Merit General Contractors, Inc. and Merit National Contractor, Inc. are affiliated companies that are owned by Don Crabtree. Merit National has been providing construction management services for national companies since the late 1990s. It has built over one hundred and thirty stores for its clients from coast to coast…
The service Merit provides includes a strong team of architects, engineers, regional general contractors and national vendors. The efficient business model combined with an experienced team ensures that projects are completed on time.
Don Crabtree founded Merit General Contractors, Inc. in 1991, and in its initial stage, it was strictly a plan and specifications bidder. Don did not have any construction relationships in the beginning and had to go into the public market to focus on schools and government projects. Eventually, he started making some headway with local developers, and in the late 1990s, he switched to negotiated work that was design-build, and the focus on school and government projects changed to one on the retail market. It had many national accounts with companies like Best Buy and Lowe’s.
As the company matured with its developers, it became a warehouse builder. It began with smaller productions, ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand square feet, but today, that model has changed, and it now ranges between two hundred and fifty thousand and one million square feet.
Warehouse building has remained the company’s primary business, but it still does some retail, some church construction and low maintenance senior housing. The work Merit does is predominantly negotiated; it does some select bid work, but it no longer does much public bid work, and about eighty percent of its work is a true design-build for local and national developers.
Some of the projects that best represent the company’s skills are the I-35 logistics park, the Lenexa Logistics Center for Amazon, the Odyssey Lone Elm, Executive Plaza and Solera Salon and Spa. Merit received the 2015 Capstone Industrial Award for its work on the Lenexa Logistics Center.
Merit currently has 22 employees. What separates it from its competition is that the average tenure of its people is around 15 years. “Our culture is very strong. We have very little turnover, and I think that says a lot about our company,” says Don Crabtree. Merit holds two or three functions every year with the families of all the employees. One at the winter holidays, one is an annual picnic and the other is a barbecue. Merit treats its employees like one big family.
Don Crabtree is known for taking pride in his community and getting involved. He was the chairman of the board for the KCK Huggers, a non-profit organization in Kansas, for ten out of the past 20 years. He has also gotten involved with the Special Olympics as a head track coach for the last 20+ years. In 2002, Don was voted volunteer of the year from United Way for his work with KCK Huggers, and in 2014, he was awarded the community leadership award. Don also sits on other boards as well as financially supporting several smaller underprivileged programs. Don’s firm commitment back to his community is not because we must do it, it is because we need to do it!
Don Crabtree’s philosophy of community extends into the company’s guiding principles. “The biggest one, in my opinion, is treat everyone how we would expect to be treated. That’s not just for our clients; it’s also for our coworkers, our subcontractors and our vendors,” he says. The second most important principle is to acknowledge that the company supports 22 families that rely on it.
Merit Director of Business Development Brandon Harris joined the team during July of 2016. What appealed to him were the unique relationships with the architects, owners and subcontractors. “I can tell you for a fact that this company truly treats people the way they would like to be treated, and the subcontractors appreciate that because it doesn’t happen with a lot of other contractors,” he says.
Most clients today realize that it is crucial to involve a contractor from the conception of the project. Merit is known for being a company that is engaged earlier than most contractors, which allows it to help control the cost and the speed of the processes. This begins with land acquisition.
“We have relationships with many civil engineers, architects, land brokers and attorneys that allow a conceptual thought to have critical input from the schedule to the budget,” says Brandon Harris.
Involvement in this phase of a project is what enables Merit to keep the production of a project close to the owner’s expectations. The company is superb at value engineering for the owners, which happens both at the beginning of the project and throughout development when new issues arise.
The biggest challenge in today’s construction market is the shortage of material and shortage of manpower. The average age of a commercial construction worker today is 55 years old. Most of the construction workers are retiring, and this will continue to be a challenge for construction companies over the next several years.
Merit has a strategic approach to company growth. By identifying the next generation of construction, it focuses its marketing efforts in the markets that will soon require more work. Currently, the company is pursuing the senior living housing market, which is going to be a hotspot for at least the next ten years.
It is also working with another national company that wants to expand its facilities all over the country using Merit’s strategic model for its current national account that has been so successful. With its national account, Merit has a great team of contractors throughout the country that it has worked with over the years, and it has architects and engineers who are licensed in all fifty states.
“We have developed a team that worked out great, we haven’t had any project that didn’t turn over on time for the owners,” says Brandon Harris. “They have been really happy with our services. It is a proven model, and we just keep trying to build it.” This has allowed the company to have continued stable growth in the construction industry.
Merit General Contractors is currently working on a Hunter Family Vision, which is a medical office in its hometown of Olathe, Kansas. Current projects also include: multi-family developments in Texas and Oklahoma, a design-build development of a warehouse expansion, and a new 60,000 square foot industrial project that is also design-build.
Merit General Contractors prides itself on the ability to provide experienced personnel and exceptional service. It has completed over 300 projects resulting in more than one billion dollars in revenue. Its focus tends to be on the Midwest, but Merit has the ability to work nationwide. The company prioritizes repeat business and being ahead of schedule.
“We believe Merit has the precise qualification to provide outstanding construction services, as we believe our size, experience, bonding strengths, quality construction practices and budget conscience is among the best in our industry,” says Brandon Harris.
Merit has experience in a variety of construction delivery methods including design-build negotiated projects, hard bid work and construction management to help deliver quality, cost-effective projects. “We believe that it is added value to treat our subcontractors and vendors with fairness and respect since they are a critical component of any project. By utilizing this we are able to obtain consistent, quality work and pricing.”