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How One Contractor Is Trying To Help Detroit Recover From The Pandemic

How One Contractor Is Trying To Help Detroit Recover From The Pandemic

The construction business has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

That’s according to Seth Helfman, the president at City Contracting Services, one of the biggest contractors in Michigan.

Over almost 20 years, Helfman has witnessed countless economic cycles and their impact on construction firsthand.

The recent financial crisis surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was a boon to the construction industry, Helfman said, referencing his firm's work on schools, medical centers and athletic facilities.

“Historically, construction has been one of those industries that’s like a market indicator,” he told Benzinga “I’m not seeing a slowdown in construction or pullback in projects.”

“We’re seeing things continuing to push forward, and more things coming out, whether it is public entities like schools that have tremendous amounts of bond dollars that are out bidding, or private companies that are still looking to get their office suites built out, or restaurant owners that are still forging ahead with new build-out.”

Behind The Recovery: On the heels of news that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was the first company to apply for emergency use authorization of its coronavirus vaccine, Helfman said the industry will continue to see instability until the vaccine is released to the public.

Helfman has been in the industry long enough to know when the tides are shifting.

After a stint in financial markets, Helfman returned from New York to get into his family business — construction — and founded City Contracting Services in 2013. Much of the company's work is on facilities like the Davita Medical Center in Sterling Heights, and the Detroit Public Schools Brewer Academy, among other projects.

“We’ve grown and evolved into working for a handful of developers,” he said.

“We’ve built the Davita Dialysis Centers, we’re going to be working on a Starbucks in the future, and we’ve been engaged for construction management projects for the Detroit Athletic Club, building them a brand new business center and a dining room which they call The Gallery & The Fresco. We worked with McIntosh Poris Associates on that one.”

Helfman said he’s committed to helping the Detroit community recover from the pandemic, and said he's forging ahead with projects like Olin, an upscale, European-influenced restaurant near the Hudson’s site and next to the Shinola Hotel.

“Originally it was just an old puppet theatre that was abandoned,” he said in reference to the Olin development.

“It was a scratch build out of a new beautiful restaurant with a James Beard-award winning chef, Shawn McClain.”

City Contracting is "looking to continue to expand, and develop a niche with some of the high-end restaurant entertainment areas and club spaces."

The Path Forward: Despite the pandemic impacting the dynamics of Helfman’s operations, such as the recent climb in lumber prices on increased demand, City Contracting Services was committed to cost-cuts through efficiency, support for its employees and execution for its clients, he said. 

“All of our projects were shutdown, but like a lot of other companies, we stood behind our employees and didn’t let anyone go,” he said.

“Getting through something like that, we’ve been able to work our processes and come out stronger, learning how to be more efficient and team building.”

Going forward, the general contractor said he sees reasons for hope and is looking to help communities sort out their uncertainties around infrastructure, and influence growth and prosperity during the recovery.

“I think we’re going to feel a big influence on our economy,” he said. “I’m already seeing construction poised to grow.”

Photo by Александр Македонский from Pexels.


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