Our blog series “Inside Live Oak” gives you insight into our business and the people who are integral to our success. This month we sat down with Paul Bertozzi, Founder and Managing Partner of Live Oak Contracting.
Q. Can you tell us about Live Oak’s southern roots?
I was born and raised in Jacksonville. It was always my intent to return to the community and make a positive contribution. Our business partners are in Charleston and they made a strong case for locating the business there, but I love Jacksonville and I love living here. Jacksonville felt like the right place for me and for Live Oak, not only because of the local support, but also because it’s a city that I believe in and a community I love.
Q. How did you get involved in construction as a career?
My educational background is actually in economics. I attended Auburn University but had always worked construction in the summers. In 2003, I began a small construction firm with a high school friend. We were quite successful but were pushed out by our equity partners for financial reasons. At this point, I had a decision to make: stay in construction or return to the world of finance and banking. I chose to stay in construction and worked with Summit and then with Lennar on multifamily, hospitality and large renovation projects.
In 2011, I began discussing business opportunities with a group of young developers I had worked with in South Carolina. We came to an agreement about the business decision. Live Oak was registered as a construction company in February 2014.
Q. What made you want to start Live Oak and what was your vision for the company?
I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve been a part of 3 successful startup companies but was always an employee or minority shareholder. This gave me great insight into the process and all the hard work that went into becoming successful. I have never shied away from working hard and getting my hands dirty if need be for the greater good. When I was presented with an opportunity to start Live Oak I was ready and the time was right to build a great company.
My vision for Live Oak has always been to have a collaborative approach to building a successful project. It takes time to develop this with clients but we have been successful in doing so. We are no longer cold calling or requested to get added to a bid list. We have a great group of Clients that we are doing business with and their references as well as additional work speaks to our success.
Q. What areas of the industry saw growth in 2015?
Coming out of the recession, we have seen continued growth in multifamily housing. The trend truly took hold in 2011 and 2012 and from there has continued to grow steadily. The market demand for units remains high and developers are working to meet it with a new supply of housing.
Right now, demand is driven by the Millennial generation as they graduate from college, begin careers, and move away from mom and dad. Additionally, many Baby Boomers are looking to downsize. They want to escape the responsibilities of homeownership and live a life that is more agile and carefree. Rental housing allows those who are new to the housing market or those downsizing to meet their goals.
Q. How do you see the industry changing in the next two years and how will Live Oak be a part of that?
I see technology becoming even more integrated into the industry. Ten years ago, we had cell phones on site with average cameras. Today, on the site we are completely mobile. If there is an issue on the job site, we can quickly snap a high-quality picture with our smartphones, send it to the subcontractors or developers, and immediately have a conference call to reach a resolution. We had laptops but no remote Internet access. Now, we keep all of our files on a cloud-based server making them accessible from anywhere. Essentially, our projects in the northeast are just as easy to manage as those within Jacksonville. I believe that technology use will continue to grow.
Q. As a managing partner, what do you believe sets Live Oak apart from the competition?
Our team is made up of many former business owners who understand the challenges of owning a business. Their experience in the industry sets us apart from the competition. Our team is comprised of excellent communicators who can envision multiple ways to solve a problem. We share ideas, information, and solutions freely among the team members and with our clients to reach the best decisions possible. Furthermore, our experience allows us to analyze the market and share that with our clients.
Q. Why do you feel it is important to give back to the community?
The bottom line is everyone wants to be part of a vibrant, successful community. Personally and professionally, I believe we should continue to push growth and diversity in our own communities. To that end, we work with the United Way to support children’s programs and this year we’ve taken on a new involvement in Theater Jacks in San Marco to support the arts. We have to have a diverse community to attract new members.
With Jacksonville being my home, I sell Jacksonville everywhere I go. We have an amazing growth opportunity here. You walk downtown and just about every block you get ideas for development. We have some of the best infrastructure in the Southeast, between the port, railroads and airport. With those benefits, it continues the city’s growth. Every year there’s a group a retirees and a group of young people entering the market – we want to make sure the next generation is given an opportunity to prosper at a young age and want to give back when they’re older. I always knew I would come back here after college, and making Jacksonville a better community has always been something that’s important to me and something Live Oak will always do.
To learn more about other members of our team, visit our About Us page or give us a call at (904) 497-1500.