JCP Construction and James Phelps were recently featured in the Milwaukee Business Journal as part of their “Small Business Big Mission” series. You can read the article below or on the Milwaukee Business Journal website.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF FOR CONTRACTOR
Construction firm works for years to find lender that will allow them to grow firm
During its early years, limited access to lending slowed JCP Construction LLC’s ability to take on contracts as large as its owners had the know-how to complete.
As a fledgling construction company that started operations in 2009, access to lending translated to how many people JCP Construction could hire on for each job, said president James Phelps. The Milwaukee company needed that lending in order to satisfy worker paychecks in the midst of a construction project, since there is always a lag before it gets repaid by project ownership for work performed.
“We had to be mindful of not what we could do the work of, but what resources we had to be able to fund that growth, mainly through payroll and overhead,” Phelps said. “Knowing we only had a finite amount of cash and a line of credit on hand, it constricted the kinds of projects we were able to pursue.”
The company built new and closer relationships with lenders, which each one translating into more people working and larger projects in which it participated.
A lending relationship with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. let the company take on larger contracts, including concrete work on the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Pamela and Hermann Viets Field parking structure and soccer complex in Milwaukee.
Then Phelps met Jeff Musa, market president for Peoples State Bank, at a local political fundraiser. They went to a Milwaukee Bucks game to get to know each other better, and within a month had closed on a new line of credit for JCP Construction.
“It was no different from the conversations we’d be having previously, but it was with someone who wanted to lean in and help with the growth of JCP,” Phelps said.
That line meant JCP Construction could do more contracts on Northwestern Mutual’s downtown office tower, such as interior finish carpentry and waterproofing. Over more than two years, JCP Construction did more than $7 million in contracts for that project.
“It was a shot in the arm where we went from having combined lines of credit between ourselves and WWBIC of about $110,000, and we went to $450,000,” Phelps said.
Proceeds from the work on the Northwestern Mutual tower helped JCP Construction’s owners fund the acquisition and renovation of a building on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for the company’s headquarters. It has since become one of Milwaukee’s premier builders, making the jump to serving as a prime contractor on projects.
“I would say don’t settle,” Phelps said. “Don’t get discouraged even if it’s over a long period of time. Even though you may talk to nine bankers that don’t share your vision, hopefully there’s a tenth one that will be that partner you are looking for.”