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Modular buildings: From portable classrooms to guardhouses

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For a company in the business of selling and renting trailers and other portable structures, Poway-based Modular Building Concepts Inc. has moved around quite a bit. The firm was originally located in the Mission Valley area, near Hotel Circle, in 1983.

It then moved to Mission Gorge before finally making Poway its home 14 years ago. Co-founded by industry veteran and President Ken Kerper and his wife, CFO Pam Cooke, the company has 10 employees and revenues of $4 million to $5 million.

"I wanted to live in Poway and I didn't want to commute. So we bought land in the industrial park here. We also chose Poway because we transport the trailers and we charge customers for delivery. So we wanted to be centrally located, in order to have competitive delivery prices," Kerper said.

Modular Building Concepts is a dealer of factory-built structures, including office trailers, construction trailers, portable classrooms, mobile sales offices, guardhouses and restroom and shower trailers. It purchases the structures from manufacturers in the Riverside area.

Sales consist of reselling standard plan structures as well as built-to-order structures. Rentals constitute the other side of the business, with over 500 units leased to clients all over Southern California.

Kerper counts Fortune 500 companies, schools and city, county, state and federal governments among his customers. The Border Patrol uses a number of the modular structures in the San Ysidro area. Tribal casinos buy the trailers to use as meeting rooms, restrooms and additional office space.

In North County, the fire department at Fallbrook rented a 1,440-square-foot structure as a temporary fire station until its permanent facility was built. The structure included sleeping quarters, restroom facilities and a kitchen area.

Another noteworthy client is the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which currently rents a 1,000-square-foot trailer as additional classroom space. The park also previously bought a large modular building designed to be its veterinarian clinic.

Summer is the company's busy season, when demand from the education market rises. Rentals generally lease for one-year periods. A typical rental trailer would be about 750 square feet in size and cost between $350-$500 per month, per unit.

Units that are sold vary in size, typically between 750 and 1,000 square feet, which sell for about $30,000-$50,000, depending on the unit.

Companies approach Modular Building Concepts for a variety of reasons, beyond portability and temporary requirements. Holland Motor Homes, for example, is located on a landfill. Since the ground shifts at such sites, no concrete buildings were allowed, so Modular Buildings recently sold the company a unit to use as a sales facility.

Modular Building gets the majority of its sales from word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business. The quote process is fairly quick, less than an hour for rentals and about two to three days for build-to-suit structures.

As a certified small business, Kerper anticipates long-term growth from the government, where he sees a lot of potential. He also expects increased demand from hospitals and schools.

Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance business writer.

Modular Building Concepts Inc.

12580 Stotler Court

Poway, CA 92064

(858) 679-1185


Company Description: Modular Building Concepts Inc. has more than 25 years of experience in the modular building industry, leasing and selling office trailers, mobile offices, portable classrooms, modular buildings, construction trailers, restroom trailers, guardhouses and other pre-fabricated and relocatable buildings.

President: Ken Kerper

Vice President: Pam Cooke

Assistant VP: Chris Kerper

Operations Manager: Jill Williams-Wright

Employees: 10

Revenues: $4 million-$5 million

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