Modern carving niche with small jobs

by Modern on July 16, 2014

by Mike McLean, Journal of Busines

Todd Harnetiaux, founder and president of Modern Construction & Consulting Services LLC, says the company has managed to grow in one of the toughest markets for building contractors these days, retail construction. Harnetiaux, a 25-year veteran project manager for Spokane contractors such as Lydig Construction Inc. and Baker Construction and Development Inc., set out on his own in 2008 and has had to adjust to an overall decline in retail construction by thinking small.

“We manufactured a niche because nobody was building,” he says. “A lot of retailers are refreshing old stores instead of building new. They are redoing interiors, modifying signage, repainting, redesigning their aisles, and doing other upgrades. Some of those jobs are valued at only about $2,500, but by going after them, Modern Construction aims to have its foot in the door when the economy improves and such retailers want to do bigger projects,” Harnetiaux says.

For example, Modern Construction is doing interior work on up to 150 Walgreen’s stores in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. That work could total $1.6 million for the nearly three-year-old company that is based on the South Hill. He says Modern Construction, which currently has 10 employees is ensuring its future by capitalizing on a number of small jobs, rather than a few big jobs.

“Walgreens is going to make my year, but I can’t put all my eggs in one basket,” Harnetiaux says.

Modern Construction also has landed work by focusing on clients such as T-Mobile USA Inc. and Discount Tire Company, which Harnetiaux says are not as susceptible to recession-induced sales drops.

Harnetiaux says this year’s revenues will be three times that of last year, largely due to the success of its store-setup division. That division handles remodels, rebranding, setting up fixtures, installing walk-in coolers and freezers, in-store repairs, and building additions.

The construction division handles new buildings, site development, additions, and tenant improvements. Through that division, Modern Construction currently is working on bids for some government projects, Harnetiaux says.

“If you’re not thinking about next year, you’re not thinking about success,” he says.

(This article reprinted in part.)