After more than 25 years in the commercial construction industry, James Fitzgerald knows a thing or two about project leadership, and about leading a general contracting firm through thick and thin. Channeling a passion that started in a high school drawing class into building a thriving Northern California firm was a winding road, but Fitzgerald is proud of MarketOne Builders’s success, and anticipates more good things to come.
The first inkling of where Fitzgerald would go in life, he says, came in a high school drafting class in his junior year, when he was considering his future plans.
“I had a good teacher who said I had a real knack for technical drawing and an eye for design, and to consider architecture. He pointed me in the direction of what schools to look at, and Cal Poly was one of them.” Fitzgerald soon discovered the Construction Management program within the School of Architecture, which appealed to his desire to do more than just design projects, but rather to explore the diversity of work and knowledge that actual building provides.
Having "learned by doing" at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Fitzgerald took his Construction Management degree, and thanks to a friend's recommendation, landed his first job with the general contracting firm Rudolph and Sletten. Inc. In 1992, after working a number of Bay Area projects, Fitzgerald was assigned to the Sacramento region to work on a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility for Alza. “The company owned a house in Citrus Heights, and they told me to check in with a guy named Tom Ford who was already up there.” Four years later Tom Ford left to start up MarketOne Builders, and two years after that, Fitzgerald joined up with him. It was a strong friendship that had developed that brought them to do things on their own.
It would be a faststart for the new company. “When we first started it was the DotCom explosion and we had data center experience. There were a ton of sexy growth charts and loads of venture capital money - there was no end in sight” recalls Fitzgerald, “...and then we had the "DotBomb". We had gone from 10 employees to 50 employees, $10 million a year to $50 million a year, and there was just no end in sight. Then, in 2000, it all driedup.”
Telegis Data Center (first of many data center projects)
This adversity struck the national construction industry hard, laying to waste less resilient firms and businesses all over the country, and Sacramento took the hit especially hard. “We had to retool and we let a number of people go… we had literally been on the growth bandwagon with everyone else. In 2000, there was a data center in Sacramento, we built it.
This was a very trying time for two young entrepreneurs in construction, who went from being the fastest growing company in Sacramento to literally wondering where their next meal was coming from.
James Fitzgerald and Tom Ford, 1997
By 2008, MarketOne Builders was ready to take on new projects that capitalized on their individual expertise, biotechnology. For example, Jackson Laboratory, a research institution from Maine, was looking to expand their facilities in Sacramento to better support the West Coast bio/pharma clients and to support their growth into Asia. Fitzgerald secured that contract, and still oversees projects for The Jackson Laboratory today. Since that time, and even through the Great Recession, MarketOne Builders has remained profitable by remaining nimble and working hard to protect their existing clients.
In 2012, M1B opened a Bay Area office, which felt like a natural expansion for San Mateo-native Fitzgerald. “We’ve got some pretty significant projects there that are a testament to our ability as a ground-up builder. We’re back to over 50 employees, and last year we completed $40 million in revenues.”
MarketOne Builders has established a long list of diverse client and completed projects, from complex technical facilities to high end office space. James Fitzgerald is proud of the work his team has accomplished over the past 18 years, and looks forward to the being on the ground floor of the reinvigoration of downtown Sacramento urban core and what it will bring to the region in 2015 and beyond.