Five Qs: Todd Sachse of Detroit’s Sachse Construction

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tSachse Construction, a commercial construction company in Detroit, had 32 employees and $64.5 million in revenue in 2011. Two years later, the company recorded $138 million in revenue and claims more than 100 employees. Todd Sachse, founder and CEO of the firm, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the company’s growth, its move to downtown Detroit, and trends in the industry.

t1. DDN: What do you contribute to your growth from 2011 to 2013?

tTS: The short story is that during the recession we didn’t downsize our staff as, I think, many companies in this industry did. It’s not because we had more work than anybody else, it was really more of a decision we made. We were optimistic that eventually the world was going to turn around, and we wanted to be prepared when it did. So I think we were fortunate to be able to capitalize on opportunities that maybe others just weren’t prepared for because they had downsized so much. That's one big part of it.

t(Another) big part of (the growth) is just a resurgence in the city of Detroit. We were fortunate to be doing a lot of work downtown, so we were able to ride that wave with a lot of our clients, so that was very helpful. And we’re licensed in 43 states in the U.S. and in Canada. We build a lot of retail stores, restaurants, malls and shopping centers, and airports throughout North America. That industry was also very depressed from 2008 to 2010 and has since significantly increased, so we’ve been able to capitalize on that also.

t2. DDN: Did you have to expand your offices?

tTS: Yes, we’ve more than doubled our office size and crammed more people in. (laughs) From a Detroit standpoint; I’m a huge believer. We moved our offices down here in last May. We were occupying about 5,000 square feet in Birmingham. We now have about 12,000 square feet downtown. We moved 110 people down here, right on Woodward. We’re thrilled that we did. Our team members love it. We did it very strategically because we believe that over the next 10 years, this is where the opportunities are for construction development and for being a part of what's happening. We're believers and supporters.

t3. DDN: Describe Detroit’s commercial construction industry.

tTS: There’s a fair amount of work in our marketplace, but the availability of resources in our marketplace shrunk through the recession. A lot of people left town, particularly in the skilled trades, so that makes it very challenging. The resources that exist for the commercial contractors are more limited than they used to be, so that's a big deal. And speaking professionally, on our end, (Sachse) is very collaborative and communicative with other people in the construction world. Is it competitive? Yes, but it’s not like Walgreens and CVS.

t4. DDN: Is most of your work in Michigan?

tTS: In terms of numbers of jobs, we do more projects out of state than we do in state. As it relates to volume, the majority of our volume is in in state. Why? Because the project’s in state are larger.

t(Right now,) we’re doing a $15 million renovation at the Detroit Athletic Club and a major renovation of an apartment complex called the Albert on Capitol Park. (The Albert) is going to be done by late spring, early summer. We're also building an Estee Lauder at (Detroit Metro Airport). We do a lot of work with airports, both locally and around the country. 

t5. DDN: What trends in the industry are you seeing?

tTS: Through the recession, nobody was building housing, so now there are a lot of apartment complexes being built, whether they be new complexes or buildings being converted or renovated. So that market is coming back and coming back quickly. We have a fair number of those projects on the books that are starting this year and are going into 2015.

tThe size of the (apartment) unit is less important than it used to be. It’s more about quality and amenities. It used to be, “What size is your one-bedroom apartment?” Today, it’s more about, “What are the common-area amenities? What am I getting in the unit? What are the services?”

t(And) I’ll tell you what's interesting: we don’t put telephone lines in the units. There are no phone jacks. Many people have cell phones, they don’t even have house phones. And if they want phone service, they can get it through cable. It's funny, because even I ask, “Really? (No phone jacks?)” And they say, “Nope, there's no need for it.”

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