After bouncing around to four different companies in six years, Chet Mirabal thought he had finally found a home when he joined David Weekley Homes in 2005 as its Atlanta division's lead builder. “I had won some awards and turned around some communities,” he recalls. His salary wasn't bad, either. Then suddenly, Mirabal found himself to be “a man without a community” when Weekley, like virtually every other builder, scaled back its production and laid off field staff last year in response to softer buyer demand.

On the street again, Mirabal flooded the job market with his résumé, which highlights a varied background that includes project and supervisory positions with Smithfield Homes and Ryland Homes, as well as field rep stints with Owens Corning and Perimeter Bobcat, a construction equipment supplier. He even used some headhunters, including the one who placed him at Weekley. “I was pretty much told the same thing: They could place me in a minute, in a construction job with even more responsibility, if I was willing to move.” Weekley, in fact, offered to relocate him to Dallas. But moving “wasn't an option at that point,” says Mirabal, because he and his wife had just had their first child, and she is a teacher in Gwinett County, Ga.

He did get some offers from a few builders, such as Levitt and Sons, but decided instead to take a sales rep job with Alpharetta, Ga.–based stair parts supplier Southern Staircase. Mirabal says Southern is a good company, but the job itself “was nothing special”—he doesn't even include it on his résumé—and would never have been more than a stepping stone, at best.

Mirabal's fortunes turned for the better when he contacted Scott Padis, who owns Sterling Concepts Grading, a Covington, Ga.–based provider of grading, excavation, and infrastructure installation services. Mirabal had used Sterling when he was with Ryland Homes and had become good friends with Padis, who offered him a job as sales manager. He started there last May.

At Sterling, Mirabal, who is 32, says his responsibilities are a bit different from managing a construction jobsite, which he refers to amusingly as “an adult day-care center.” He now deals mostly with senior-level operations and development managers, “but it's still about customer service.” His degree in marketing from Valdosta State University, plus his sales training with Owens Corning and Perimeter come in handy. And it can't hurt, when negotiating with customers and suppliers, that Mirabal referees Southeast Conference college basketball games in his spare time.

Mirabal says he intends to stay at Sterling “for the long haul.” He's already earning as much as he did at David Weekley, with better perks; he says the builder did not offer a truck allowance, for example. Mirabal also is encouraged by the fact that Sterling is still growing and could, eventually, become a small custom builder. “The opportunities are just greater here,” he says, concluding, after so much job hopping, that residential development isn't what it used to be.

Bob Mahoney

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.