Small jobs add revenue for local-based firm
The calls to GE Johnson Construction Company are sometimes surprising.
Can someone come over and patch a hole? Does the firm fix door hinges or paint walls?
Fred Wolfe, GE Johnson construction executive, admits that such calls were a little strange at first for the Colorado Springs-based general contracting firm known in the region for its multi-million buildings such as St. Francis Medical Center, Cheyenne Mountain High School and Colorado Springs World Arena.
But it’s a new era for the 45-year-old company, and there is no saying “no” to commercial construction jobs of any kind. The firm still builds banks and schools and hospitals. But GE Johnson crews are fixing shelves and doors and small holes too, proving that no job is too small even for a big firm.
“You name it, we do it,” Wolfe says.
The company recently launched a facility services division that dispatches technicians throughout the region and even across state lines for handyman-style jobs. It’s two guys in trucks — Jacks-of-all-trades — and they are experts at working in occupied buildings.
It’s a different mindset than bulldozing a site with a big crane and building from the ground up. It requires a softer, more delicate touch, Wolfe says.
Robert Stanford, GE Johnson facilities services technician, gets calls asking for help to fix locks, water leaks and walls.
“Some people are surprised to see us on these smaller jobs,” Stanford said.
The launch of this division is a move becoming more popular among general contractors, Wolfe says. It was, in part, a reaction to the economy as some companies cut in-house maintenance crews and began looking for outside firms to take care of day-to-day maintenance needs.
But Wolfe sees the new division growing and becoming a relationship-builder. For example, one client manages dozens of banks throughout Wyoming, where the nearest Home Depot store is two hours away. Once a month, Wolfe sends one of his facilities services technicians with a list of building repairs from Colorado Springs to make the rounds in Wyoming.
“In three years, I think we will have a definite, recognizable stake-hold in Colorado Springs as facility services that is a recognizable entity for this type of work,” Wolfe said.
But he takes exception to calling the technicians “handymen” as they do more than putty holes, he says.
“They know how to pour concrete,” he said. “They are well-rounded and knowledgeable — this is a group who can fix anything.”
The facilities services team also provides detailed building and maintenance assessments to building managers; will provide project management; and has recently begun providing 3D modeling of a building’s internal wiring and valves.
“Money is tight, so to get an outside opinion that validates and confirms their plan or gives them an different point of view is good,” Wolfe said.
Still, about 80 percent of the facilities service work is odd jobs and day-to-day maintenance.
Joe DeBenedetto, Wells Fargo property manager, was among the first to call GE Johnson with his maintenance requests.
He has a maintenance crew for the 88 bank buildings he manages in Colorado. But the in-house crew is mostly responsible for preventive maintenance or very small jobs, like a flickering light, he said.
“GE Johnson is a backup vendor to our in-house maintenance group,” DeBenedetto said.
He called GE Johnson to put down indoor/outdoor carpet, repair a door in a teller line and fix broken sidewalks.
“They built one of our stores in Colorado Springs, and you have a relationship with them because they are the general contractor,” DeBenedetto said.
Facilities services is a small piece of the work GE Johnson does — about $1 to $2 million annually of the $300 million in total revenue, Wolfe said.
“But it’s a necessary piece in our relationship with clientele,” he said. “I think it hasn’t reached its full potential.”