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Building despite the market

AMG & Associates Inc. recently listed as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies

Posted: December 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
AMG & Associates co-owners Tony Traverso and Albert Giacomazzi go over plans at the site of Fire Station 150 in Santa Clarita on Monday. AMG & Associates co-owners Tony Traverso and Albert Giacomazzi go over plans at the site of Fire Station 150 in Santa Clarita on Monday.
AMG & Associates co-owners Tony Traverso and Albert Giacomazzi go over plans at the site of Fire Station 150 in Santa Clarita on Monday.

The past five years could arguably be the worst five for AMG & Associates Inc., a Santa Clarita-based construction company, to exist.

The unemployment rate in the construction industry more than tripled from 6.7 percent when the firm started to 20.6 in 2010.

There were 1 million privately owned housing units started in 2006, compared to 587,000 in 2010.

However, AMG has essentially dodged the recession bullet.

This year has wound down as the biggest revenue year for the company, which was placed on Inc. Magazine’s most recent list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies.

And the company has pulled in $17.3 million in revenue in 2011, 42 percent more than 2010.

“That’s a testament of our team,” said president and CEO, Albert Giacomazzi, who started the company with Tony Traverso, who is the company’s vice president. 

All 19 employees — a number that has gone up, not down — “have the common goal: the success of the company,” Giacomazzi said.

The local company’s steady growth is in part due to its presence in the public works sector, as opposed to a focus on privately funded and residential construction.

Public sector
Giacomazzi and Traverso have always preferred public projects, since “the public sector pays their bills” for the projects, Traverso said.

And the duo’s experience in the public sector became an advantage when residential and private construction opportunities tanked.

“We were affected by other contractors migrating into our sector,” Giacomazzi said, but companies who had started in the public sector tended to already have relationships on the local, state and federal levels. “Now they’ve (the other companies) faded away a bit.”

And to succeed in these times, every staff member had to become a jack of all trades, since AMG has put bid requests in all types of jobs, instead of only focusing on one kind of project.

“That might have been OK 10 years ago, but that’s not the case today,” Giacomazzi said.

“For a company like ours, you have to be able to adapt and feel comfortable taking on numerous roles. (AMG) employees have broad experience.”

Any project
In total, the company has completed more than $67 million worth of projects, which run the gamut from more than a dozen fire stations, a NASA facilities support center, children’s and senior centers to renovations to area schools and universities.

AMG has expanded its reach nationally, and as a result has taken on projects from the federal government and all military branches.

This philosophy means AMG is bidding on projects with less competition.

It has also brought AMG some unusual projects, including the construction of a new visitor center at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where AMG has been working at 10,000 feet above the sea level in zero-degree weather, just outside the city of Bishop.

“That’s challenged the team,” Giacomazzi said with a laugh. “It’s really cold, and we’re working in and around trees that are some of the oldest living organisms on the planet.”

AMG’s work has been recognized by the Western Council of Construction Consumers, which gave a Distinguished Project Award to the Seal Beach fire station that AMG completed in March 2010.

“They delivered the project under budget and ahead of schedule,” said David Carmany, who was the city manager in Seal Beach at the time of the fire station’s construction.

Carmany attributed AMG’s financial stability to the company’s integrity during projects.

“They say what they mean and they mean what they say,” he said.

Training a new generation
The company is also doing its part to train and educate the next generation of the construction industry, which may actually be growing, despite the current market (about 4,420 people in the U.S. graduated with construction trade degrees in 2009, up from 3,629 in 2005, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.)

The incoming employees will be equipped with less trade and vocational experience than when Giacomazzi and Traverso started as apprentices in the construction field.

Giacomazzi is an instructor for UCLA Extension’s Construction Management Certificate Program, where he is seeing more and more students come into the class without extensive hands-on experience on a construction site.

“That practical approach is almost a dying art,” he said. “A lot of students bring only the educational side.”
Field trips to AMG construction sites tend to spark the most discussion of the semester, he said.

Traverso added that as technology advances, the amount of time the incoming construction-management students will actually spend on a site will continue to decline.

For instance, everything from estimations to schedules are now done through construction-specific software, sent to staff members from an office, instead of having to go to the site.

“Thousands of documents are now all computer-generated,” Traverso said. “There’s very little paper generated.”

But this will also lead to speedier and more accurate work, Traverso said. Through technologically advanced 3-D building models of projects, firms can now spot potential conflicts between, for example, wiring and plumbing, before the actual work begins.

“It’s better to see it during the design phase,” Traverso said, “in lieu of the tradesman putting it together and then realizing they have a problem.”

The generational differences are not just on the management side. Traverso said there is a lack of trade schools to train skilled laborers for construction jobs.

However, he predicts — and hopes for — a greater emphasis on vocational training once construction projects and job openings are on the uptick again. Giacomazzi thinks this will happen after 2013.

And AMG hopes to continue to enjoy its own uptick until the rest of the industry catches up, as the firm is working on as many as 10 projects simultaneously.

“We’re blessed to have continued to grow in a difficult and challenging period,” Giacomazzi said.

AMG & Associates, Inc. is located at 26470 Ruether Ave., Suite 108, Santa Clarita. More information is available at or by calling (661) 251-7401.


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