JEL Looks Beyond Winter Park Area For Bigger Jobs

Wed July 30, 2008 - Southeast Edition
CEG



In spite of the downward turn in the economic cycle that leads the construction industry along like a child’s red wagon, JEL Site Development continues to expand.

The Winter Park, Fla.-based company, co-owned by the father and son team of Jim Lucas Sr. and Jim Lucas Jr., was founded in 2000.

In just the past three years, it has latched on to success and is expanding its reach well beyond Winter Park.

The contractor is finalizing details on a $10 million job in Ft. Pierce, nearly 150 mi. away from its headquarters.

It also has been bidding on projects in Tampa, which is more than 80 mi. away.

“If the job’s big enough and it’s worth doing, we’ll go,” said Lucas Jr., who primarily handles project procurement at JEL. Lucas Sr. primarily manages work in the field.

JEL specializes in site development, including clearing, utilities, building pads and roadwork.

“We like to stay more in the $2 million and up range when the market is good,” Lucas Jr. said. However, he won’t turn down a smaller project, like a gas station, if it’s nearby.

The contractor currently is working on a dozen projects — about 80 percent of them are commercial. The breakdown between commercial and residential used to be 50-50 before the housing downturn.

It has worked on seven Publix Super Markets, Cross Creek Village and Bella Lago.

Lucas Jr. said JEL is twice the size it was three years ago. Its annual revenue is $15 million, but that’s expected to increase, as just one project slated for 2009 is valued at $8 million.

“We’re becoming a more efficient company,” Lucas Jr. said. He added that, in another year or two, “when construction gets going again” the company will be in an opportune position.

JEL performs its work with a fleet of 38 machines, most of which are Hyundai machines purchased from U.S. Shoring and Equipment.

Lucas Jr. said the company purchased its first Hyundai three years ago and “I don’t think we’ve bought another brand since. The equipment obviously is good. We’re not going to spend that kind of money on iron and get a bad piece of equipment.”

His appreciation of the machines carries over to the service he receives from U.S. Shoring.

“If we’ve ever had a problem, it’s been taken care of very quickly,” he said.

JEL’s other key players include Jan Lucas, office manager; Dave Lucas, field superintendent; Dustin Lucas, project manager; and Robert Smith, chief estimator. CEG Staff