Top Company 2010: Mass Service & Supply LLC
Mass Service & Supply CEO Cathy Grasmick says she's still a farm girl at heart. The owner of the Pueblo-based business, who grew up on the state's Eastern plains, directs a fast-growing company that specializes in construction services and project management, primarily for the federal government.
The company's recent projects include a 2,300-square-foot mail center and a 5,700-square-foot pharmacy at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, several contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Carson and renovation and repair work at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. It also has work under way for the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Grasmick, who founded the company with her husband, Mo Ghamdi, in 1996, oversees a staff of about 15 people, though that number can jump to 50 or more depending on the work the company secures. Mass Service is HUBZone certified, which means 35 percent of the company's employees come from historically underperforming business neighborhoods.
Such certification and the fact that Mass Service is woman-owned gives it a preferred status when competing for federal contracts - a good advantage to have in an era when Grasmick is seeing large construction companies that previously would have ignored $5 million projects now bidding on them.
Grasmick says she doesn't blame them: She and her husband also have had to adapt to the new economic realities. She expects 2010 to be the first year the company does not record growth.
"We had to adjust, but we are still bidding jobs and holding fast," said Grasmick, 49. "We still do have some contracts in place that are either negotiated or for which there is a limited pool."
When contacted in late September, Grasmick was awaiting word on whether Mass Service would secure a $10.7 million contract in competition with two other contractors that had been allowed to bid.
The native of Granada, a small town near Lamar, says life on her family's farm taught her the discipline that has helped her succeed in a demanding industry. She and her husband, a native of Saudi Arabia, balance running the business with raising three daughters, ages 6, 8 and 10. (Their fourth daughter is 27.)
"We grew up with that work ethic, and that's what I hope to pass along to the girls, too," Grasmick says. "I think we all sacrifice for this business, even our kids. Sometimes Mom and Dad aren't always able to be right there with them. But anytime we're not at work, we're with our children. That's how we've always done it."
Grasmick had been working as a dental hygienist when she and her husband started the company. She met Ghamdi, 42, while he was earning a degree in facilities management at the University of Southern Colorado (now Colorado State University-Pueblo).
"He had the seed of the idea," Grasmick said. "In the evenings we would do paperwork, and we started very small. At first we were doing residential and light commercial."
Three years later, Grasmick quit the dental hygienist job. The couple had graduated from government "credit-card jobs" - small contracts that don't require a bidding process - to steady federal work. In 2000, the company secured its first contract with the Army Corps of Engineers.
"I think a lot of it was our proximity to a lot of government bases and installations right here," Grasmick said. "We kind of developed our business around the Corps of Engineers process."