Building a Common Vision with Complementary Skills
No business can dream big while thinking small! That’s the philosophy of ABMG General Contracting Corp.’s co-CEOs Jose Montas and Charlie Qelaj.
As the heads of the Newburgh, N.Y.-based full-service general construction firm, their focus is site development, new construction, interior fit ups and renovations for customers in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area. They specialize in a number of markets, including storage facilities/warehouses, retail, restaurants, senior living, hospitality, commercial, multifamily and education.
While the two have only worked together for less than three years, they’re rapidly building a reputation as problem solvers, able to undertake complex building challenges with speed, clarity and quality. Their success is directly reflected in their growing customer portfolio and annual revenues. In their short time together, the two have grown the company from around $3 million in annual revenue to over $10 million, adding some familiar names to their ever-growing portfolio like CubeSmart, the nationwide provider of self storage facilities and Chipotle Mexican Grill, an American chain of restaurants with an international presence.
A Mutual Passion
After 25 years in real estate and construction management, Qelaj founded ABMG in 2012 as a general contracting firm specializing in carpentry. While working on a project in 2015, Qelaj met Montas, a former state inspector for the South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control. The job, located in West Nyack, N.Y., required the renovation of an old four-story structure into a boutique hotel, which presented a number of environmental and construction challenges for the owner and the project team.
Montas, a past President of Allstate Environmental Corp. (AEC), a leading environmental contractor in the state of New York, recalls, “Our professional limits were tested, but the working relationship between Charlie and me grew stronger from that point forward. We found out very quickly that our skills were complementary and our work ethic and business culture were the same.”
Along with Qelaj’s long history in development and construction, Montas’ abatement experience brought a high degree of thoroughness and unity to the NYLO Hotel project process for everyone, including owners and trade partners.
After completion, Qelaj and Montas decided to partner together under the ABMG umbrella and expand their services to a wider market than would have been possible if they worked individually. They subsequently divided operational responsibilities with Qelaj taking on business development and contracts, and Montas handling field operations and finances.
Qelaj says, “Just as importantly, with our combined experiences, we knew we could perform very complex projects. Together, we create a sense of balance within the company and provide an exceptional combined expertise about building with care and quality for our customers.”
Montas agrees, “We both realized that we could succeed individually, but could go much farther together by holding to our common belief of treating our employees, subcontractors and clients with the same respect we wish to receive.”
Coordination and Care
Whether building a familiar franchise or one-of-a-kind structure, ABMG relies on its core founding principle of respect along with its can-do, problem-solving ethos.
For instance, ABMG has been contracted to build several CubeSmart self storage facilities. The latest is the construction of a new $6.3 million facility in Fishkill, N.Y. “The level of coordination required on this project is immense. We’re coordinating with multiple subcontractors, from site excavation through construction to site landscaping. Added to the familiar general contracting tasks, we’re also a minority owner in the franchise storage facility—which gives us a whole new level of involvement.”
They’ve also been involved with a number of retail projects, including a CVS Pharmacy in Dover Plains, N.Y., where the ABMG crews completed a 15,000-square-foot demo, framing and drywall project; a Kay Jewelers in the Poughkeepsie Galleria in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and most recently, the renovation of an operational Walmart in the community of Newburgh.
They’re also making a name for themselves in the religious institution construction space because of their focus on personal attention to owner and stakeholder needs. Just recently, the firm completed the construction of the Iglesias Bautista Central church, in Paterson, N.J., which required special care to deal with the many expectations of the church members and key stakeholders. Montas says, “It’s our job to earn their trust. Like every project, the integrity and character of ABMG is on full display from start to finish—that’s a vital part of who we are as individuals and as a company.”
In the past three years, ABMG has expanded from New Jersey to the tri-state area—and to the Caribbean. ABMG recently opened its first international office in the Dominican Republic, where it has built and sold its first residential building. Between its work in the U.S. and in the Dominican Republic, the company has secured contracts in excess of $20 million for 2018—almost double the anticipated revenues for 2017.
When asked about the company’s impressive growth, Montas and Qelaj both believe success is a result of a combination of factors. Qelaj says, “One factor is having a partner that you can depend on and trust and one who is knowledgeable in his area of expertise.”
Montas adds, “And we understand that long-term success requires continually adapting to our clients’ wants and needs, without compromising the integrity of ABMG. The stronger our foundation, the better opportunity we have for growth. At this stage, as busy as we are, we trust that our system is strong and continually ask ourselves, ‘what can we do better for our clients?