Reports Fantastic 50

Herndon construction company grows by focusing on workmanship

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by Heather B. Hayes

There are signs that the commercial real estate industry in Northern Virginia is slowing down because of the nationwide credit crisis. But TRINITY Group Construction Inc., a commercial construction company based in Herndon, is not feeling the effects. In fact, CEO Mil L. “Flip” Wallen III projects that company revenue will grow 50 percent this year.

“I know a lot of companies out there that are just scrambling for work, but in the next three or four months, we’re going to be starting three-quarters of a million square feet of construction,” he says.

TRINITY provides construction management and design/build services, as well as tenant renovations. It has a short but impressive history of performing beyond expectations. Established in June 2002, the company grew 2,083 percent between 2003 and 2006, the four-year period measured by the Fantastic 50. That track record made TRINITY the
fastest-growing service company on the 2008 list.

Sales grew another 10 percent to hit $60 million in 2007, and Wallen projects that the firm will take in $90 million this year.

TRINITY has handled a number of major, highly competitive projects in the Washington metro area. They include Ashbrook Commons, a $23 million mixed-use complex, and a $20 million concrete frame, multistory office building and parking garage in Falls Church that is now the headquarters for Tax Analysts. TRINITY currently is working on several projects, including Play to Win, a $30 million sport complex for indoor and outdoor soccer in Lansdowne, and Northwoods, a $22 million, six-building project on 87 acres in Dulles.

Wallen and minority partner Jeffrey S. Black, who is the company’s president, believe TRINITY has grown rapidly because of a three-pronged philosophy:
• Fostering a reputation for high-quality work and excellent service to clients,
• Recruiting top employees, and
• Tending to relationships with employees, clients and others.

“We have a very tight-knit, family-oriented company where people feel appreciated and valued,” Wallen says, noting he has 60 employees and plans to hire more this year. “We also treat our subcontractors very fairly and are always very timely with payments, which generates better prices to us and to our bottom line.”

Dorothy Stackhouse, a senior project manager for Duke Realty, says TRINITY excels because Wallen has a knack for hiring good workers. She recently worked with the company in building a five-story office building in Chantilly.

“They just absolutely know what they’re doing and work extremely well as a team and really focus on listening to and taking care of the client,” she says.

The most immediate challenge, Wallen says, is not the credit crisis but handling growth without hurting the company’s services. TRINITY plans to maintain a manageable annual project mix that would include three or four large projects and many medium-sized and small jobs.

Increasing revenues is less of a goal than being seen by clients as the construction company of choice. “I don’t want the firm to get so big that our employees feel like they’re just numbers and clients feel like they’re not getting our best possible work,” he says. “So we’ll probably be a little more discerning about which projects we actually take on, according to certain criteria. Then that way, if the work does come, and they’re really great projects, we’ll have the room to grow.”

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