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Marcobay Construction Continues to make Its Mark on Polk County

March 22, 2023 News

Marcobay Construction has a rich history in local construction – it’s left its mark on many recognizable buildings in Polk County. And it’s still going strong, working on a variety of projects as it prepares to enter its 50th year in 2024.  

Marcobay was founded in 1974 by John Andras, a local structural engineer who had been building houses and doing some light commercial work on the side of his main job, said Marcobay President Jimmy Vessels. “Then he decided to go off on his own. That’s when he set up the corporate structure for Andras Engineering & Construction. He did some residential but mostly commercial work, and he continued to do some structural engineering.” 

In 1989, Howard Bayless joined Andras Engineering & Construction, and over the next three to four years, he brought in Steve Cowperthwaite , who was the estimator, and then Mark Phillips, a project manager. They both became vice presidents. John was still involved but started stepping out.” 

When Andras retired, the company name was changed to Andras Construction, then, in 1996, to Marcobay. The name is a compilation – the “Mar” for Mark (Phillips), the “co” for (Steve) Cowperthwaite and the “bay” for (Howard) Bayless, Vessels said. 

The company offers everything from pre-construction and construction management to design and build.  

Still Going Strong

The company has many secrets to its success, but most revolve around relationships and repeat clients, said Vessels, who has been with Marcobay for 33 years.  

“Whenever we have a client, we’re in there helping them take care of everything that’s part of the process, whether it’s our job or not,” he said. “Whether we’re acting as a construction manager or general contractor, we’re helping them get through that project. We’re there to help them address anything that comes up. If the lender needs something and they’re not familiar with it, we help them provide that. The same thing with the building department, whether it’s easements or legal descriptions. We always try to assist as much as we can whether it’s part of our scope or not.” 

That process and positive attitude results in 85% repeat business, built on trust and relationships. “Repeat clients, you want to form a relationship with them so their next project, they don’t want to do it without you,” Vessels said.  

Two recent projects Marcobay has completed are the Heritage Plaza Parking Garage and the new Catapult Lakeland building across from Lake Mirror, Vessels said. The firm helped Catapult get established when it first opened in the basement of the Bank of America building at Lime Street and South Florida Avenue.  

The list of work it’s done includes everything from the downtown train station, The Brew Hub and the Big 4 radio station across from the RP Funding Center to the Davenport School of the Arts, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Carvana. 

“We’re proud of all of our buildings,” Vessels said. “People still mention the radio station and that was 22 years ago.” 

Drew Phillips, who started working at Marcobay part time in 2006 and then joined the company full time in 2015, said the projects are “really good jobs that were all kind of for the community; the community benefited. All the jobs mentioned (above) made Lakeland and the community a better place.” 

The company is licensed in Georgia and North and South Carolina, along with Texas, but has been working exclusively in Florida the last six to eight years, Vessels said. “We went to Texas primarily for Lowe’s. We were doing a lot for them at the time, and they asked us to come out there.” 

Now, there’s so much work available here that it “doesn’t make sense to work out of state,” Vessels said. “With Covid and everything going on, all of our employees are like family. The average person within the company has been here 20 years. We were just trying to keep everybody at home and there was so much work available locally.” 

Marcobay has about 20 employees and hires subcontractors as needed. 

Satisfying Work 

Vessels said he gets a lot of satisfaction from the whole construction process, “plus finishing a building and having the community recognize it, and seeing the building put to use.”  

Phillips said he worked for a time in commercial real estate and a few other things, but now that he’s back in construction, “I walk in places and look at them differently, and you kind of appreciate the entire construction process.  

As someone who has worked out in the field and in the office, Phillips said he likes interacting with everyone from the people who are doing the hard work to billionaire clients. “It’s a lot of fun, different, interesting conversations. It’s ‘all people are good people,’ and there are enjoyable conversations no matter who it’s with.” 

Coming Up in 2023 

While 2022 was a “really good year” for Marcobay, 2023 is shaping up to be better, Vessels said.  

“Several projects were slow starters in 2022, but overall, it turned out to be a really good year. And the supply chain issues started stabilizing,” he said. “The other good thing was all of our work was local. So, we didn’t have any employees who had to be out of town or were more than a 75-minute drive from the office.” 

This year is starting out very well, he said. “We have a pretty significant backlog of work, plus we have a couple repeat clients, one that has a complex/park here in Lakeland that essentially could be four more years of work there – that’s Lakeland Central Park.”  

The spec warehouse is being built behind Southern Wine & Spirits on Old Tampa Highway. Parkway is the developer, Vessels said. “It will eventually go from there almost to Airport Boulevard.” 

The firm also is getting ready to relocate its office from Pipkin Road, where it’s been for 16 years, to the corner of Airport and Drane Field roads, which will allow for a “more efficient use of space,” Phillips said. 

And it will be hiring this year, knowing it will run into issues — as it has been, Vessels said. “Everybody wants to work almost entirely remotely. We’re back to the point where anybody we hire, we’re going to want a live body here in the office at least 90% of the time. We’re going to offer the option to work remotely a couple days a month. But primarily we want people to work out of the office.” 

The company will also remain active in the community in as many ways as possible, Vessels said, sponsoring events and 5ks, as well as supporting sports teams and local schools. 

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