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Sunday, 07 June 2015 22:00

Q&A: Robert Farkas, 7 Generations Construction LLC

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Robert Farkas Robert Farkas COURTESY PHOTO

To diversify from casino gaming, Dowagiac-based Mno-Bmadsen, the private equity and economic development arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, is extending its reach into the fields of construction management and design-build services. The company recently created 7 Generations Construction LLC, with offices in Kalamazoo and South Bend, Ind. The firm, led by construction industry veteran Robert Farkas, will work alongside partner organization 7 Generations Architecture and Engineering LLC (7GenAE). Farkas spoke with MiBiz about the firm’s goals for skilled trades training as well as a new joint venture to pursue federal contracting work with Wisconsin-based construction management firm Greenfire Management Services LLC.

Why create a wholly-owned design-build firm? 

There’s no more efficient way to build these days than design-build. With 7GenAE and their (tribal) status, which is what attracted Greenfire to us, we want to deliver design-build in the federal market. That’s sort of a home run for a small firm.

What does the new firm do for the tribe?

(To take) care of future generations and to employ more tribal citizens, we decided that we should start a construction company. That way we can provide skilled trades training to tribal citizens that otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.

How will you approach skilled trades training?

When you’re building health clinics and government centers and casinos, you have a little leverage with the unions. Project labor agreements were in place to provide some opportunities to work on these projects that the tribe is building. That took us to a certain point, but those were short-term opportunities. The idea now with 7 Generations Construction on board is to develop the skills of adult workers within the tribe, as well as set some pathways for younger people that aren’t just limited to the trades.

What do those other opportunities look like?

There are so many opportunities within our organization for doctors, lawyers, accountants. It seemed like a good idea to open this company with an eye on the construction trades, but also to develop an overall tribal hiring program.

Can you explain the new joint venture with Greenfire?

The joint venture was created specifically to pursue federal contracts. The joint venture was formed more specifically between Greenfire and 7GenAE with my expertise coming in on the construction end. There are plenty of opportunities with other tribes. Greenfire brings to us some bonding capacity that, as a young company, we don’t have.

What skills does each organization bring to the venture?

We share some cultural values that — when (they’re) applied to general business principles — make us a very attractive firm to work with. … Historically, tribal nations have (seen) years of struggles, but these two tribes in particular have found ways to sort of overcome the historical trauma and really come out of it well and with paths toward some prosperity. These two firms working together is a dynamic that I think you don’t see very often in the federal market.

Why the emphasis on federal contracting work?

It’s not a real easy thing to do. In the federal market, you’re only as good as your résumé and, moreover, your team. Our principal designer has a heavy federal background — as do I on the construction side. We have a good résumé. Greenfire has secured other federal projects as a construction management firm. When you combine these three entities together, we have a résumé that will win some work.

What types of federal contracts do you plan to pursue?

We have our eyes on two specific opportunities, one with the General Services Administration and NAVFAC (Naval Facility Command). They are sizable enough projects that we feel like we can be effective. … We are being very careful to make sure that the projects we pursue are ones we can perfect some positive performance and establish our reputation right out of the gate.

How competitive is the bidding process for federal projects?

It depends on what you’re pursuing on a project-to-project basis. Typically, there are solicitations that are wide-open to absolutely anybody. But moreover, you see where you have to go through a qualifications process. That’s where the résumé … and your project history becomes very important. They allow you to submit your qualifications and past performance. Then the government narrows down who will bid on certain programs and certain projects. That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to be very mindful of who our competition is going to be and again pick the projects and programs we feel we can excel at.

Interview conducted and condensed by Nick Manes. Courtesy photo.

 

Read 4712 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 June 2015 18:06

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