Using strong communications technology, Ascent Builders thrives in Denver’s growing market.
By Chris Kelsch
For Jason Brown, president of Ascent Builders, not starting out in the construction business has made all the difference. Brown spent 18 years in the telecom industry, the last 10 of those with Level 3 Communications in Broomfield, Colo. “I just got a little burned out with it, so I made a deal to leave the company once it exited the start-up phase,” Brown says. “It just wasn’t fun anymore.”
Brown’s attraction to the construction industry derived from a simple need. “I really wanted to work on a tangible, finished product,” Brown explains. That’s why he started Ascent Builders in 2006, with another Level 3 employee, Jeff Proctor. Both partners, as it turns out, had studied engineering. Brown was an electrical engineering major at Kansas, while Proctor studied mechanical engineering at Colorado.
“Neither of us fit the typical engineer profile,” Brown says. “But we derive a ton of satisfaction out of finishing a project.” The company’s original name was “Basement Partners,”, and as the name suggests, the focus was on remodeling basements. “We realized quickly we probably weren’t going to last if that was our only specialty,” Brown recalls. “So we expanded our capabilities.”
Today the company performs residential remodeling and custom home, residential townhome and commercial construction. And though the company suffered some lean years from late 2007 through 2009, its diversification served it well. “I really think that’s one of the things that saved us,” Brown recalls. “Having a diverse set of capabilities gave us a wider range to operate in, especially in a lean market.”
Brown and Proctor haven’t looked back since leaving the corporate world; however, both have used many of the same skills they honed in that environment. “For us, the thing that really sets us apart is our ability to manage large, complex projects,” Brown says, “as well as our ability to connect with customers and bring these projects in on time and on budget.”
Coming from a telecommunications background, it’s easy to see why Brown and Proctor opt for technology when communicating with customers. They use CoConstruct software as a customer portal. “With this software, a customer can log on and see the project and see where we are with every task,” Brown says. “It works well for both us and the customer – by being tailored to their project, they only need to see tasks specific to them.”
A Good Challenge
Building in the Denver area, Ascent builders is burdened with a challenge many builders would like to have. Given the strong economic growth in Denver in recent years – owing to strong gains in technology, the oil and gas industry, healthcare and other industries – there has been an explosion in housing needs. “If anything, the Denver area is still kind of in catch-up mode,” Brown notes.
It has been imperative for Ascent to develop strong relationships with the top subcontractors in the area. “For the most part we have developed a core group of trade partners that are very loyal to us,” Brown says. “We try and repay that loyalty with on-time payments and steady work flow.”
The Denver market is prone to material shortages, but Ascent has managed that challenge as well. Indeed, many of Ascent’s customers opt for vintage materials to reduce waste, such as reclaimed barn wood. As for the spaces they crave, many seek viable rooftop spaces, as well as large decks, patios and outdoor kitchens.
Though barely more than a decade old, Brown and Proctors’ hard work in the custom home segment is about to pay off in a huge way. Ascent builders recently learned they were chosen for the Colorado Golf Club Preferred Builder program. This is one of the top courses on the PGA and LPGA tours, and an expected 120 homes will be built on the site and sell for between $2.5 and $3million dollars each. The Club is built on 1,000 acres of rolling hillsides dedicated to golf as well as a stunning natural landscape. There is also an extensive trail network for walking and biking, and a private lake stocked with a variety of fish for catch and release.
As Ascent Builders continues to thrive, Brown has maintained a simple approach. “We don’t do a lot of advertising,” Brown says. “Almost 99 percent of our work comes from referrals.” For Ascent, putting the customer first has always paid off. “We realize that our next job comes from the customer we’re currently working with.”