Building With A Passion
Global Builders, Inc. reaches new heights in Chicago
Growing up as a first-generation American in Cicero, Illinois, Carmen Gratace knew from an early age he wanted to own his own business. It’s a goal and desire he harnessed and rode to found Global Builders, Inc., becoming one of the leading general contractors in Chicago today.
“I was very ambitious,” Carmen says. “I still am. I love construction. I love the way a project goes together.”
Success didn’t come easily, but it did come. By the age of 16, Carmen was working for a carpentry and roofing contractor in Chicago. Within a few years, he decided to open his own construction company and started building additions to buildings. In 2002, he built his first strip mall, a 12,000-square-foot shopping center in Carpentersville, Illinois.
“After the strip mall, Global was hired for various other construction projects,” Carmen says. “I started working on apartment buildings in Chicago. In 2006, I got my big break and started building large housing developments and a high-rise building in Chicago—Chess Lofts.”
The Personal Touch
The high-rise project came just one year after Carmen incorporated his business into Global Builders, Inc., and as he was making a name for himself in Chicago’s forest of towering buildings as a builder who is personally involved at every stage of the construction process.
“I give personal attention to every one of my projects,” Carmen says. “It’s something my clients appreciate. I’m always looking for ways to help value-engineer a project—anything I can do to lower the cost or improve the final product for the customer, always delivering the project on time and on budget. I spend a lot of time on every one of my projects personally. That always helps.”
Carmen adds, “Our clients know that sets me apart. You don’t always get that personal attention from larger companies. I like to be on the job, helping out, creating the synergy we need to bring it all together.”
Carmen’s attention to detail and reputation for quality work were integral to surviving when the recession hit just a few years after he incorporated his business. Global Builders built a Menards Garden Center in Wisconsin, did expansion work on another Menards and built a Walgreens in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, among other projects. As the economy recovered, the work came back, and by 2012, Carmen and Global Builders were back at work on apartment and condominium buildings in Chicago.
Global Builders works almost entirely in the state of Illinois and the Milwaukee market, specializing in apartment and high-rise construction, though Carmen and his team are also experienced in the restaurant, commercial, retail and hospitality industries. Recently, they branched out to perform construction services for an apartment building at a national landmark in Wisconsin. The plans as presented called for millions of dollars in shoring. After reviewing the plans and considering other options, Carmen and his team were able to provide an alternate plan, eliminating shoring completely, at a savings of $7 million to $8 million for the client.
“We work for a lot of different clients,” Carmen says. “A lot of our work comes through repeat business from satisfied clients. Recently, we built a project on Division Street financed by a bank. They loved what we did, and the bank recommended us for another project on Granville Street in Chicago that was mixed-use apartment and retail.”
Many of Global Builders’ projects are extensive and long-term assignments. In 2018, the company had 10 projects under construction, pulling in gross revenue of between $75 million and $100 million, Carmen says. The business is continuing to grow under his leadership, and he expects gross receipts in excess of $100 million in 2019. From a man on his own working by himself, his company has grown to 50 employees with a robust network of more than 200 subcontractors throughout the Chicago area with whom Carmen has developed longstanding working relationships.
“I love it when it all comes together,” Carmen says, enthusiastically. “I would do this for free if I could. I love it when the cranes show up and the machines are working. I love the action. I love seeing the steel go up. As time has gone on, I’ve learned from a lot of architects and tradesmen in the business. I’m still learning. Every day. There’s always room for improvement.”
Carmen refers to quality and safety as the cornerstones of his business philosophy at Global Builders. These values are reflected in the corporate culture, which Carmen also describes as fun and energetic.
“It’s very exciting work,” Carmen says. “It comes with a lot of challenges. We run our company here with integrity. Everyone enjoys working here because of what we do and how we do it.”
Carmen adds, “When I look at where I came from and where I’m at today, that’s what makes me proud. I came from Cicero. I remember how I started, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. Working as a carpenter and a roofer in a neighborhood that had a lot of challenges. I’m very thankful for what I have, what I’ve earned, what God has allowed me to get.”