The ‘Young Guns’ Construction
RAM General Contracting & Development, Inc. shakes up an aging industry
People say age is just a number—but when it comes to an increasingly aging construction workforce, numbers matter. They do, at least, to Ryan Carnley and Mark Bruzek, who view themselves as the “young guns” intent on shaking up the dynamics of a changing industry.
Both in their thirties, Ryan and Mark grew up with close ties to building and construction. Ryan’s father, Rod, has spent a lifetime in construction and Mark’s father, Dave, was a residential homebuilder. When they established RAM General Contracting & Development, Inc. (RAM) in 2019, they did it with the intention of bringing a fresh new take to an established industry.
“We understand that customers today need more than just a great end product; they also want communication throughout the project and excellent client service,” Ryan says. “We haven’t been handed a company from our father or grandfather; we’ve created one that honors the construction traditions, but offers an evolved customer experience. We’re not the next generation—we’re the new generation.”
Their youthful energy and entrepreneurial approach when it comes to tackling projects and developing relationships is paying off. Just one year into business, the Lakeland, Florida-based general contracting and development company has tackled a range of retail, commercial and industrial projects across Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and North and South Carolina—and the business continues to expand.
“We won’t always be young, but agility and hard work will always be the driving force behind what we do,” Mark says. “We see our competition just going through the motions and we choose not to follow that same path. We love competing against the larger firms and shaking it up.”
RAM would not have existed without a chance encounter at a job site. Mark was working as a Senior Construction Manager for Publix Super Markets, Inc., one of the largest employee-owned supermarket chains in the country. He was building over 20 stores a year when he crossed paths with Ryan, who was a Project Manager for an Atlanta-based contractor at the time.
“Every time we ran into each other, we talked about wanting to go out on our own,” Mark says. “On New Year’s Day, I called up Ryan and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We got together, built a business plan and started putting our feelers out. It’s been nonstop ever since.”
With Ryan and Mark as Vice Presidents and Ryan’s dad, Rod, as President, the founders boast a collective 50+ years of industrial construction experience in ground-up builds and tenant build-outs and remodels. Their combined portfolio includes building projects for well-known brands such as Publix, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Home Depot, FedEx and Albertsons.
Whether it’s pre-construction, design- build, general contracting or development services, the company’s model is to provide a streamlined project from start to finish with a quality product and on-time delivery, all within budget. And while the team’s strengths are in the retail sector, it’s pushing into the health care and military sectors as well.
“We’re always looking for unique and creative projects,” Ryan adds. “We want to be on the cutting edge and the forefront of projects that involve the ever-growing niche markets.”
Relationships and Renovations
According to Ryan and Mark, the most important type of building is relationships, which is at the heart of every project they pursue. The team had its first opportunity to demonstrate that in Panama City, Florida, when they took on the complete renovation of two shopping centers that had been significantly damaged by Hurricane Michael.
“Both of these centers were completely stripped down to their bones, and we were given just a hundred days to complete the work in time for a gathering to commemorate the rebuilding of the city,” Ryan says. “It took 24 hours around-the-clock to galvanize that effort.”
The project was a complete redevelopment that involved multiple elements, including removing damaged siding and replacing the facades of the buildings, renovating the parking lot and reinstalling landscaping and lighting—but the team members got it done in time for the “Stronger Together” celebration, which they attended.
“Seeing the community gather and celebrate—and knowing we’d pulled it off as one of our first major projects—really cemented things for us,” Ryan says. “One thing that sticks with me is the positive comments we received from the building tenants and community members thanking us for helping them rebuild. It meant a lot.”
Another recently completed project the team tackled was the U.S. Army Recruiting Office-South Jacksonville in Florida, which involved the build-out of nearly 7,000 square feet of multiple retail spaces with adjoining restroom facilities for the U.S. Armed Forces. The project presented its fair share of challenges: the RAM team not only learned the complexities of operating under a government contract’s rigorous guidelines, but working within COVID-19 restrictions as well.
“The construction itself wasn’t an issue,” Mark says. “We had to adapt to the unprecedented real-world problems going on at the time. Coronavirus was a real concern; however, working closely with the building department, we were able to coordinate the proper social distancing to ensure the safety of our workers and team. That, coupled with a short timeline and working under tight government restrictions, made it a more challenging project.”
Nonetheless, they succeeded. Mark says the team members drew on the high level of standards, customer relationships and performance expectations they’d developed during their careers. They completed the job—from demolition to obtaining occupancy—within 70 days.
“It was quick, but the relationships we built with the Army Corps, civil staff and contract workers were excellent,” Mark says. “They told us they’d never seen anyone go out on their first try and hit a home run like that, and that’s led to more work via word-of-mouth. Now we’re growing like wildfire because of our attention to detail and customer service.”
Building a Legacy
When it comes to relying on a strong team to deliver on the vision that Ryan and Mark have created for RAM, the company’s founders draw on a pioneering approach coupled with a forward-looking strategy.
“We weren’t handed a legacy, so we have to build our own,” Mark says. “When we hire, we hire people who are not only highly qualified from a construction and development standpoint; rather, we look for individuals who understand the type of company we’re looking to build and individuals who embrace that customer-centric mindset.”
According to Mark, that commitment and investment in the staff are mutual. The company takes care of its employees, offering competitive salaries and a range of benefits—even covering 100% of its employees’ insurance.
“Our people are out there getting the lesson of a lifetime that will allow them to grow and build for years to come,” he says. “Construction trades are a dying industry. It’s time to put the effort in to build a new system that will work for our clients moving forward. We’re committed to developing a team that will withstand the years to come.”
New Vision, Old Roots
Perhaps the greatest element of this young, forward-looking construction firm is that its very foundation is rooted in the old-school approach of the company’s president. When asked where the idea to name the company after “Ryan And Mark” came from, they both laughed.
“Rod came up with it,” Ryan says of his 68-year-old father, who he says is one of a kind. “Every day he’s up at 4 a.m. and out the door. He started with a shovel in his hand and over the years, no matter what he did, he was the best because he worked hard at it. He’s a force in the field, and that’s just the way he lives his life.”
While Ryan didn’t inherit an established family business from Rod, he says he’s inherited something even better: his dad’s drive and work ethic.
“When your number is called, you step up and answer the call,” Ryan says. “That’s Rod’s mindset, and that’s the standard we’ve set for ourselves at RAM.”
The knowledge and know-how that Rod brings to the table, coupled with Ryan and Mark’s energy and enthusiasm, seem to make for a perfect blend of the old and the new.
“This company is all of our hopes and dreams realized, including Rod’s,” Mark says. “Being able to step back and see the younger generation succeed puts a smile on his face. He literally gets in his truck every day and he’s smiling. I think that’s the perfect end for a great career for him.”
Ryan says he can’t help but agree: “Rod and I had talked about starting a company for years, but it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t crossed paths with Mark. It wouldn’t have happened without the three of us.”