Friendship launches a mission for dreams

By Jorge Mercado

Staff Writer 

The idea of scaling new heights isn’t scary for Jared Malapit, Erik Wright and Karl Vaillancourt, three friends who have known each other since 2011.

The trio met at rock climbing class in San Luis Obispo, and soon enough they hit it off well enough to become going out buddies, meeting up outside of classes and discussing future dreams.

One of those dreams was to eventually start their own company.

“Sometimes these things start where you’re having fun conversations with friends on how you want to start a business together someday and this was one that actually took root and grew,” Wright said. “Our bond was over climbing, not over the business aspect and I think that was actually really important for the success we’ve had.”

At the time, Wright and Malapit were both working for a local concrete contractor and Vaillancourt was always interested in real estate and development opportunities.

“But the construction aspect of our company came from just seeing a need in the industry and being frustrated with the status quo industry in terms of people being fixated on the way it’s been done for the past 50 years and a mindset of not wanting to change,” Vaillancourt said.

As a result, the trio founded San Luis Obispo-based Precision Construction Services in 2013, first starting out as consultants and eventually growing the company now to be a design/build contractor.

At Precision, the company prides itself on utilizing all aspects of current technology to help manage projects and make the best possible decision, a need they felt was not being met.

In fact, the trio said they never actually planned on going all in on the design and construction part of the company. But, in 2015, they were all consulting on a project in Vandenberg for the first rocket landing facility.

Eventually, according to Wright, the people in charge of the product ended up asking the Precision group if they would take on the project.

“There was just pure excitement. There was no way failure was in the cards,” Wright said.

Wright was correct. 

Precision would finish the project and pass with flying colors. That opportunity helped build out the company, which is now 50 employees deep and generated about $20 million in revenue in 2021.

The company also recently purchased a new building in San Luis Obispo to scale operations.

“The biggest success is the team we have built,” Malapit said. “We really have one of the best teams on the Central Coast and it shows with the responses we get from our clients.”

But despite growing larger, their commitment to the community remains high. 

“​​We’re proud to be a part of this community. We fought really hard to stay here when we first started and we are going to remain here until the end,” Vaillancourt said. “We want to make this happen in San Luis Obispo and on the Central Coast.”

Recently, the company won a bid to build out a 125,000-square-foot storage facility for Justin Winery.

The project was between two local construction companies and two based outside the region, but it was Precision that landed its largest contract in company history, valued at $19 million.

“One day, we plan to outgrow being a small business, but one way I think we see being able to contribute to the community, even not being a small business is after a certain size, some of the local contractors here can’t compete on some of the projects or execute on some of the projects and so some of these larger projects, that money goes out of the community so for us growing to a size where we can actually keep those projects here locally is also an important idea for us,” Malapit said.

The trio sees a lot more room for growth. Recently it also signed a new contract with the Missile Defense Agency at Vandenberg. There could also be future opportunities for Diablo Canyon.

The possibilities are endless, the trio said.

But their biggest win has been keeping their friendship alive. Eleven years later, the three friends still go rock climbing every Monday, inviting their staff along as well. 

That tradition will continue just as long as Precision’s commitment to San Luis Obispo.

“We’re very fortunate and very proud that we’ve maintained the level of friendship that we had going into this. That was a goal of ours at the time, and I don’t think any of us really understood what that means and how challenging that could be within the business environment,” Vaillancourt said. “That Monday night climb is kind of a celebration of that. That’s the reason I look forward to it.”

The company’s first big consulting project was the Vandenberg rocket landing facility.
Precision Construction Services has also worked on the Calf Barn, a structure in the historic
Pereira Octogon Barn, left, and to restore the natural Chorro Creek floodplain, right.