Though the housing market in Boulder, Colo., hasn’t experienced the same downturn as other U.S. cities, says Donna Werner, owner of BW Construction, the company’s average project size has shrunk 50%. “[Projects] are smaller in size, scope, and pricing,” she says, noting that it also takes two or three times the effort to make a sale.
The company has five employees and laid off a carpenter in 2008 for about six months. “We slowly brought him back part-time, and this past May brought him back full-time,” Werner says.
To survive the downturn, the company solicited past clients, most of whom asked for handyman and maintenance work. Werner also promoted BW Construction’s 20th anniversary with a publicity blitz that strengthened the company’s brand message. Due to these promotions, the company currently has a good variety of work including kitchens, baths, decks, modest additions, and basement remodels that should keep crews busy through November.
Even though she does not see a return to the larger jobs the company prefers, Werner is optimistic that the firm can survive on small jobs. However, it’s challenging to compete against contractors who are willing to work for wages. “We can’t work for wages because we have a company to run,” Werner says.
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.