Bringing Buildings to Life, for Life
Scorpio puts people first to deliver big results
If you want big ideas and big results, you need a firm that invests in people first, according to Domenic Scorpio, President and CEO of Scorpio. “I am passionate about building people. When employees come to work inspired by what they do, they deliver a higher caliber of service. It’s why we’ve become a contractor of choice for so many clients,” he says.
Headquartered in Gainesville, Florida, Scorpio provides general construction services for commercial clients throughout Central and North Central Florida. The company seeks to enliven communities and beautify cities by delivering “community-centered” solutions for civic, educational and health care clients, as well as a wide array of commercial customers. “Whether we’re working with a school or a tech firm, our goal is the same. In carrying out our life’s passion, we give clients, employees and all those who use our buildings the chance to carry out their passions. We bring buildings to life, for life,” Domenic says.
Inspired employees bring big ideas to the table, according to Domenic. “I am often thoroughly impressed by the ingenuity of my team,” he says. During construction of a luxury, resort-inspired apartment community within walking distance of the University of Florida, the project suffered delays from historic levels of rain and flooding. “We faced two major hurricanes and the rainiest season on record in the last 100 years,” Domenic says.
He explains that school-related projects are generally started in May after the semester ends and must be completed by midsummer. “The rain was seriously impacting the schedule. A large fountain in the center courtyard was a critical piece of construction, but we couldn’t gain access due to the rain,” he says. The team came together to brainstorm solutions. “Our project superintendent came up with the idea of installing a tarp over the entire courtyard. It was definitely a big idea as the courtyard was huge.”
The team puzzled out the install, eventually coming up with a solution. “We worked with the project’s electrician to auger into the ground four enormous light poles. We sewed together a giant tarp from smaller tarps that you get from The Home Depot and then used the light poles to anchor the giant tarp,” Domenic says. “Because of our superintendent’s creative thinking, we were able to take rain out of the equation to complete the project on time. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Domenic explains that building people starts with hiring for character. “Once we bring someone into the organization, we’ll evaluate his or her skill set. Then we want the employee to establish purpose, perspective and action. Why are you here? What are you hoping to accomplish, both personally and professionally? What gets you out of bed each and every day?” he says. “Once we’ve established a person’s aspirations, we talk about what mindset you must have to achieve those aspirations. What motivates and drives you and what actions need to be taken to help you achieve your purpose?”
Employees are encouraged to take time to reflect. “We want people to be honest about what they do well and what they can do to improve,” he says. When a person hits a wall during the day, Scorpio has systems in place to help employees reenergize. “Our entire office space is designed to fit our corporate culture. When an employee’s energy level is depleted, he or she might take 15 minutes in our game room to play table tennis, air hockey or shuffleboard. It’s important to get your mind off work and have that time to recharge your energy, your brain and your spirit,” Domenic says.
Energized employees deliver inspiring projects, according to Domenic. “We thrive on complex builds. It’s what we enjoy, and it’s what we’re good at,” he says. A project for software developer Optym gave Scorpio the opportunity to deliver a cutting-edge, innovative office environment equipped with sophisticated security and privacy technology, sound-deadening features and automated lighting and shade controls.
For ITProTV, Scorpio transformed an existing 21,000-square-foot space into a state-of-the-art computer learning center and digital recording studio. “We created five recording studios with a central hub that reminded me of the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek,” Domenic says.
Scorpio has become a favorite contractor for projects at Domenic’s alma mater, the University of Florida. With a growing Greek system and aging student housing, Scorpio has completed five renovations, expansions and new construction projects for the university’s sorority houses. An $8 million new construction project for Sigma Kappa garnered recognition from local and national publications and organizations for its stunning design and flawless execution, according to Domenic. The three-story brick house, which features a well-appointed chapter room and commercial-grade kitchen, was voted one of the 50 Most Stunning Sorority Houses in America by Cosmopolitan magazine.
The company recently completed a $13 million renovation and expansion project at the Katie Seashole Pressly softball stadium and is currently managing a $25 million project for the College of Education’s Norman Hall at the University of Florida. “This is a major historic rehabilitation project,” Domenic notes.
In addition to sizable renovations and new construction projects, Scorpio has continuing service contracts with many organizations and institutions. “These are $100,000 to $2 million contracts. The client can call us up anytime to make repairs and take care of small construction needs around the campus or facility,” Domenic says.
In Your Roots, In Your Blood
Domenic got his start in the construction industry at a young age. “My dad was an old-world Italian craftsman who came to the U.S. in the 1970s. He mostly did very ornate masonry pieces. I wouldn’t say I learned his craft, but I was certainly his labor,” he muses on the time spent in his dad’s shop.
Domenic’s dad encouraged him to attend college, and he obtained an undergraduate degree in architecture and a graduate degree in construction management. “I had fallen in love with the construction industry in college, and the Director of Building Construction at the University of Florida, pulled at my mind and heartstrings when he encouraged me to pursue a degree in construction management,” Domenic says. “I suppose if it’s in your roots and in your blood, you end up where you’re meant to be.”
While in graduate school, Domenic worked for a prominent local builder who became his mentor. “When I got out of school, I had fantastic job offers around the country, but he persuaded me to join his firm. I told him that I dreamed of owning my own company. He promised that with him I would learn the business from back to front. That resonated with me. It also didn’t hurt that my girlfriend (who later became my wife) was still in college, and I wasn’t ready to leave Gainesville,” he says.
With that first job, Domenic was given free rein, eventually becoming a partner at the firm. “My mentor let me cut my teeth and nick my knees and helped me make good decisions going forward. When he passed away in 2005, we lost the patriarch of the company,” he says.
Following the downturn in the economy, the business merged with a sister company in 2011, with Domenic assuming the role of President. But his early dream of owning his own company nagged at him, and in 2013, Domenic left to form Scorpio.
“The first chapter of my career was learning everything about the industry. The second chapter was about building a phenomenal company. This third chapter is about building people,” Domenic says.
Spending Time Together
In addition to providing an open-concept office space that encourages sharing of ideas and features amenities like a game room and an outdoor patio for working outside on nice days, Domenic has created a culture where employees want to spend time together and serve their community. “We have monthly happy hours, two events a year for employees and their families and two events a year where it’s just employees and their spouses. On a Friday evening, instead of hanging out at a local pub, employees can be found in our break room, having a cocktail or a beer. We like spending time together,” he says.
Employees and their families have participated in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies, and this year are coming together for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. “We’ll do the walk together and then all gather at my house for a September Fest, where we’ll have a picnic, a pie-eating contest, relays, swimming and other games. We’ve done September Fest for the last few years. It’s a great day to spend together,” Domenic says.
The company’s commitment to people first not only creates selfless, innovative, hardworking and passionate team members, according to Domenic, but also is helping to build one of the fastest-growing companies in Gainesville. In 2019, Scorpio was recognized by the University of Florida as one of the Gator100, an award that recognizes and celebrates the 100 fastest-growing Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses in the world. “We are truly mission driven. If we take care of our people, they take care of the work, and the community and our business flourish,” Domenic says.