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Texas Entrepreneur Turns Modular Model Into Gold

When Gail Warrior-Lawrence first laid eyes on modular buildings more than 20 years ago, a light bulb popped on. She knew she could turn the unimposing prefabricated wood panels into a sturdy and appealing new model for cost-conscious construction, if given a chance.

Now, as president and CEO of Warrior Group, a modular development firm based in DeSoto, Texas, she builds school structures and housing for the military.

A building at Fort Sam Houston so wowed a military official with its brick exterior and detailed interior that he suggested she call it a hybrid, not modular.

The firm's revenue zoomed from $15 million in 2006 to $122 million in 2008 and is projected to reach $135 million this year. Warrior's quality work has led to a growing number of federal contracts. About 95% of projects involve building barracks for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

β€œI think it's a matter of seeing what was coming down the road and positioning ourselves to be there,” says Warrior-Lawrence. When the military's base realignment program, calling for certain base closures and expansions, was announced, she seized the opportunity. Because they were prefabricated, modular barracks could be assembled quickly to meet tight schedules for housing troops.

It took several trips to Washington, D.C. to convince the military to go modular rather than renovate old barracks.

Although they are occasionally embellished with brick, Warrior's buildings are built of wood, have a 25-year lifespan, and can be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Prefabricated sections are shrink-wrapped and trucked to building sites. The firm builds on a contract fee basis and does not own the structures.

β€œAt one point a $500,000 project for us would be considered huge. Now we're doing $40 million, $50 million projects,” says Warrior-Lawrence.

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