Contractor Makes It Easy for Others to Go Green
Florida Times Union, April 6, 2009
In recognition, Tappouni has been named the Small Business Person of the Year.
By Josh Salman
For Mary Tappouni, going green is as good as gold.
Tappouni, president of Jacksonville-based company Breaking Ground Contracting, was named Florida’s 2009 Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for her work in the green movement.
Despite an economy that’s declining in nearly every statistical category, Tappouni’s focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible construction has allowed her company to excel.
While other contracting companies are laying off employees, Breaking Ground recently finished hiring.
Since Tappouni started the company in 1997, Breaking Ground has grown from one to nine full-time employees and increased revenues more than three-fold since 2004 – averaging 56 percent growth each year, said Wilfredo Gonzalez, SBA district director.
“We’re proud of Tappouni’s commitment to small business and environmentally friendly practices, especially during these tough economic times,” Gonzalez said.
Tappouni believes her company’s focus on sustainable, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified construction has allowed Breaking Ground to bypass the negative impact of the economy.
Her biggest challenge in the past few years has been preventing the company’s growth from affecting service, she said.
“You have to be careful and smart,” Tappouni said. “We understand what’s going on out there, but we haven’t let it alter our plans.”
While not all of Breaking Ground’s projects are focused on environmental sustainability, Tappouni said she’s always giving clients suggestions on how “going green” can be incorporated – often saving them money over the long haul with systems including solar energy and water storage.
The company is constructing eight LEED projects, including Jacksonville’s first platinum, LEED-certified residential home. She also works as a consultant to help clients earn LEED certification.
“It’s really exciting to see people embracing green,” she said. “We’re very passionate about our vision and try to bring that little extra to each project. When you believe in the end result, it’s easy to get there.”
The firm also has a strong commitment to educating members of the industry in sustainable design. The company has trained more than 500 students this year.
And getting involved in the community is a must. Every employee at Breaking Ground either mentors or volunteers at a local nonprofit, Tappouni said.
“The pure passion for green she brings to the table makes her without a doubt the deserved winner of the award,” said Steve Sadler, Breaking Ground residential customer. “It’s not just a job for her. She lives it. Words can’t describe how important she is to the green movement, both nationally and statewide.”
Tappouni will be recognized and presented with the award during the 17th annual Small Business Week and Lender Awards celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 30 at the University of North Florida University Center.