J&P gets top SBA award
In the worst environment for the construction industry since the Great Depression, Jeff Ploutz and his Santa Maria-based J&P Construction are posting a record year.
Thanks to repeat contracts from federal agencies and commercial customers, Ploutz has kept a workforce of about 43 busy this year and he’s expecting the future to be just as bright. He’s been slowly diversifying away from government work and into commercial construction in the relatively healthy agribusiness sector.
In August, J&P graduated from a federal program that helps small businesses win bids for government contracts, after securing more than $36 million in government business. In early December, Ploutz was picked as 2008’s Minority Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration’s Los Angeles District Office.
Ploutz is the son of a U.S. military serviceman and a Japanese immigrant mother who subsequently became a U.S. citizen. A union carpenter by training, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a supervisor. He started the company in 1995 after his former employer retired and gave him “the push” to start his own business.
“I decided I wanted to be self-employed, be my own boss,” Ploutz told the Business Times.
In 1999, J&P joined the SBA’s 8(a) program, which helps small, disadvantaged companies get business from the federal government. Since then, his company has won more than 31 contracts from government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Forestry Service, and Department of Veterans Affairs and performed more than 400 delivery orders.
J&P Construction started with three employees, including business partner Lynn Ploutz, who has remained on board as vice president. Today, half of the company’s 43 employees are members of local carpenter, cement mason or ironworker unions. In addition to its main Santa Maria office, the company operates three satellite locations at Fort Hunter Liggett, Camp Roberts and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
In August, J&P Construction completed SBA’s 8(a) program and Ploutz will serve as a mentor, helping other companies develop the skills needed to compete for government business. Ploutz credited the SBA with providing support needed to help him navigate the sometimes complex rules for winning government business.
“Their business guidance and direction has helped us grow the company into a thriving construction company,” he said.
Since J&P Construction started the SBA program, government contracting has been the major focus of its work. Now that the program has ended, there are no plans to lose that focus. However, Ploutz says the company will start mentoring new 8(a) companies to help their own secure government contracts.
“We’re good at managing the government contracts and all their requirements,” he said, “but it is not vital to the success of our business.”
Ploutz says his company has been largely unscathed so far by the current economic climate. He sees further growth through the existing contracts and other commitments with local developers for commercial projects, such as work done with Apio, Inc. in Guadalupe. Despite this, there are no immediate plans to expand the company with more locations or workers.
“Our success is, in large part, due to our employees and their loyalty and dedication to the company and the company’s future,” Ploutz said. More than 85 percent of J&P Construction’s work is from repeat customers.
“We’ve taken advantage of (SBA’s) training and advice and have a better business because of it,” he said.
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