When ANF Group started in 1981 as a developer in South Florida, interest rates were at 20% and Miami was still seen as a small city, not the global leader in finance, commerce and culture that it is today.
About 10 years later, ANF became a general contractor with a focus on healthcare construction. Since that time, Florida's population has grown exponentially, providing ANF with the impetus to expand into multifamily construction.
Today, as the family-owned company celebrates its 40th year of work in South Florida, the company has a healthy pipeline of projects that include offices, apartments and hospitals. Construction Dive spoke with ANF President Al Fernandez to learn more about the company's history, its present and its future.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What is unique about the construction market in Florida and the surrounding area?
AL FERNANDEZ: Population growth is the biggest driver of Florida's construction industry. The state added about 2 million people in the last decade. Approximately 1,000 people move here each day because of our good weather, business-friendly environment and in some places, lower cost of living relative to other major metros. This is driving a lot of building in just about every sector – housing, healthcare, industrial office and infrastructure.
What is unique to Florida is our access to the immigrant labor force because of our proximity to South America and this population feels at home in South Florida's Latin culture environment.
How has that market changed over the years that you've been in business?
Over the last decade, Florida's population has exploded, and new apartments are going up everywhere. At the same time, Miami has emerged as a truly world-class, global city, with spectacular, "starchitect"-designed buildings – condos, hotels, museums – and that's naturally elevated expectations.
The construction environment is very competitive in South Florida – but there is plenty of work to go around, and we've built tremendous relationships and credibility as a result of our award-winning work.
Another way things have changed is the importance of technology. In the old days if you provided comparable wages the workforce would come, but as our younger, more talented workforce evaluates not only wages but the opportunity to demonstrate their talent at the highest level.
What were the challenges of expanding beyond healthcare construction?
When ANF first broke into the multifamily sector, we knew that we needed to bring talented and experienced individuals on board who would help us grow into this area of business and reinforce our offering. We hired two top project managers, Tony Fernández and Ernesto Rodriguez, who have built thousands of multifamily units in the South Florida region during their careers. Not only did they help us develop the proper infrastructure needed to be successful, they also brought valuable relationships with trade partners. It's critical in our industry to have partners who are competitive, but more importantly, qualified.
We also made it a point to diversify our efforts within the multifamily sector. For example, we formed partnerships with developers that specialize in HUD and tax credit deals.
ANF has a diverse portfolio. How do you maintain balance with various types of construction projects?
Yes, that's correct – we're more diversified today than ten years ago, with more work in the multifamily space than ever before. We are currently working on healthcare projects with long-time clients like Memorial Healthcare System; government/municipal projects, like the Broward Sheriff's Office Training Facility; and we are working with some of South Florida’s most prominent apartment developers.
Growth is one way we are achieving balance – we've had to hire many new people over the past two years – but we are also staying true to our family-owned ethos and ensuring that at least one of the three top executives has hands-on involvement in each project. This is something we have perfected and built relationships around, and it has been key to our 40 years of success.
What's next for ANF?
Our expansion into multifamily will continue as we will follow our clients and development partners into other regions in Florida. We currently have our eyes set on projects in Melbourne, Leesburg and Fort Myers where we believe we can apply the same format as we did in South Florida by identifying key trade partners in these regions and establishing relationships with them to build cost effectively in those markets.