Simms Building Group, Inc. – St. Louis (Where are they now?)

Simms Building Group, Inc. of St. Louis was first introduced to readers of MO SBTDC success stories in 2011. But the firm’s story started long before that.

Simms Building Group logoIn 2003, construction engineer Floyd Simms was working as a project director for a St. Louis-area construction management company. In the middle of the project — an airport-related parking facility at Cypress Avenue and I-70 — his employer ceased operation.

“They told us on a Tuesday, and by Friday the doors were closed,” recalls Simms. “It was right then that I decided if the doors were ever going to close again on a company where I worked, I was the one who would close them.”

The path that took Simms to business ownership was one of successful progression. After earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, Simms spent six years in bridge and highway construction with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Floyd Simms, president of Simms Building Group, completed the University of Missouri System's Advocacy-Mentoring Program in 2011.

Floyd Simms, president of Simms Building Group, completed the University of Missouri System’s Advocacy-Mentoring Program in 2011.

He later returned to St. Louis where he worked for the city as a project manager at Lambert Airport. That three-year experience led him to a design position with Parsons-Brinkerhoff construction, at which he designed and built the runway extension for Lambert Field. He was working on the Cypress Avenue parking facility when he began to think seriously about starting his own company.

He incorporated on Nov. 4, 2003, forming the Simms Building Group, Inc. He was a one-man band for a while, but soon hired his first employee, an administrative assistant to keep the operation organized.

Soon Simms Building Group landed its first job as general contractor on the Cahill House senior living complex in north St. Louis. While that job was underway, Simms kept searching for more projects.

“In the construction industry, you have to be looking at least 12 months ahead for work,” he says. “It’s the nature of the business.”

The construction jobs kept coming. The St. Louis Housing Authority needed a two-story office building. Eagle Bank & Trust Co. wanted its new bank facility to include virtual teller stations. Simms built office, laboratory and maintenance structures for Center Oil’s ethanol plant. The company also worked on school remodeling projects, such as Jana Elementary School in Florissant.

But by 2008, the flow of jobs started to slow. Simms knew he needed some outside help to get the company through the downturn.

Kevin Wilson, director of the St. Louis SBTDC; Carolyn Jones, director of the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center-St. Louis; and other St. Louis area business counselors stepped in to help. Even though Simms had considered shutting the doors, Wilson helped him view his firm from a new perspective and suggested he enroll in FastTrac courses.

Wilson and Simms explored HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certification, low-interest Urban Enterprise Loan (UEL) eligibility and other funding programs. The UEL is designed to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban communities.

Wilson helped Simms apply to the UEL program, and the UEL granted the Simms Building Group a loan in April 2012.

Simms wrote to Wilson, “Wanted to let you know that we closed today on the UEL! I also wanted to express my sincere gratitude for your helping me through this process. This UEL is the start of Simms being able to rebuild. These funds will help bridge us through upcoming work that can turn the company around in less than a year. Thanks again.”

As a direct result, in 2012, the Simms Building Group added five jobs when most construction firms were laying people off. Revenues rose nearly $4 million, to $12 million.

Simms and Wilson continue to consult, exploring organizational change, coaching skills, implementing new technology, developing new strategies and services and implementing other potential changes.

“I’m just glad I’m able to help,” says Wilson. “His [Simms’] company is now trending in a positive way and looks a lot better than last year. I feel confident they will grow as St. Louis’ economy grows.”

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