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The Elite 49

Our annual ranking of Southwest Florida's top companies.

(page 9 of 10)


For what seemed like many years, it was difficult to find an optimist in the homebuilding business.

But Stephen Kauffman has remained positive, and he gets more validation for the mindset with each day that passes since the darkest days of 2006 to 2009.

#41 Divco Construction Corp. CEO Stephen Kauffman

“It was a difficult stretch for everyone, but especially construction,” says Kauffman, the CEO at Naples-based Divco Construction Corp. for more than three decades. “I never had a day where I considered getting out and doing something else, but there were definitely times where it was worse than I ever thought it would get.

“I always expected the turnaround would come because, while we’d never gone through anything of this severity, there had been several stages where things were bad. Toward the end of the 1980s, when the towers came down in 2001; there had been several relatively large downturns. But even in the bad years, we were still selling houses, just not as many as we used to.”

Kauffman says that while Divco’s overall health isn’t quite what it was back in 2005, “this year could put us back to that point.” The company claimed $15.7 million in revenue in 2011, bumped the number up to $16.5 million in 2012 and is on track to far outpace sales figure in 2013.

“Last year was our best since the recession in sales. Not the best in revenue, but in sales,” Kauffman says. “And I’m thinking we’ll exceed that number by 50 percent because we’re so close to beating last year already and it’s just by June. 2010 started out the recovery. 2011 was a little better. And 2012 was our best year (of recovery) yet.”

Many of Divco’s prospective customers have returned to the market with the same sort of pent-up demand, Kauffman says, that’s also spiking requests for items like cars, boats and appliances.

“There’s a lot of demand, but the buyers have waited until they felt comfortable,” he says. “They haven’t been buying a lot of other things either, and now they’re at the point where they’re doing that. That’s going to fuel things in those industries for years to come, and the same applies with housing.”

Going forward, Kauffman maintains a “very, very bullish” outlook for the next two or three years, at which point he does forecast problems with land and construction prices that could push the cost of living in Lee and Collier counties to a point where prospective residents will be driven up the coast.

“For at least a couple years I see growth at a good percentage,” he says. “Unless something drastic happens, of course, but there is no real crisis looming.”

—Lyle Fitzsimmons


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