Graham-Prewett Inc.: Stability Through Diversification

Gary Graham and Sean Prewett founded Graham-Prewett Inc. (GPI) in 2001 after a series of mergers and acquisitions at their previous employers left the two wanting to work for a company more cleanly structured and service-oriented. Subsequently built from the ground up in Fresno, Calif., GPI has managed to become one of the key roofing contractors in the Central Valley through an uncompromising commitment to the client, a lean internal organization and an ever-diversifying skill set. GPI repairs and replaces roofing, but the team also has the experience and training to tackle asbestos removal, waterproofing and carpentry to streamline the construction process and provide a better value to the client.

Today, GPI is a union-affiliated roofing contractor, which enables the firm to ensure the quality of its craftsmanship and maintain a streamlined corporate structure. GPI can scale up or down according to its work volume without a great impact to the company’s overhead costs. Additionally, GPI places heavy emphasis on the importance of a professional development program and takes pride in encouraging talented professionals to pursue new areas of expertise.

At present, GPI self-performs a large majority of its work and maintains a sheetmetal fabrication shop. In its 11-year history GPI has accrued experience working with a variety of roofing systems – from traditional to technical and from metal to membrane. In 2011 GPI was awarded the Firestone Partner in Quality Award on behalf of Firestone Building Products Company LLC. The award required GPI to install at least four Firestone roofs for five consecutive years and maintain at least 1 million square feet of Firestone roofs while also maintaining a high Firestone quality rating.

Recently GPI was recognized further for its commitment to an increasingly higher standard of excellence through receiving the Firestone Master Contractor Award and the Firestone Inner Circle of Quality Award. Firestone-licensed contractors annually earn Master Contractor status by accumulating Quality Points for achieving exceptional inspection ratings on Firestone Red Shield warranted roofing system installations, and are shown they are appreciated at a yearly recognition event.

Even more prestigious, however, is the Inner Circle of Quality Award, which goes to Master Contractors who install a minimum of four warranted Firestone roofs in each of the past five years, maintain at least 2 million square feet of Firestone roofs under warranty, and achieve an annual Firestone Quality Incidence Rating of 2.0 or less. As a result of this level of recognition, GPI will receive promotions and incentives that reinforce its competitive standing and highlight its historically first-rate capabilities.

Streamlined Services

To assure it upholds its own stringent quality standards, GPI traditionally only subs out heavy mechanical components, solar components, structural repairs, stucco and painting work. “We try to do as much work with in-house labor as possible, and encouraging our professionals to learn new skills is part of that effort,” expands Prewett, president of GPI. With this increasingly expanding expertise GPI can avoid bringing on unnecessary subcontractors to any project, therefore passing the savings on to the client. More importantly, the extra skill sets provide the company with a competitive advantage.

When the occasion does arise for GPI to call in additional subtrades, the company prefers to work with a shortlist of qualified contacts and obtain a competitive price by inviting a small number of associates to submit bids. However, GPI’s efforts are continually leading to more facets of the job the company can handle directly. For example, GPI hasn’t moved into the realm of total facility asbestos abatement, but roofing replacement and repair projects often involve an asbestos abatement component so the company has incorporated this removal expertise.

Additionally, GPI’s educational explorations coincide nicely with the company’s overarching goal of staying active in the local business community. GPI has been a member of the Central California Builders Exchange (CCBE) since its inception and Prewett served as president of its board of directors for some time. “The CCBE does a lot to help contractors and subcontractors work together and find work, which is more important in today’s economic climate than ever before,” reflects Prewett. The CCBE helps member companies like GPI stay informed of new technological advances, bidding opportunities and important industry developments, and the association provides a forum in which industry leaders can interact.

Drawing on these resources, the company has grown, expanded its skill sets, and taken advantage of networking opportunities. This has allowed GPI to participate in some of the community’s biggest construction projects. In 2003 GPI provided complete roofing, sheet metal, flashing and waterproofing services for the Save Mart Center, California State University at Fresno’s newest on-campus arena. In total, the Save Mart Center cost over $103 million and provides over 16,000 seats, roughly 6,000 seats more than the municipal facility the school’s varsity sports teams, known as the Bulldogs, had been using.

“We were involved in that project from beginning to end, which was an honor not only because it was one of our largest projects, but also because it was one of the community’s most anticipated,” admits Prewett. The arena was in development for almost 20 years with fundraising officially beginning in 1989. However, it wasn’t until Pepsi contributed $40 million for naming rights in the late 1990s that the fundraising efforts gained real steam. Eventually, Pepsi sold the naming rights, but the Save Mart Center became the largest on-campus arena on the West Coast at the time of its completion.

Building Lean Muscle

GPI takes pride in being constantly active in strengthening a new California. More recently GPI has been active in both public and private sectors, especially in healthcare and education. By late 2011 GPI had crews working at the Clovis Community Medical Center and Tulare Regional Medical Center, two local hospitals undergoing major expansions and renovations. Though the company has witnessed a decline in work from food processing companies, which typically have accounted for much of the company’s work, these two healthcare projects have led the company’s team of field employees to swell as high as 60 professionals.

In the coming years GPI will continue to focus on expanding its skill set as the opportunities arise, while simultaneously the team will concentrate on strengthening its lean structure. “In my opinion it will take a number of years to return to predownturn levels, but we aim to grow between 10 to 15 percent in 2012,” admits Prewett. Capital investment projects will regain strength in the private sector, and Graham-Prewett Inc. will provide its services as a key strategic partner to assure facilities of all types are receive top-quality building envelope installation, maintenance and repair.