GROTON -- Regardless of the slowdown in the economy over the last few years, anyone who cares to monitor the doings of local land-use boards -- the Planning Board, Conservation Commission or Zoning Board of Appeal -- will notice that there is no dearth of construction activity in the Nashoba Valley area.
That is because there are always those, driven by a personal vision or simple ambition, who can see opportunity in every situation where others might not.
Such has been the case with Shirley-based Senate Construction Corp. which has not only kept busy in a challenging economic environment, but has actually thrived.
With such recent jobs as construction of the 7,000-square-foot JC Madigan manufacturing facility in Lunenburg, restoration of the Scituate Yacht Club in Scituate, restoration of the Fletcher Building in Ayer and part of Phoenix Park in Shirley, buildout of the Mevion Medical Systems facility in Littleton, and condominiums in Waltham, the company has demonstrated how diversification can be the key to success.
"Despite the current economic climate, I think that this is a good time for those in a specific market," commented developer Robert France, chief executive officer of Senate Construction Corp. "It's also a good time to take advantage of low-cost inventory. It's been a personal philosophy of mine that there's always work out there. You only have to go out and find it."
That said, sometimes the road is not as smooth as France
"I think that the state in general over-regulates and inhibits productivity," said France. "The time lag in productivity costs everybody money. For every $1 billion invested in the industry, up to 25,000 construction jobs are created. Last year, I had $10 million in construction projects that were committed and signed but did not go forward as a result of regulation requirements or financial institutions not moving on them. In the latter case, it was often due to stricter banking regulations."
The way can be made easier, however, if a developer has patience and is willing to play ball with regulators.
"I've found that if you follow the rules, play by the rules, and behave as a professional and provide information to local boards and committees that they need in order to make informed decisions, the review process can be made an easy one," France said.
In business for himself since 1990, France, a resident of Groton, began Senate Construction in a very deliberate fashion.
"By 1990, I had come to the end of my five-year plan to start a business, and so I did," revealed France who earned a degree in civil engineering from Northeastern University.
Formal schooling, however, did not end his education, with the balance picked up in what France called "the school of hard knocks."
"It was while practicing civil engineering as a student that I recognized that I needed an understanding and knowledge of how things were built in order to be an effective engineer," said France. "Based on that realization, I went out and started to work for contractors and developers and found that I had a passion for construction and real-estate development."
A general contractor, today, Senate Construction employs 11 professionals, project managers, and superintendents that manage projects while actual on-site labor is farmed out to local contractors.
"We are the leading design builder for industrial manufacturing working in central Massachusetts," said France. "That's been our primary source of business. We've also done a number of historical restorations for mill buildings, office buildings, manufacturing and R & D facilities. We've got a pretty diverse type of portfolio.
"Senate Construction takes on projects throughout New England but primarily in central Massachusetts within a 50-mile radius of our offices," continued France. "Southern New Hampshire, Worcester east and Boston north."
In the works for Senate Construction is the restoration of the historic Sun building in downtown Lowell, for many years the tallest building in the city; restoration of the former "Father John's Medicine" building on Market Street, also in Lowell; and design and construction of a new warehouse building in West Bridgewater.
In the Nashoba Valley area, the company's most high profile project is impending construction of the Boynton Meadows subdivision at 134 Main St.
There, France predicted that restoration of an existing building at the site would be completed by year's end with residential units to come on-line as the market dictates.
A market that the developer continues to believe in.
"The economy seems to be turning around, so there are more opportunities now than there were a year ago," mused France. "Senate manages to get its share of work, but that's because we have a good reputation and a lot of folks turn to us for advice on construction and real-estate issues."
In the final estimate, France was not only upbeat about the economy in general, but in the Nashoba Valley area in particular, believing that what is good for one business is good for all.
"I would absolutely recommend businesses locate in the Nashoba Valley region," said France. "In fact, I've made it my personal mission to try and generate as much business here as possible. It's incumbent on all of us to buy locally and support local business, which in the long term will help support the economy."