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Published: Monday, 8/29/2005

Monroeville builder's sales rebound

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
This is a construction site of a building being worked on by Janotta & Herner Inc. in Bellevue, Ohio. This is a construction site of a building being worked on by Janotta & Herner Inc. in Bellevue, Ohio.
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MONROEVILLE, Ohio - When a customer asked construction executive Ken Schafer to build a "bulletproof" rest room, he didn't try to dodge the assignment.

Today, the president of employee-owned Janotta & Herner Inc. is proud of what his firm built not to withstand bullets but the rowdiness of young bar patrons in Put-in-Bay on Ohio's South Bass Island.

"It has quarter-inch steel plate partitions," Mr. Schafer marveled. "We built a bomb-proof room."

The firm must be doing something right.

With headquarters offices in this Huron County village of 1,400, Janotta & Herner completes more than $40 million in construction projects annually.

Its list of accomplishment include hotels - several on South Bass Island -factories, warehouses, a church, and corporate headquarters.

Still, the firm faces challenges, including the region's sluggish economy. Sales have rebounded after slipping badly to $26 million in 2001.

Today, the firm must scramble harder for available work. "Five years ago, we ran 16 to 17 jobs at a time," the president said. "Now, it's 35 jobs at a time. The economy is such that the projects out there are smaller."

Still, the company expects this year to exceed last year's $40 million in sales by as much as $5 million.

The firm employs 165 and specializes in design-build construction, meaning it not only erects the structure but designs it as well.

Despite Janotta & Herner's size, however, Mr. Schafer describes the firm as "very family-oriented."

The firm started out small in 1962.

As the corporate Web site explains:

"Bob Janotta and Jim Herner formed JHI in Bob's garage and together they picked up small general contracting jobs in the Monroeville, Norwalk, and Bellevue area. With Bob's contracting experience and Jim's abilities as an architect, the design/build concept became the cornerstone of the fledgling company."

Five years after they began the venture, which specialized in home renovations and garage-building, they made their first hire.

Today, Janotta & Herner is among the largest construction employers in the Norwalk area, which is about 55 miles southeast of Toledo. Its staff includes an eight-member design and drafting team.

In 2000, ownership was turned over to employees as part of an employee stock ownership plan. Under the arrangement, profits in the form of company shares are distributed to employee accounts each year. They are redeemable upon retirement.

Projects this year included two motels and a bar in Put-in-Bay: Put-in-Bay Resort and Conference Center, the Commodore Resort, and Mr. Ed's Bar & Grill.

When they say they're going to do something, they do it," said Ed Fitzgerald, operator of Mr. Ed's and the Commodore Resort.

Mr. Fitzgerald has used the firm for two other projects there and in nearby Port Clinton. The most recent project was huge, he noted. "They did it on the island, in the winter in eight months. There ain't many people who can do that."

Other recent projects have included construction oversight at Cedar Point's Castaway Bay Resort in Sandusky and construction of a warehouse/distribution centers for the Pepperidge Farm unit of Campbell Soup Co. in Willard.

Most work is within a 100-mile radius of Monroeville, which takes the firm to the eastern edge of Toledo, western edge of Cleveland, and northern Columbus.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at: gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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