Get in the Door Early!
Design build solutions keep Petrill Construction Management LLC ahead of the curve
At Petrill Construction Management LLC, the work begins well before construction bids are requested. “We usually target projects in the planning stage,” explains Kirk Petrill, President. “We establish a relationship with the client way ahead of construction bidding.”
His firm specializes in commercial construction management with a focus on design-build services. The boutique firm targets the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Tampa, Florida, markets. “We offer engineering, design and architectural services, which gets us in the door early,” Petrill says.
The family-owned business got its start three generations ago, in the 1950s. Petrill’s grandfather, with his four sons, started I.J. Petrill and Sons Construction in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. As Kirk Petrill’s father and uncles carried on the business, Petrill and his cousins began working when they reached the age of 10.
“When the end of the school year came, we would all walk out of the building with our heads down,” Petrill remembers. “We worked all summer.”
Petrill worked with his father, Dennis Petrill, for many years. The elder man died when his son was 30. Kirk Petrill took over the business at that point, and the rest is history.
Work Ethic Passed on Through Generations
“The work ethic I learned from my father and grandfather is the key to my longevity in this business,” says Petrill, now 54. “I’m the last of the old school.”
Among many other projects, Petrill worked on construction of stores at Deptford Mall in New Jersey, but near Philadelphia. He met his wife, Linda Petrill, now Vice President of the company, and they settled in Philadelphia.
The company has found its niche offering design-build services, Petrill says. Petrill Construction Management streamlines its approach to design, saving the client money and time.
“We have a team of architects we use, specializing in retail, industrial and medical,” Petrill says. “We are actively involved with the architect as well as the client. We offer value engineering and cost savings.”
The company focuses on retail, higher education, industrial and health care sectors primarily. Among Petrill’s larger projects is the 20,000-square-foot Springfield Pasta plant in Chester, Pennsylvania, with a 4,000-square-foot drive-in freezer. It required U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as well as specialty requirements, Petrill explains.
Building Stores, Renovating Offices
Petrill Construction Management has built Verizon stores, 7-Eleven stores, European Wax Centers, Bed Bath & Beyond and Pet Supplies Plus, to name a few. The firm manages some projects from the ground up, but more often the projects are renovations.
“We target building managers and building owners,” Petrill says. “We often do projects like lobby renovations and elevator upgrades.”
The firm also keeps in touch with real estate brokers, who are in the know about plans for rental office space. “They are out doing leasing. They will call and say, ‘We have a doctor’s office. Can you get me a budget (for renovations) to make sure the deal is feasible, make sure it works?’ ”
Petrill Construction Management works on 20 to 25 projects per year, allowing the company to be intimately involved with each one. “We usually do one or two large projects and the rest are smaller. Our sweet spot is $250,000 to $2 million,” Petrill says, emphasizing that his firm likes the smaller projects that a larger company might not touch. As an example, the company built out a dentist’s office, a $600,000 project on a 12-week schedule. The company’s average annual revenue is $3 million to $5 million.
From Child Care Centers to Taco Trucks
A recent project is the Lightbridge Academy, a 15,000-square-foot child care center and school built in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, for a national company. In the same building, Petrill built a children’s dental office. “We facilitated that relationship,” Petrill says, realizing that the two would make great neighbors. The dental office has murals and sea creatures that hang from the ceiling.
Another Petrill Construction Management project was The Taco Truck restaurant for the new food court at Simon Property Group’s King of Prussia Mall. The owners had started their business with an actual taco truck. Petrill’s company built a replica of an Airstream trailer out of wood and drywall, laminated with aluminum. When customers came to the counter, it looks as though they were being served from a truck.
Petrill Construction Management’s staff includes Kirk and Linda Petrill and their son-in-law, Dylan Albright, Senior Project Manager. They work with a team of subcontractors, architects and engineers with whom they have been partnering for 15 to 20 years. “We have a team-oriented approach, and we have a lot of experience with them,” Petrill says.
The company also has a good relationship with both union and non-union labor, he says. If a project requires union labor, as some university or hospital projects do, Petrill has the contacts to make that happen.
Dealing Directly With Company Leaders
The firm’s size can be a benefit to clients, Petrill explains. “Because we are a boutique firm, there are not layers and layers of management. You are dealing with the president of the company. We are able to make a quick decision. We don’t have to get board approval. Over the years, clients have appreciated that they can pick up the phone and call me directly,” Petrill says.
The firm has faced some challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the availability of materials and the supply chain. The small team no longer has an outside office but works from home either in Pennsylvania or Florida. A field office is set up when Petrill Construction Management is working on a project.
Tampa, Florida, is a new market for Petrill Construction Management. Petrill built several Staples in Florida in the early 2000s and realized the market potential then. Petrill is licensed in several states, with primary focus on the Mid-Atlantic and Florida regions. Going forward, Petrill plans to continue to focus on commercial construction services, emphasizing design-build delivery.
“We are able to compete with companies that have high overhead,” Petrill says. “We operate as a mobile office. Our projects are completed through our field offices. We are able to be more competitive and keep costs down.”