Justin Hernandez (left), owner of New Generation Construction, talks with Region VII Advocate Becky Greenwald outside St. Michael's Catholic School in southeast Lincoln.
He couldn't see himself working in an office at his father's Ford dealership, so Justin Hernandez started his own construction company.
And he'll tell you he had a knack for timing, he admits with a laugh, starting his business in early 2009, in the teeth of the worst construction crash in several generations.
Yet today, New Generation Construction is an up-and-comer in the Lincoln area with a name that describes their approach to their clients.
Hernandez was tossing around names for his firm with a friend of his, who thought about the way the company was integrating new technology and new ways of thinking into a new generation of construction ownership. "And I’ve been a believer that it’s not one person who is responsible for our success, it's something that incorporates everyone on our team, so we had to have 'group' in there somewhere."
Bursting portfolio of spectacular projects
New Generation Construction began with four full-time employees; today, reflecting its astounding growth, there are 14 full-time and two part-time workers in the firm.
As their web site claims, New Generation Construction is recognized for its strength in traditional construction methods and for its creative approach to state-of-the-art technology and delivery systems spanning the construction industry spectrum, from small renovations to million dollar projects. They boast an attractive portfolio of projects ranging from general contractor work on the Alloy Strength Complex for the University of Nebraska Cornhusker athletic teams, one of many projects for the college over the past two years, to the interior finish for a gleaming, new dental practice. The firm has done renovation and upgrade work on an MRI suite for St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island; and, working with Shanahan Mechanical & Electrical, they are in the process of constructing a 2.8 million gallon thermal energy storage facility for the University of Nebraska .
Then there's St. Michael's Catholic School on the southeast side of Lincoln. This 55,000-square-foot edifice now rises from south of Yankee Hill boasting nine comfortable classrooms, a library, computer lab, parish and faculty offices, full commercial kitchen and bright, airy 10,000-square-foot gym.
New Generation Construction completed the work on the parochial school in just 9-1/2 months, and "way" under budget, said Jerry Sukup of Heartland Community Bank in nearby Bennet. "Nobody thought he could finish it by the time school opened."
Turning to the SBA for a line of credit to fuel further growth
Sukup himself is a parishoner of St. Michael's Church, and it was during a tour of the construction work led by the parish priest that he ran into Hernandez.
"Lincoln is a small place, you kind of run back into people you've worked with before," he said. The two had worked together when Sukup was at a previous lender, and he couldn't help but impressed with the work New Generation Construction had done.
Hernandez mentioned to Sukup he could use a larger line of credit to continue to tackle the larger construction jobs around the state, and with Sukup's help, moved his business financing to Heartland. After a discussion of what structure of deal would help the business and work best for the lender, and the growth and potential of the firm, Sukup decided to turn to the SBA to guarantee the loan, and to Suzanne Stearman, a lender relations specialist at the Nebraska District Office, for help.
Heartland had done only two SBA loans recently, a landscaping firm in Nebraska City in March 2010, and a custom window manufacturer in Lincoln in August 2011. New Generation Construction would be the third.
"Suzanne is always great for us," Sukup said. "Sure, she pointed out the forms were available on the SBA web site, but she went beyond that by offering to send us what we needed. The first time I submitted the information through ETran (the SBA's electronic loan processing software) on this deal, I got a few errors, so I called her, and she walked me through it."
As a result of Sukup's work and Stearman's help, New Generation Construction was approved Jan. 17 for a $300,000 revolving line of credit using the SBA Express program.
And this deal may not be the last SBA application for Heartland.
"There are several SBA deals for people I have worked with in the past that we’re looking at, maybe six or seven that would fit perfectly into a line of credit or an Express loan," Sukup said. "We’re on that slow and steady growth here, and we’re always looking for more deals."
Especially if they have a chance to help a young, energetic small business owner.
Didn't let economic slump discourage him from starting his own company
Hernandez's father owns a car dealership in Beatrice, some 40 miles from Lincoln in the southeast part of the state, which he purchased back in 1997.
"He wanted me to come work there but I couldn’t stand being in the office," Hernandez said.
So he started "a concrete and landscape business right out of high school," an effort he continued through college toward a degree in construction management and business management, repairing and pouring concrete for driveways on the weekends, working between classes on grading work for residential and commercial lots.
"There was a lot of work to go around and I found a niche," he said.
He picked up a job with Landscapes Unlimited constructing football fields and soccer pitches all over the country, and sold off a large portion of his landscaping business while working for that firm. After working for three years, he tired of the travel and living away from home, so he returned to work for a Lincoln-area construction firm
By the end of 2008, he determined he had enough experience working for another firm and decided to go out on his own, right as the industry slumped.
"Every banker told me I should just go work for somebody," Hernandez said. "I said to myself, 'well, if it doesn't work out, at least I know.'"
But Hernandez leveraged the reputation he'd built with several clients while working for the Lincoln construction company, and worked his way up from very small jobs in 2009 to multi-million dollar projects by 2012.
Hernandez also works hard to be a responsible corporate citizen. "He’s been involved with very unique, green projects reusing and renewing material for projects," Sukup said.
While the line of credit will help, Hernandez said key to continued growth remains the relationships he forges between his company and his clients.
"That's been our biggest asset," he said. "We do more with less with our projects, and we look for more efficient ways to do the same tasks as our competitors on time and under budget. Our growth has been more than what we had anticipated, but now that we have a few things in line we’re ready for the next step."