Niveen Kattan, president of Greensboro-based Atlantic Contracting Co., can recall how difficult it was for her company to differentiate itself in the sprawling pool of Triad subcontractors back in 2005.
But that changed when the company became certified through the state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. The program promotes participation in Department of Transportation projects by minority- and women-owned businesses.
“Before, we would call people and they would not even be interested in having a conversation with us,” says Kattan, an Arab Christian who started the business with her older brother Emad. “Now we say, ‘Well, we are certified.’ They’ll say ‘OK, send me your quote.’”
The result has been a steady stream of subcontracting deals for Atlantic, which has seen its revenues spike 54 percent to about $6 million this year, up from $3.9 million in 2010. Now, that growth has poised Atlantic to compete for larger contracts as a general contractor in 2012.
Kattan’s timing couldn’t be better. State transportation officials are in the process of seeking contractors for nearly $440 million worth of major road projects in and around Winston-Salem during the next several years. And next year, construction is slated to begin on a $93 million project to widen U.S. 220 from Greensboro to Rockingham County.
Kattan says the surge in transportation projects certainly presents more opportunities for her firm, which now has the experience, relationships and capital to take on larger deals.
However, the overall company goal is to maintain sustainable growth.
“We’re not afraid to take the risks, but we weigh them very heavily,” Kattan says.
Building a business
Kattan, who graduated UNC-
Greensboro as a chemist, launched the company in 2005 with her brother, Emad, a business administration graduate from UNCG. She was inspired in part by family members who have a similar contracting business in Maryland called Nations Contracting.
“We come from a family of entrepreneurs and we’re visionaries,” she says. “We saw what they were doing, we saw what other people were doing and we said ‘there’s potential there.’”
The company has grown from five employees to 60, and this year won one of its largest contracts to date in a $2.15 million project to widen Merritt Drive in Greensboro.
The Merritt Drive widening marked a breakthrough for Atlantic because it signaled to other companies that Kattan’s firm was a serious player as a general contractor.
“Now we have a seat at the table,” she says.
From investing in high-tech equipment to establishing strong banking relationships, Atlantic Contracting Co. has an arsenal of strategies to win jobs in 2012.
One of the company’s biggest advantages is providing a “turnkey” operation for customers, says Hani Kattan, the company’s senior estimator and Niveen’s twin.
“We handle it from A to Z,” says Hani Kattan, who earned a civil engineering degree from N.C. A&T State University. “They don’t have to worry about buying material, ordering material. We do it all for them.
“A lot of subcontractors … don’t buy their material. They usually don’t have the right personnel with right knowledge,” says Hani Kattan.