Contractor Mark Taylor says business is good for him despite the economic downturn.

Business as usual

Mark Taylor has been a contractor and site developer for three decades, working first in the residential arena and more recently on public works projects.

Lately, Taylor is become a bit of an economist as well.

While many of his fellow contractors have been downsizing their businesses, Taylor has expanded. Not only does he run Taylor Site Development, but also Taylor Made Pump Stations out of his Sage Road office.

"From what I was seeing in 2004, I knew we were going to experience a downturn," Taylor said. "The cutting-edge people said that this couldn't go on forever. So I told my workers we should start an auction company."

That hasn't happened yet, but in recent months Taylor's decision to get into the utility pump business has begun paying dividends. The 52-year-old Jacksonville resident's operations both sell and install the pumps used for moving sewage to municipalities.

The three-person unit is just a third the size of Taylor Site Development's nine-person staff, but opportunities abound.

"We've got four jobs in the works and we project sales of $600,000 from that this year," said Taylor. "It was something we started developing and putting in time with before the market dropped off."

A few years ago, Taylor was cranking out a 100-lot subdivision near the Eagle Point Golf Course. Today his staff is working on an $850,000 project in White City installing 122 street lights in a 15-block area. Earlier this year, Taylor completed a six-month, $1.7 million interior remodel of the Medford Armory.

"We're experienced the downturn like everyone else," Taylor said.

"I've learned it's not what you make, but what you save through being prudent and picking jobs. We still earn $2 (million) to $2.5 million annually, but we've retained twice as much in earnings by going through a check list."

He said going to small business seminars, getting involved in workforce development and keeping the pipeline open with everyone from engineers to politicians has kept him ahead of the downturn.

Entering the public domain came at a cost, but one he was willing to pay.

Bureau of Labor and Industries rules change everything for contractors, deter some and inspire others. Taylor is among the latter

"We don't necessarily get more work because we do BOLI jobs, but it involves higher wages, more for insurance and worker's compensation payments go up," he said. "About 90 percent of what we do is BOLI-related; it was half that 10 years ago."

He says hourly rates have escalated to $50 from $40 in the past two years.

Paper trails can be onerous for some firms, but Taylor is quick to pass along a lengthy list of customer letters, endorsing his work. And the real feather in his cap is that his companies have never had a complaint from the state contractor's board.

"I've been active in labor issues, but what we're really burdened with now in this industry is a need for training," he said. "I hope to retire in a few years and we're going to need people to come along to do the work. You want to leave something behind when you're through and I'd like to see a better trained workforce."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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