Trendsetters - Jan. 2006
? Lani Kahn Drody, 33, executive vice president of Miami-based builder Lowell Homes, is the first woman president of the Builders Association of South Florida. Lowell builds in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach and is moving into St. Lucie County and central Florida.
? Carmen Dominguez, 56, started her Homes by Carmen Dominguez high-end custom home building company in 1999 in Orlando after her children went off to college. The Puerto Rico-born daughter of a sugar cane farmer did $15 million in volume in 2005. She won the honor of constructing The New American Home, a "real world" demonstration home, for the 2007 International Builders' Show in Orlando.
? John Wiseman, 41, president, Core Construction's Florida operations, oversees condo and other project construction for developers around the state. Core had $150 million in revenue in Florida in 2005. "The market has changed. Two years ago, we competed for work. Now we're competing for resources and manpower to get the work done."
? Oscar Barbara, 45, CEO of Miami-based builder Quantum. Quantum built 650 homes in south Florida in 2005 at an average price of $300,000. It most recently expanded into the Palm Beach market.
The Renovation Shuffle
For fun: A 1984 Corvette and golf. He also writes poetry and family stories.
Workday: Estimating and invoicing. "If someone told me I was going to spend most of my time as a builder at the computer screen, I wouldn't have believed him."
Early work: Building skiers' second homes in New Hampshire
Second home: The Home Depot
Most popular job: Kitchen makeovers, which average $50,000
The reality beyond reality makeover shows: "You generally don't do whole house makeovers."
After 25 years in home and commercial remodeling, Ed Dion knows a lot about dancing. There's the keep-costs-down dance that customers do. They may want expensive counters but opt for cheaper laminate. Then, when ordering time comes, they go with what they really wanted. "I can't tell you the last house I put laminate countertops in," he says.
Patience and hand-holding come with the repair and renovation territory that Dion, 53, has staked out. As people look askance at their dated kitchens and baths but want to preserve their shorter commutes and Save Our Homes low property taxes, they look to upgrade.
A Rhode Island native whose father came to Florida to rebuild jet engines for the Navy, Dion founded Dion Builders in 1981 to do new construction and renovation. He found renovation paid better. He has stayed small with 14 employees and $1.2 million in annual revenue. In May, he bought and remodeled a 65-year-old home as a "renovation innovation" house in the local Parade of Homes, winning awards. He kept it as a model for potential customers. "We didn't realize how hot an item it was," Dion says. Features include an accessible bathroom that avoids the nursing-home look and an accessibility ramp outside disguised with lattice work and plantings. The house paid off with so much work he now has a six-month backlog.
Dion keeps abreast of what's hot, like residential elevators. He also keeps up with his 'dancing,' especially the while-you're-here tango, done by customers tired of waiting for spouses to get around to a repair, and the changed-my-mind waltz. Only once in 25 years, Dion says, has a customer not changed anything.