J.M. Brown General Contractor Inc.
Since 1996, J.M. Brown General Contractor Inc. has been serving clients in New England with safe practices and attention to detail when it comes to commercial construction. Jeff Brown founded the business, currently headquartered in Hermon, Maine, after 21 years working with another contractor — the last 12 spent working as a superintendent. His previous employer shut its doors and Jeff was quick to pick up where the company left off, taking on a loyal following of customers.
Jeff and his colleagues approach construction with a full-service philosophy. Operating as what Jeff calls, “An old fashioned type of general contractor,” J.M. Brown handles everything from permitting to handing over the keys. He employs approximately 25 people year-round, though that number can jump to 40 in the summer.
In its early years, J.M. Brown focused primarily on steel structures, with materials sourced through Package Steel Buildings based in Sutton, Massachusetts. While metal structures are still a significant component of the business, J.M. Brown offers diverse capabilities and regularly performs new wood construction and tenant fit-outs.
“In the last 12 to 15 years we started doing design build,” Jeff adds. “I very much like that aspect of the business and think we’re good at it. We like that we are able to work with a customer — most of them come to me and they have a general idea of what they need.” With a general concept and some budgetary parameters, J.M. Brown delivers high-quality structures that meet the needs of clients, which allows the business to provide better value than with strictly bid projects.
Mainely commercial projects
Jeff and his colleagues tackle a range of midsized commercial projects — both ground-up and fit-outs —year after year, typically ranging in value from $10,000 to $7 million. Repeat business is the lifeblood of the company and for nearly two decades, Jeff has fostered partnerships with some major Maine establishments.
One such partnership is with Epstein Commercial Real Estate, a Bangor, Maine-based business that owns a significant portion of the city’s commercial buildings. “We have worked with Carol Epstein since 1998,” says Jeff. “We also do a lot of work with Quirk Auto Group and recently completed a $6 million renovation for the group’s Ford dealership in Augusta, Maine. That was inside and out — very complex, and took about a year to complete. We had to ensure the business kept running while we were at work changing almost every aspect of the place.”
In recent years, Jeff says there has also been a growing demand for assisted-living facilities. “There is a big call for that with such a large generation of aging people,” he explains. “We’ve been doing assisted living facilities for five years or so now. We did our first in Camden and have done more for the same client since.”
J.M. Brown also veers into the industrial sector with repeat business for Bangor Hydro, one of the state’s largest utility companies, and General Electric. “We do a lot of the ongoing maintenance for these clients,” Jeff notes.
An old-fashioned general contractor
Jeff and his team offer quality control and efficiency by performing a bulk of work in-house. “We have a good-sized crew,” he explains. “We do structural erection, trimming and interior buildouts in-house — about everything but specialty trades. We work with subcontractors for mechanical, electrical, heat, plumbing and drywall and painting. So many general contractors are becoming suitcase firms and may have a project manager and a super on-site with the rest subbed out. We try to do most of the work ourselves.”
J.M. Brown works with a handful of reliable subcontractors that rarely change. Jeff has worked with the same drywall contractor since he first opened the doors of his company. “Having partners we trust is what keeps us away from the bid sheet,” he notes.
With strong relationships — both with clients and strategic partners — J.M. Brown is on track for steady growth. “Last year was really the turning point for us coming out of the recession,” says Jeff. “2014 was good, and 2015 has been fantastic. Our biggest challenge now is the workforce. As we grow, it has been difficult to find people in the younger generation who want to do this kind of work.”
Despite the challenges, J.M. Brown perseveres. The company has a strong backlog of projects in the commercial sector, comprised mostly of small to medium contracts — too small for the big companies and too large for small subcontractors. Jeff has struck a happy medium and found a niche where he can best serve his clients.
“I very much like seeing my customers happy at the end,” he explains. “I am proud of completing a building. We go over and above on some detailing and want to be proud of what we do. Our policy is to do the right thing and if there is ever an issue, I jump right on it and put myself in their shoes.”
Jeff’s dedicated approach to customer service pays off year after year as J.M. Brown General Contractor Inc. maintains long-term relationships in the construction market.
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