Gain from loss: Man turns unemployment status around
Mar 09, 2013 (The Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When David White lost his job as general manager of Kenyon Plastering after the company closed its Yuma office a year ago, he didn't head for the unemployment line.
Instead, he dusted off his general contractor's license, found an office and started his own business.
Not only that, he gave jobs to the crew that had worked for him at Kenyon. That included his longtime secretary.
An almost native, having moved to Yuma when he was 6 years old, White returned to Yuma after college, married a local girl and in 1988 became a licensed contractor.
"I was always a hands-on kind of guy," he explained.
For 13 years, he had his own contracting business, describing the work as "a lot of small things ... lots of remodels, additions and tenant improvements."
Then he went to work for Kenyon Plastering Inc. as the manager of its Yuma office.
A nationwide business, Kenyon Plastering Inc. is the largest plaster and stucco contractor in the United States. With the economy still sluggish and the construction industry struggling to recover from the recession and housing bubble, the company decided to close its smaller operations, among them its Yuma office.
"They just weren't doing the volume they wanted here," White said.
So after 12 years, he found himself without a job. Since he still had his contractor's license, he decided to go back into business for himself and opened David White Custom Construction and Plastering.
"It was a little scary," he acknowledged. "March of 2012 was not the best time to go into contracting, but I said a little prayer and kept on going."
He held a meeting with his crew members, and they all agreed to stay on with him.
"I had nothing else to do," White said. "They had nothing else to do."
Having an experienced and complete crew that ranges from 13 to 18, depending on the job, made the transition easy.
"I was fortunate the whole crew, even the office manager, came with me," White said. She was critical, he said of Arcenia Scala, as "she takes care of the paperwork, the taxes, the insurance, the collectibles, the receivables."
Initially the company took on the jobs that had been lined up by Kenyon, White said, further counting his blessings that the contractors were willing to hire him.
"It was scary (about) what we would do after the initial jobs were done. But it's been good so far. I can't say enough for how much I appreciate the contractors who gave us work."
A couple of times making payroll was a little tight, but his workers have stayed with him, White said. "They want to be here, they want to work together. They're a good team. We have a nice little niche specialty."
And things are looking up as the construction industry seems to be turning around.
White estimates his company's work is about 80 percent commercial and 20 percent custom residential. His company just completed a major job -- the stuccoing on the new Yuma Honda dealership that's nearing completion -- and he's got a contract to build a house.
When he's not working, White likes to race cars. He figures he caught that bug from the gas station his father managed when he was boy. He has a pro stock car that he races mostly locally but notes with pride that he did win championships in 2000 and 2001 in El Centro. He also worked to get the Cocopah Speedway reopened and even ran it for a year.
His two sons are following in his footsteps in both his business and on the racetrack. Older son Gary works with his father and younger son Jordan, "the IT in the family," set up the business' computer system. Both of them also are learning the ropes of racing cars.
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