Van Metre Cos.

Van Metre Cos. says it has coped well with the downturns in the recession. In a business that is often filled with uncertainly, it is critical for Van Metre Cos. to stay flexible so it can evolve with the shifts in the marketplace, Brian Davidson says. “We are nimble enough to adapt and change with the market,” he says. “We [will] change if we think it is a good idea and makes good business sense.”

Based in Burke, Va., Van Metre Cos. specializes in the construction and development of various properties, including new homes, apartments and commercial buildings. Founder Al Van Metre Sr. started the company in 1955 and has built more than 15,000 homes, Davidson says.

Today, Van Metre Cos. is a privately held company with a staff of about 350 in several divisions. For instance, the company builds new homes, apartment complexes and planned communities through Marquis Custom Homes, Van Metre Apartments and Van Metre Homes, for which Davidson is the executive vice president.

Van Metre Cos. also builds office and retail properties through Van Metre Commercial, and its investment properties division manages apartments, leases commercial space and operates a health and racquet club. “Our new Homes Group builds apartments for our apartment division, so we are really able to leverage our skills and work together to support each other, ” Davidson says. By having its eggs in multiple baskets, Van Metre Cos. weathers economic storms, Davidson says. ”When people [are not] buying homes, they’re renting apartments,“ he says. “That’s a good thing for us.”

Loyal Associates

The New Homes division is led by Group President Charlie Hockensmith, who joined Van Metre Homes in 1996. He has more than 45 years of building experience in the Washington, D.C., market and brings a wealth of experience to the company.  Davidson is the executive vice president of the New Homes division and he has been with Van Metre Cos. since April 1989. “I started as an entry-level accountant [when I graduated] college,” he says, noting that he has appreciated the opportunities for advancement that the company has given him.

“There’s a lot of long-term employees at Van Metre Companies,” he continues, praising the management of Chairman of the Board Albert Beau Van Metre Jr., Vice Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Rick Rabil, Group President – Finance and Accounting Secretary and CFO Ken Ryan, and Group President of Investment Properties, CPM Brad Gable. “The executive team treats people how they should be treated,” Davidson adds.

Showing Its Talents

Van Metre Cos.’ current projects include Stone Ridge, a  master planned community in Aldie, Va. In 2001, Van Metre purchased 800 acres of property to develop Stone Ridge which will be home to more than 3,000 homes and apartments, 125,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a Harris Teeter grocery store, more than 580,000 square feet of office and commercial development, a rehabilitation Hospital, County Library, schools, day care, three pool facilities, a club house with fitness center, four miles of walk/hiking trails and more.

“We are building a diverse product mix in Stone Ridge so we are able to market to many different buyer profiles and increase our absorption and sales pace,” Davidson says.

He adds that he is proud of the fact that The Stone Ridge Development not only shows Van Metre Cos.’ talent for building homes but also how skilled it is in developing a master planned community because it can showcase the breadth of what the company does and all its product types.

Weathering the Storm

Like many other construction and development firms, Van Metre Cos. is coping with the difficulties in the economy. “The economy is not where it needs to be,” Davidson admits.

However, the company has found it easier to cope with the recession than some competitors, since the bulk of its work is in the Washington, D.C., area. “It’s not as bad here as it is in other parts of the country,” Davidson says.

“We are still having a tough time dealing with low consumer confidence and getting increased traffic in the door,” he says. “There might be more people that want to buy due to low interest rates and house prices, but it’s tough. We’re dealing with some depressed pricing, a lot of competition in our market, but we are continuing to weather the storm.”

The company has successfully done this by making some changes in its product that allow it to save money. “We’ve done market research and competitive analysis to determine the hot button features that our customers want to have but we have been able to reduce building costs without reducing our competitive value,” Davidson says.

“That’s one of the advantages to [being] a more regional builder,” he says. “We can change on a dime. We have an in-house architecture team ...  so we can [go] from concept to actually building in two or three months and have newly designed product out for sale faster than other builders.”

Despite its challenges, Van Metre Cos. plans to expand its reach, though not necessarily nationwide, Davidson says. In addition, while the company is now building 300 units a year, Van Metre would like to grow to 600 units annually.

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