Allied Framers Inc.
- Written by: Molly Cohen
- Produced by: Alan Symonds
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Jakki Kutz has been in the construction industry for 25 years, with over half of it as president of her company, Allied Framers Inc., which she co-founded in 1995. The company, a wood-framed structures specialist, celebrated its 15th anniversary on April 1, 2010. Working from a headquarters in Vacaville, Calif., Allied Framers has a general contractor’s license, but generally serves as a subcontractor. “We are providing a service that is one of the largest subcontracted trades needed,” explains Kutz. “We do residential construction to larger podium wood frame structures, all production and all new construction.”
Battling the Economy
While its niche is clearly defined, and the company has a proven track record delivering on time and on budget, Allied Framers has been challenged for the last couple of years by the recession. As a result of this economic climate, Allied Framer’s revenue is at about one-third of where it was a few years ago. “It’s pretty challenging right now in today’s market,” admits Kutz, who estimates that the company will still pull in $10 million this year, but operating with a reduced 50-member staff as of summer 2010. “I think, however, that our organization is predicated on quality construction, concern for safety for employees and an environment for employees that’s satisfactory to them, as well as providing service to our clients,” proclaims Kutz. For these reasons, among others, Kutz has faith in Allied Framers’ ability to secure new and repeat clientele.
To further overcome challenges, “we’ve increased our sales staff to achieve and improve our success ratio. Plus, I am actively involved with legislation and regulatory agencies in an attempt to deal with competition that’s not a legitimate contractor but that portrays itself as legitimate, carries a license, and yet behaves just the opposite in the field,” Kutz shares. Kutz currently serves as a board member of the Northern California Contractors Association and is an active member of CALPASC, an organization that seeks to level the playing field for law-abiding subcontractors.
For Kutz, it is integrity that is a key element in the continued success of Allied Framers. For this reason Kutz carefully vets the materials vendors with which Allied partners, choosing those with the right price and commitment to quality. “Bid is very much the number one thing that drives [choosing a vendor], because competition is so tough. But we’re dealing with contractors that over the years have developed a reputation for providing service and quality products. We’re not dealing with new vendors, but rather familiar ones … and price does drive a lot,” Kutz explains.
Invaluable Services for Affordable Housing
The conscientious management and energized workforce at Allied Framers have proven invaluable when it comes to securing recent projects, including a veterans’ hospital in Palo Alto. “We also just completed a project called the Peninsula Station Apartments in San Mateo that provides affordable housing to those in the area,” says Kutz. “We’re doing all public works and similar affordable housing, working for HUD or local communities that provide funding for these types of projects.”
Reflecting upon the company’s history, Kutz finds it hard to pick one project above others that was particularly interesting, because “they always provide unique challenges,” she recalls. “This type of work has been the focus for our company for the last year-and-a-half. We have changed the focus onto the affordable housing, high-density housing and infill projects, as opposed to the residential less-dense type of housing environment.” As for upcoming projects, Kutz notes, “There are several that have been awarded to us, but it’s all similar type work.” With projects of this nature, labor is Allied Framers’ biggest expense, considering it is a union company. The next biggest expense is materials. But Allied Framers has the experience to expertly navigate these factors. The true topic that keeps Kutz awake at night is the status of the overall construction industry.
“Right now it’s very worrisome,” she acknowledges. In some ways, then, it is lucky that Kutz believes the market has reached its all-time low. “There are projects out there to be filled, but lending isn’t available from banks. We have several projects that have been delayed almost a year now waiting for funding. We’re hoping to send the message to legislation to loosen the purse strings to get some of these projects going.”
So, for now, Allied Framers’ focus “has been to … get some work. Rumor is that Allied Framers is doing more than many other companies, and that’s only one-third of what we were doing, so that’s hard to believe. I know others in the industry are struggling to obtain work,” Kutz acknowledges. “If we can ride this out with some or very little success, I’d be pleased. That would be a success story. Every day you’re hearing about companies falling off the edge, but we’re still pushing. Taking care of our people, maintaining a positive environment for employees, is something we take very seriously, because without teamwork we don’t succeed.”
Recognizing Allied Framers’ quality work, experienced employees, financial stability and focus on safety and comprehensive worker incentives, it is not hard to understand why the company has been able to remain afloat while others are drowning. This strong foundation will sustain Allied Framers Inc., allowing it to maintain its niche as a trusted building partner in the industry and giving it the opportunity to grow as economic factors realign.
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