Up for the Challenge

Winmar Construction

Winmar Construction Inc. loves unique, even tough, projects. With an extensive portfolio showcasing world-class commercial interiors, hospitality, retail and restaurant projects, base building, adaptive reuse and more, this award-winning company may not be the biggest firm in the United States, but it continues to deliver some of the largest, most visible projects on the market.

With locations in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and South Florida, Winmar takes on work valued up to about $25 million in D.C. and $50 million in Florida. The company is nimble yet has the experience and depth of resources to handle projects other construction companies its size would never dare.

“Do we take on challenges?” asks Jason E. Wilt. “Heck, yes! Are we afraid of challenges? Absolutely not. Those are the things we strive for.” As the company’s Vice President, Pre-Construction and Client Services, Wilt says Winmar’s commitment to innovation, sustainability and exceptional quality runs deep. “Our attention is on true client service,” he states. “We recognize there are a lot of competent people out there, and we’ve got to go above and beyond to provide service no one else is capable of doing.”

A construction industry veteran with decades of experience, Wilt launched his career as a manager at CORE, one of America’s most sought-after design firms. As a child, Wilt’s father — who served as an executive at well-known manufacturer Black + Decker — helped inspire his son’s interest in design and construction. Later studying business administration, Wilt has dedicated a decade of his career to the architectural side of the industry and another 15 years to construction.

Like others at Winmar, he believes success isn’t ‘assumed,’ since every project is subject to the performance and skills of others. “We don’t self-perform, so we wake up every day with a contingency plan knowing there’s going to be issues,” he says. “You have to accept that reality. And once you accept that reality, you are able to plan and forecast for these issues and make your life a lot easier.”

With a talented executive team including President and CEO Edwin Villegas; President, Winmar-Coastal South Florida, Luis A. Leon; and Vice President, Pre-Construction and Operations, Kelly Markland, the company’s in-depth knowledge of managing architectural firms is unsurpassed. “We parlayed that over and over,” states Wilt. “We understand the vernacular, we understand how they operate, and we’ve integrated that into our work here in the context that we do a lot of design-build.”

To ensure success, Winmar selects best-in-class teams suited to handle the challenges of specific types of construction. From there, the company helps manage projects, from schematic design to design development to construction documentation, permitting, and execution of the work. Since design and building needs vary wildly depending on project type, all subcontractors are thoroughly vetted and categorized based on competencies. Since not all projects are created equal and needs vary – some mechanical contractors are more experienced creating air and exhaust systems in restaurant settings compared to hospitals, for instance – the company works with skilled trades best suited for the task at hand. “There is a place for everybody, and that’s part of the vetting process,” states Wilt, adding that some trades are great at handling design elements in office interiors, while others are better at integrating materials like wood and glass in high-end restaurants.

Growing to a total staff of about 80, Winmar Construction is an affiliate of Coastal Construction out of Miami, which traces its history back to 1955. Formed in 2003, Winmar Construction continues to work through the current COVID-19 pandemic, with no layoffs or compromising its approach to business. “Construction as a general trade was never shut down,” says Wilt. “It didn’t have any bias toward sectors. Construction as a whole was essential.”

Unlike some others in the industry, Winmar does not make cold calls or requests for proposal where it doesn’t already have a relationship. “Our resiliency is based on legacy clients, who are about 90 percent repeat business,” says Wilt.

Indeed, respect for customers is deeply ingrained in the company culture, and starts in-house. Encouraging a work/life balance, Winmar believes in building the business and employees alike through personal development. With this strong culture, Winmar remains a champion of growth. Often hiring young, qualified talent out of school and mentoring them through each cycle of their career path, the company proactively engages staff, providing them with the tools to get out and market themselves and the firm, and encouraging them to get out and spend time in the community.

From its Washington office, the company works on projects in a radius of about 100 miles of the DMV – D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – and has taken on projects in Philadelphia as well. One of the company’s largest clients over the years has been WeWork, the U.S.-based commercial real estate business focused on shared workspaces. Delivering over one million square feet for them over the years, Winmar has “provided construction management and contracted services for seven different WeWork D.C. locations across the city,” the most recent in 2018. Boldly transforming older structures, such as a one-time Wonder Bread Factory, Winmar has ingenuously resurrected these and other spaces into modern, efficient, and boldly designed workplaces to meet today’s evolving needs.

With 20 successful years in business on the horizon, Winmar Construction has received multiple awards for its outstanding work, and has been consistently recognized over the years by the Washington Business Journal. One of Winmar’s most recent achievements was a Premiere Design Award in the Hospitality category. Working with highly-respected Washington-based design firm Gensler – which has a global team of over 6,000 – Winmar successfully took on work for client Founding Farmers. A popular upscale restaurant chain owned by over 47,000 members of the North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU), Founding Farmers is known for its generous portions and gorgeous interiors, which artfully boast plenty of rich wood finishes, high-end lighting fixtures, comfy banquettes, and the First Bake Café.

One of the largest minority-owned companies in Greater D.C. (ranked by revenue total), Winmar Construction’s works vary depending on location. In Washington, the company – a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) approved by the district – takes on a good number of education-based projects valued at up to approximately $45 million. “We are one of maybe two or three firms that are truly CBE based in the district,” says Wilt. “We have the capacity, bandwidth and the resources to deliver projects of that scale, so we’ve created a nice niche for ourselves.”

The company’s operations in Miami, meanwhile, can top $50 million, and include a 20-story structure currently underway. To manage operations, the company uses Procore, a Cloud-based construction management software, which makes everything more streamlined and efficient, from tracking requests for proposal to sending clients real-time updates. “It’s a great tool and a great application for us to dot our i’s, cross our t’s, and to remain efficient,” says Wilt.

With a deep-seated commitment to all projects, Winmar Construction remains focused on positive outcomes for all clients. “We don’t have a preconceived notion that they have to do things our way; I think we tailor ourselves for our client’s needs,” comments Wilt. “A lot of our work is residual, and we develop long-lasting, long-term rapport with our firms and clients. There is no project too small. Once you’re in our wheelhouse, you won’t want to go anywhere else.”

From Here to There

Throughout history, humans have been limited by simple logistics – how to get from here to there? For thousands of years, venturing out of one’s village required braving wild and rugged terrain. Travel was inherently dangerous. Roads were rough and rudimentary, if there were any at all.

September 28, 2020, 6:41 PM EDT