Building the American Dream
Megen Construction was launched from an Ohio basement in 1993. From this modest start, the family owned company has grown into a thriving, 40-employee business managing $65 million construction projects out of offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland.
The team provides a full range of services including construction management, design / build, general contracting, and estimating / preconstruction. Program management is one of the company’s most sought after services. “We help clients from the beginning with the conceptual stage of the project, through the design and planning process, and then take it on from there to construction,” explains Founder and President Evans Nwankwo. “We even [go] beyond construction by making sure that they have all the instructions and teachings to be able to operate their facilities long term.”
Sustainable building is also a major focus, and Megen Construction was the first LEED Platinum builder in the state of Ohio.
The humble startup has become one of the region’s premier builders, responsible for some of Cincinnati’s and Cleveland’s most high profile – and high-pressure – projects. One of the most memorable is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located in Cincinnati’s Historic Riverfront district. Megen Construction acted as construction managers on the $65 million, 160,000 square foot educational and interactive museum, which was completed in 2004. “It was a big to do,” Mr. Nwankwo recalls. “Laura Bush and Oprah were both there for the grand opening.”
Megen Construction also acted as construction manager for the $42 million renovation of Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, a major landmark located in the heart of the city. “It is a community center; it is where people gather.” The team oversaw the complete overhaul of the outdoor public plaza – from the top of its famous fountain all the way to the bottom of the four-level underground parking garage. The transformation was so successful that it has inspired approximately $88 million in surrounding property investment.
In another notable project, Megen Construction acted as General Contractor for the construction of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame museum and store. Building the two part structure, which is made up of a 6,000 square foot team store and a 36,000 square foot museum, presented several noteworthy challenges. There was limited on-site material storage and a complex mechanical and lighting package had to be installed in high bay ceilings. Furthermore, everything had to be completed in just two and half months.
History and Growth
Mr. Nwankwo knew that he wanted to be an engineer and business owner from an early age. However, his home country of Nigeria simply didn’t provide the educational opportunities required to meet his goals. “There is a very limited number of colleges at home, and so many people wanting to get in,” he explains. “I made the decision to leave and study overseas in America.” Choosing the U.S. for his education was a simple decision, he adds. “America seems to have everything.”
After graduating from Texas A&M with a B.S. in Building Construction Engineering, Mr. Nwankwo took a job with a leading construction firm. “After working for them for 12 years, I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of owning my own business,” he shares. His wife, Cathy Nwankwo, was working as a civil engineer for a competing construction company at the time. “So both of us really combined our resources, our knowledge, and experiences and launched Megen Construction Company.” Turning their dreams into reality wasn’t easy. “We started with one and a half employees,” Mr. Nwankwo laughs. “I say that because I was full-time and my wife was full-time with another construction company and working part-time at home.”
The couple worked hard and carefully strategized in order to grow the business into what it is today. “Every stage in our development required a different strategy,” Mr. Nwankwo recalls. One of the most important strategies was choosing the right people to help run the business as it grew. The Nwankwos had “to make sure that the people that we were bringing in at first were experienced folks.” The new staff had to be competent enough to manage their own projects and free up the founders to focus on their own work. “So our first recruits were all people with strong construction experience and background. And that was very instrumental in helping the company stay at quality level.”
With a trustworthy staff, Mr. Nwankwo no longer had to micromanage the business. In fact, as Megen Construction continued to grow, he recognized that his employees should take on even more responsibility to keep things running smoothly. “We realized that different aspects of our business required different industry knowledge. It was best to have a person that learns all about that [industry sector] and be the gatekeeper of that segment of our business.” To handle all of the work in the most efficient way, the team created six different project divisions: Major, Education, Government, Healthcare, Religious, and Special Projects.
Megen Construction also had to develop an effective strategy to overcome the recent economic downturn. The team realized that they would need to look beyond their local market if they wanted the company to survive. “There wasn’t enough work for all the construction companies that were desperately in need of work,” Mr. Nwankwo explains. “Our strategy was to expand geographically because we found that we could no longer compete within our local market. If one side of the country is doing poorly, there is always a pocket of places where there is business. So we figured a way to create an opportunity where we could do work outside of our immediate headquarters.” The strategy was a success and the company managed to come out ahead, despite the turbulent economic times. “We actually worked very successfully during those periods.” The company’s geographic reach remains broad, and the team has been involved in construction projects across Ohio, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Washington.
As Megen Construction grew over the years, there was once aspect of the company that the Nwankwos refused to change: the close-knit, family culture. “When you walk into our place, you are going to feel a family type atmosphere,” Mr. Nwankwo says. “We are big enough to deliver a sizable project – as you can see from our past records – but we are also small enough to have that personal connection with our clients. As a matter of fact, most of our clients would say that that is one of the reasons that they like working with us. There are quite a few companies that can put bricks and mortar together; sometimes what really separates one company from the other is the culture and the passion they bring to the project. I think that is the case with us.”
The team is eager to maintain this family culture as the company continues to expand. Megen Construction has already grown from a basement startup to a nationally recognized firm handling some of the area’s most exciting building projects. But the team plans to keep pushing forward. I see the company growing,” Mr. Nwankwo predicts. “We are focused on continuing the growth path that we have been on.”
The NuWay Foundation
Megen Construction is a company that gives back. The entire team is active in their local communities, giving both time and money to a long list of worthy organizations in the greater Cincinnati area. Megen Construction Founders Evans and Catherine Nwankwo also launched the non-profit NuWay Foundation in 2006 in order to help improve the lives and economic conditions of the less fortunate through education, community building, and economic development.
The organization’s first project has been to help improve the living conditions in Awa, Nigeria, the village where Mr. Nwankwo grew up. The community was in dire need of a helping hand. “It [Nigeria] is one of the poorest on the African continent, with 90 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day and life expectancy being only 43 years (compared to 77 in the U.S.),” Megen Construction reports. Furthermore, “Nigeria has the third largest HIV/AIDS population and the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world.”
Over the last eight years, NuWay has provided Awa access to clean water, 61 interest-free loans for small businesses, medical aid, a generator for the local clinic, and funding for school teachers and school supplies.
For more information about Megen Construction, please visit http://www.megenconstruction.com/