Indeed, Marand Builders enjoys a 95 percent rate of repeat business.

     Culturally diverse and entrepreneurial in spirit, Marand Builders’ workplace culture fosters progressive solutions to goals and challenges. “We are not of the ‘This is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality,” says Alvarado. “From preconstruction through execution and closing of projects, we are always questioning ourselves as to how we can be more effective.”

     This approach has led the company to invest in technology, a forward leap as the construction industry is relatively slow in adopting new technologies. By the end of the first quarter of this year, the company plans to implement phase one of its technology update initiative.

     “The goal of becoming a high-tech construction company is to provide our team members with the tools to communicate from anywhere and at anytime with customers, vendors, architects or other team members,” says Alvarado. “Proper and timely communication is imperative for the completion of successful projects.”

     Throughout its geographical expansions, Marand Builders has been careful to maintain its culture by selecting team members with the proper attitude and skills, as well as using a modular approach for training the Marand Builders’ way of doing business.

     “A team approach to building that is composed of clients, architects, vendors, subcontractors and general contractors, coupled with good communication, is the perfect formula for a successful and enjoyable job. This is very important since we are only as good as our last job,” says Alvarado.

     With respect to being a minority business owner, Alvarado says that Marand Builders is a high-performance general contractor that happens to be owned by a minority member of the business community.

     “It’s important to have a minority certificate, especially if you are working for companies with minority inclusion programs,” says Alvarado. “It has helped to open some doors, but it’s our record of performance that sparks their interest and leads them to become customers.”

     Outside of work, Alvarado is equally committed to Marand Builders’ mantra of “Doing what we say we do, on time, with high quality.” He sits on the executive committee of the Charlotte Chamber and is a member of the board of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. He is past chair of Latin American Chamber of Commerce and in the early stages of developing a charitable health care initiative in association with area physicians.

 

 

Zenda Douglas is a Greater Charlotte Biz freelance writer.
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