News Column

Bricks & Clicks

December 2004, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Joel Russell

Hispanic Business's Jesús Chavarría, left, and William Salazar, senior consultant for Microsoft, present the top EOY honor to Ambreco’s Robert Dominguez Jr.
Hispanic Business's Jesús Chavarría, left, and William Salazar, senior consultant for Microsoft, present the top EOY honor to Ambreco’s Robert Dominguez Jr.

Technology and people skills have propelled Robert Dominguez Jr. into position as a prime federal contractor and the 2004 Hispanic Business magazine Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY).

"If you can do it for the government, you can do it for anybody," says the CEO of Ambreco Inc., a general construction contractor in Belton, Texas. "If you're good, if you have the credentials and contacts, the federal marketplace is a never-ending opportunity."

Ambreco has found plenty of opportunity in that marketplace. The company, which gets 97 percent of its revenues from federal projects, reached $10 million last year to rank No. 354 on the Hispanic Business 500 directory of largest U.S. Hispanic-owned companies. Once a part-time cement contractor for local retail and residential buildings, Ambreco today manages about 20 construction projects across Texas, with about 55 percent of its work coming through the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development program. Mr. Dominguez was named the 2003 Small Business Person of the Year by the SBA's Dallas-Fort Worth District Office.

While Mr. Dominguez humbly sums up his management philosophy as "you're only as good as the people who work for you," his application for the Hispanic Business EOY award describes a sophisticated mid-market company that has harnessed skilled staff and innovative technology to create a competitive advantage.

On the technology side, Ambreco's password-protected Web site allows customers to view photos of construction projects in progress. When security allows, the site even features a Web camera so engineers and contracting officers can watch real-time images of work sites from the comfort of their offices. It's a factor that has paid off.

"There are agencies in the federal government that gave us projects solely on the basis of that technology," Mr. Dominguez says. "We had seen the application in residential construction [and] developed it on a greater scale by issuing passwords to the government so only the agencies affected could view it on a daily basis."

EOY 2004 Robert Dominguez Jr.

"We are a prototype of what 8(a) is all about. In two years, Ambreco will be in full and open competition," says Robert Dominguez jr., CEO of Ambreco Inc.

The Web site and the feedback it stimulates has fundamentally altered Ambreco's relationship with clients. This year's judges for the Hispanic Business EOY award accountants with the California-based firm Macias, Gini & Co. recognized this, noting the company "exhibits ingenuity in commitment to the customer."

After each job, Ambreco gives customers CDs with "digital photo histories" of the projects. In addition to helping clients feel connected, the images also function as an important technical and legal record. Ambreco's application for the EOY award tells about a recent job at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery that involved damming a creek so a subcontractor could build an overflow structure. Upon completion, the plan was to remove the dam and allow the creek to return to its original flow. But the civil engineer never plotted the original creek, and a dispute ensued over how the creek should run.

Because the government's solution meant higher costs, the subcontractor opposed it. Ambreco turned to its digital photo history to determine the original layout of the creek and resolve the conflict. Such technology also offers the company greater efficiencies.

"It's a big advantage to be virtually on-the-spot at all times without actually being there," says Linda Janak, a contract officer with the U.S. Property & Fiscal Office, the purchasing agency for National Guard units. She manages a current Ambreco project in El Paso in which Ambreco's management in Belton, military officers in Austin and San Antonio, and engineers in San Francisco all monitor progress simultaneously via the Ambreco Web site.

Ambreco management will continue to market the company as an expert in design-build construction, in which a single company takes full responsibility for a project. From the customer's perspective, design-build means "the federal government is able to get projects off the ground and completed because they can allocate all funds for design and build in one [fiscal] year," says Ambreco Vice-President B.J. Truitt. "Previously, they did the design phase one year, and then the next year they may not get the funds to build it. Design-build helps them do it in a timely manner."

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