Unimark Construction, a stalwart of the Seattle tenant improvement construction industry, has joined Bay Area-based Skyline Enterprises to help grow its business across the greater Puget Sound region and bring an employee-based focus to the company. Unimark and its tenant services sister company, Servicemark, will be part of a family of companies that includes Skyline Construction, a Bay Area-based interiors contractor, Skyline Capital Builders, focused on ground-up construction, and Accend, a Chicago-based contractor. All of the companies are 100 percent employee-owned, bringing a unique offering to its employees and possibly other companies interested in joining the enterprise.
“What brought the two entities together was a client of ours,” said Chris Henderson, president of Unimark. “[The client] worked for Skyline in the Bay Area in the early 2000s, moved to Seattle and became a client of ours.” So began the years-long collaboration and industry talk that two companies in the same space often may discuss. Expanding the scope of work was certainly one way through which the two companies would be able to do work together, but it was the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that Skyline had initiated inside its organization that drove Henderson and the team to consider a deeper engagement.
“Ever since I’ve been here, I wanted to figure out a way to get some of the earnings that we make as owners to the people who are actually making it happen in the field. We’re only as good as our employees and our subcontractor partners,” said Henderson.
Unimark, which was founded by Seattle-based Unico and spun out a couple of decades ago, was originally created as a tenant services group within the Unico family, and John Parker, its long-time leader, bought the organization out of the Unico umbrella to create an independent tenant improvement company to serve the needs of enterprises across the Puget Sound region. The company today focuses on corporate interiors predominantly, while it also does some renovation and rehabilitation work. Henderson has been with the organization since 2012, and he helped it grow from a $25 million a year enterprise to over $80 million today, making it the largest interiors union contractor in the Northwest.
The appeal to Skyline was obvious. Its growing business in its home base in the Bay Area helped usher potential work in other markets as clients expanded, and the two companies had a lot of commonalities, which ultimately led to the merger.
“The purchase transaction is part of a strategy that we’ve been pursuing for a couple of years now to be able to better service our clients across multiple markets and multiple service lines,” said Jessica Carps, chief operating officer of Skyline Enterprises. Carps and Skyline CEO David Hayes worked closely to help Unimark’s team see the vision of the Skyline team and how Unimark would make a great contribution to the lineup.
Skyline’s goal was to engage with a strong local company whose brand is well known and that has a history in the region. Unimark’s 50-year history and strong existing brand made it a perfect fit with the rest of the organization at Skyline, and the company plans to leave the name and management structure intact but help bring it into the fold where Unimark will have access to the infrastructure Skyline had spent years developing.
“We’re a small group, but what really attracted me to Skyline was this enterprise group and what they’re able to supply from a support standpoint, so now we have a great HR platform, financial platform, IT platform, a branding platform that we otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Henderson.
So, now that the companies are formally joined, the main focus that Henderson and the team face is helping grow the organization. Unimark is already planning to restructure its office in downtown Seattle to fit more employees. The leadership hopes that over the next few years its existing team of 30 will double. Along with that, the scale of work that Henderson anticipates Skyline’s sales organization will deliver should grow, as well. Unimark has made its name in the $1 million to $2 million project size across the region, and it anticipates those jobs will grow to $4 million to $5 million, even as much as $10 million.
Skyline is already bringing work to Unimark, and the company now has a $40 million backlog of work in the region, which is significant for an organization its size, stated Henderson. The team anticipates 2020 to be a strong year and judging by where its partners are, and the architects and brokers with whom it works, Unimark senses that 2021 could be a very strong year, as well. As he knocks on the wooden table in the conference room, Henderson hopes the Puget Sound commercial real estate market continues on the same path it has been over the last few years.
“Prior to the partnership we were at the ceiling, could not do more than we were already doing, and this partnership allows us to expand both in size, revenue and staffing,” concluded Henderson.