As residential populations are growing and construction projects are on the rise, a Boise-based building company specializing in steel self-storage facilities is expanding to keep up.
Forge Building Company has announced it is planning to construct 10 projects (totaling over 600,000 square feet and around $48 million) in six Idaho cities, in addition to over 35 other projects planned throughout the country — including in Hawaii, Florida and New York — totaling over $200 million heading into 2022.
“We either had to grow to handle the volume of growth, or hand-select (projects),” said co-founder Hamish Bell. “We chose to grow.”
“There’s a fine line; it’s like what jobs do you want to turn down, but when you have clients that you been (working) with for 5-10 years (wanting) to do five projects in a year instead of one, you got to adapt and grow with them, or else they will leave you behind and find someone else,” added co-founder Hayden Farrell.
What does Forge build?
The average development takes 10-12 months to complete and can range from $2 million to $10 million. Each development will be a Class “A” development with a mixture of non-climate, climate-controlled and storage for recreational vehicles and boats, with some elements of retail mixed throughout. The company has added over 50 employees (now up to around 250 people) since the beginning of the year.
“It’s not easy,” said Farrell. “It takes time to train up project managers, drafters (and others) to take on increased volume. I think we had good structure…key players who have been here quite a while — to train up people.”
Dealing with challenges
Bell and Farrell founded Forge Building Company in 2007, after working on self-storage and other infrastructure in industry, including for Farrell’s father in the mid-1990s. The pair met in Papakura, New Zealand on a rugby team, settling in the Boise area around 2001.
Those decades of experience are what Bell and Farrell feel have helped them weather past challenges — from the 2007 housing bubble to the more recent steel tariffs on China. Labor availability and materials inflation are two current challenges.
“Our contracts are set up to deal with the cost increases of product(s) because it’s historically increased,” Bell said. “It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.”
“The way lumber, steel have been affected by the same things because of COVID, that’s been in the media much more, so they are easier to deal with when they’re better publicized,” he added.
“I guess the only trick to dealing with it is being open with your client, and making them aware of what’s coming and trying to stay ahead of it,” Farrell said.
When it comes to the labor shortage, Bell advises: treat people fairly and be honest.
“We have had guys with us since we started, and we’ve always treated them fairly; we pay them well; we look after them, everything like that,” Farrell said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the field or in the office. Treating your employees with respect…I think they put in the time and give you a good product.”
Otherwise, Bell describes the self-storage building industry as having been a 25-year steady climb, with no recession, something “pretty unique for any industry.”
“That’s something we’re definitely watching,” Bell said. “It’s still strong; there are a lot of different investors coming into self-storage because of that long-term history of success.There’s big real estate money that hasn’t been in self-storage before.”
“That’s good and bad right?” Farrell posed. “Over the past, say, 12 months, there’s been price increases every single month; pricing has gone up 80%-100% in the steel market; that affects some new developers on being able to get the project off the ground.”
Changes in the company
Forge Building Company recently hired a new COO, Roger Burgin, whom Bell and Farrell credit largely with the company’s recent nationwide growth through marketing, sales and an improved virtual presence. Previously, Forge Building Company had focused on the Pacific Northwest. Project managers, estimates and the sales force are based out of Boise. Forge Building Company will send out crews or hire local subcontractors to build the buildings, Bell explained.
“The additional marketing has given us reach into different markets that we haven’t been in, in the past, which has been a big key for us to grow,” Farrell said.
“It’s important…whether it’s a customer or employee — we always like that family atmosphere,” Bell said. “And (being) fun, and honest — all of those key things to make the relationship and partnership work well.”
Current Forge Building Company projects in Idaho that will start or complete in 2021:
Barber Valley Self Storage, 3000 S. Wise Way, Boise — 39,703 square feet
Lux Locker Storage Condos, 7373 S. Federal Way, Boise — 107,023 square feet
Stor-N-Lock, 5888 S. Federal Way, Boise — 68,576 square feet
Audra Lane Storage, 372 S. Eagle Road #395, Eagle — 86,495 square feet
Pioneer Storage Phase 2, Hailey — 16,760 square feet
Elevate Phase 2, 3535 N. Records Ave., Meridian — 23,361 square feet
Elevate Storage, 3755 W. Perugia St., Meridian — 48,207 square feet
Rupert Storage, 119 S. Highway 24, Rupert — 103,424 square feet
Canyon West Storage (Phase 1), Twin Falls — 52,585 square feet
Spring Creek Storage, Twin Falls — 46,048 square feet