Merging the Talents of Sean DeMartino & Robert Utsey
The merger between the Metro Orlando EDC and the Central Florida Partnership was a historic one. The challenges of uniting these two influential entities were daunting, and it is impossible to overestimate the strategic role played by the chairs of these respective organizations at the time. Robert Utsey was the chair of the EDC and Sean DeMartino of the CFP; they also served as co-chairs of the new Orlando Economic Partnership when it was formed.
Yet, no one imagined that less than a year later that DeMartino, the division president for Balfour Beatty Florida, and Utsey, Skanska’s senior vice president of business development, would join forces to represent Coastal Construction Group in the Central Florida region. They say success is liking what you do and liking whom you are doing it with, and for these two highly regarded construction executives, it is definitely both.
The Miami-based Coastal Construction Group is one of the Southeast’s leading privately held construction companies and among the top 100 in the nation. Its iconic projects have shaped South Florida’s skyline and include the 55-story Trump Royale and the 41-story Ocean Palms, along with Bacardi’s headquarters in Coral Gables. Targeting the burgeoning Central Florida market, the company’s Orlando office will have DeMartino serving as president of the company’s new Central and North Florida division and Utsey will serve as senior vice president.
“There’s no one more qualified to lead our efforts than Sean DeMartino,” Tom Murphy, Coastal’s co-president and chairman, was quoted as saying. “We patiently waited for the right time and right person for this expansion through Central and North Florida. We’re always evaluating ways to diversify and grow in smart ways.”
When Utsey joined the team four months later, Murphy added, “Robert is an exceptional industry leader and will be an integral part of our success in the market.”
Together, the two have not only helped shape the economic future of Central Florida, but professionally they have also been involved in projects that have shaped the region’s reputation as an expanding and diversified business and tourism hub. These projects include the Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando, BRIDG in Kissimmee, Nemours Children’s Hospital and the new UCF Downtown Campus.
It’s Not Just Business … It’s Personal
It is obvious that DeMartino and Utsey’s business relationship grew out of the friendship forged while dealing with the challenges associated with creating the Partnership. Learning each other’s strengths, values and approach to business started the ball rolling on the idea of working together.
Utsey explained a part of that rational. “As a business developer my credibility and my ability to deliver on a client’s expectations is largely dependent on others,” he said. “I learned that about Sean when we worked together; I knew he would deliver.”
DeMartino has the same admiration for Utsey. “Robert’s seniority and thought leadership go way beyond business development in my mind,” he said. “He’s a strategist, and his experience in P3 (Public-Private-Partnership) development demonstrates an ability to bring all the players together, to get projects of this scope and magnitude over the finish line. He’s a true client advocate.”
It appears the synergy of DeMartino, Utsey and Coastal was the right thing at the right time. “What attracted me to Coastal was the company’s emphasis and commitment to customer service. The company has a slogan, ‘It’s not just business…it’s personal,’ and that’s the way it approaches everything,” Utsey commented. “The customer’s perception is our reality, and that motivates me every day. I want the relationship I establish on the front end to be consistent throughout the course of the project.”
“I’ve found that people want to work with individuals they like, especially on these large complex jobs. They can take 36 to 48 months to complete, so by the end of a project you know the people you’re working with as well as you know your own family” – Sean DeMartino
“The Murphys really see themselves as builders, not just brokers of the building sub-trades,” DeMartino added. “They’re very hands-on in their approach, which is why they didn’t expand out of South Florida until now. They wanted their people to be able to go home after work, but of equal if not greater importance is their commitment to being personally involved in all facets of delivering on their projects.”
For Coastal, the movement into the central part of the state was in part precipitated by the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development, where the company has several projects in preconstruction. The 53-acre mixed-use redevelopment will provide a much needed facelift to the waterfront district. DeMartino and Utsey plan to leverage Coastal’s inventory of expertise and approach to business across the entire I-4 corridor.
Florida Centric and Entrepreneurial
“We’re looking at the I-4 Corridor as a whole, from coast to coast,” DeMartino said, “I’ve found that people want to work with individuals they like, especially on these large complex jobs. They can take 36 to 48 months to complete, so by the end of a project you know the people you’re working with as well as you know your own family. When there’s a problem and you show up, that’s the difference maker in most people’s minds. Tom Murphy developed the kind of reputation where clients kept coming back to him. In fact, it was his clients who insisted the company take projects farther north.”
Tom Murphy (the oldest son of the founder and now co-president of Coastal) and DeMartino were classmates at the University of Florida. In addition, one of the professors they admired, Dan Whiteman, is now the vice chair of the company because of an introduction Murphy made with his father years ago. The two men followed each other’s careers, and DeMartino mentioned that Murphy would send him notes complimenting his achievements, even though they were competitors.
That relationship, which has been maintained over the years, along with the relationship between DeMartino and Utsey, created the kind of collaborative environment they all were looking for.
“We both wanted to be a part of a Florida-centric, entrepreneurial and privately held company that was nimble and delivered on the promises made to its clients,” said Utsey. “One that had the capacity to build these types of projects and wanted to expand geographically and vertically. It was perfect for us.”
With the growth of the region and its economic diversity, the opportunities appear limitless. “We want to grow the right way, with the right people who will match our culture,” DeMartino said. “There has been a lot of buzz about what we’re doing, but now it’s up to us to deliver.”
“I thought it was a pretty loud statement that Tom had that level of confidence in Sean, that he could replicate the culture it took Coastal decades to build in this part of the state,” Utsey concluded. “For me, I’m excited because I’m thinking like an entrepreneur again, which is an amazing feeling.”