Michelle Childers

Within Houston’s sprawling suburban footprint, Greymark Construction has deliberately confined its toehold to a radius of a few miles. “I typically stay inside ‘the loop’” of older neighborhoods, says owner Leslie King ( Big50 2007), whose 14-year-old design/build firm had $2.1 million in revenue and a healthy net profit in 2008.

Her grip has grown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Dumping 20 feet of water on Galveston Island, 50 miles south, last September’s storm damaged thousands of homes, some of significant historic value. One is the 1874 Dealey home — as in Dealey Plaza, the Dallas site of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination — and it has since become Greymark Construction’s first Galveston job, a $200,000 first-floor rebuild.

What prompted King to stretch to Galveston? Besides the “really cool” nature of the Dealey job (a referral through a client), the promise of more such work, and the flagging Houston economy, she believes that several factors make the venture a smart business decision.

Willing subcontractors. Greymark Construction subcontracts all its work, with project managers as employees. Trade contractors were enthusiastic about the job, King says, noting that they agreed to early-morning starts and slight cost bumps to cover commuting time.

Focused work area. Galveston is just an hour drive away — “good time to think,” King says of her twice-weekly jaunts there. Critically, its historic district is centralized within a small area, making the Dealey job and others that follow relatively easy to manage.

Mobile technology. Between BlackBerries, Wi-Fi–connected laptops, and mobile printers, King and her project manager can easily operate a satellite office from the road.

Beyond a sign at the Dealey project, King is not actively marketing her work in Galveston. But word is getting out, and she anticipates more projects involving damaged historic structures. “We’re just getting our feet wet here, and we want to make sure it goes OK,” she says. Focused and manageable growth are the company’s reliable keys to continued success.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.