This month marks the one-year anniversary of The Strategic Alliance, a New Jersey-based group of eight housing-industry professionals who banded together to offer their services individually and collectively to builders that, due to the recession, are outsourcing more of their operational functions.
This consortium of consultant firms sees strength in unity at a time when many builders and developers are remnants of their former selves in terms of workforce numbers. With employees spread thin, builders looking beyond the downturn are seeking outside help to get projects moving. In fact, the Alliance’s marketing tagline is: “The Recovery Is Starting. Are You Prepared?”
“I think we’re unique and kind of like a Chinese menu, where you can pick and choose what you want,” says Bill Feinberg, whose architectural design firm Feinberg & Associates is one of the Alliance’s member companies. “Now that a lot of our clients have downsized, we’re trying to fill that gap.”
Joining Feinberg in the group are:
Anthony Naccarato, a principal of the structural engineering firm O’Donnell & Naccarato;
Joseph Di Bernardo, president of his own real estate consulting firm;
Don Smolev of The Marcon Group, a sales and marketing consultant;
Charles Kauffman, whose company C.H. Kauffman & Associates offers financial consulting;
Tom Osborne, a vice president with Patton Harris Rust & Associates, an engineering and land development firm;
Bill Becker, a long-time marketing and sales consultant who focuses on the active-adult sector.
In an interview with BUILDER last Friday, Feinberg and Becker called the Alliance as “a production operation” that targets larger-scale projects along the I-95 corridor in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic areas. In addition, each Alliance member has its own client contacts that might need the expertise of another member.
“We thought at first that some of the companies would be protective of their clients, but that hasn’t happened,” said Becker. For example, Patton Harris has been working with Trammell Crow Residential, “which has brought us some nice opportunities.” And the addition of Kauffman’s firm to the Alliance “has allowed clients to look at us differently,” said Feinberg.
The Alliance recently landed a consultant job on the development of a mixed-use town center in northern New Jersey (neither Feinberg nor Becker would reveal which town) that involves several of its member companies. However, the group is set up so that clients can contract with as many or as few of its members as they require. “Just tell us what you want and we’ll match your needs,” said Becker about the Alliance’s marketing approach.
So far, the Alliance’s marketing has been low key. It hired a public relations firm and has done some mass mailings. It is exhibiting at the League of Municipalities in New Jersey conference this week and sponsors the Urban Land Institute. Neither Becker nor Feinberg would reveal just how much business the Alliance has drummed up in a year, except to say that consulting on land deals has been a particularly active arena. Its members have also been retained by municipalities as consultants on stalled redevelopment projects, and by the military on residential construction jobs.
As it moves into its next stage, the Alliance could eventually offer the services of other affiliated consultants such as attorneys, accountants, brokers, and interior designers. The goal, according to Becker, is for the Alliance to position itself as a services coordinator for builders and developers.
John Caulfield is senior editor at BUILDER magazine.