Banking on Building
National Bank of Arizona helps local construction company thrive
By Debra Gelbart
Joe Hitzel bought SAB/Southwest Architectural Builders in Phoenix after spending five years at another local construction firm and deciding it was time to own his own business.
SAB focuses on commercial real estate construction with an emphasis on what’s known in the industry as tenant improvement—remodels of offices and hospitality and recreational venues, such as the Phoenix Country Club. The company completes about 120 projects annually.
After buying SAB on Jan. 1, 2005, “we grew revenue every year,” Hitzel said, “more than doubling it from where it was when I bought the company.” He credits National Bank of Arizona with helping him acquire the business. “Another bank turned us down when we presented our business plan,” he said. “But NB|AZ helped us enthusiastically. I knew I would have to go into debt for the first month or two from a cash flow perspective after the purchase, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker for NB|AZ.”
NB|AZ Senior Vice President Ken Kellaney arranged for the necessary capital. “Joe needed a financial bridge to purchase the business,” Kellaney said, “so we put together a plan to make that happen.” Hitzel appreciates his ongoing relationship with National Bank of Arizona. “Banking shouldn’t be a challenge,” he said. “It should be easy and NB|AZ makes it that way.”
SAB exceeded expectations until the recession hit commercial real estate in late 2008. “Fortunately, we only experienced one balance sheet loss—a minor one—in 2010,” Hitzel said. The firm has bounced back and in 2013, “we had our third-best year to date.”
He applauds his team for ensuring that the company regained business momentum in the aftermath of his helping his wife Martha cope with breast cancer from 2008 to 2010, when she passed away. “It’s very hard to go through two storms on top of each other, but it speaks volumes about the quality of people at SAB that they did such a good job managing the company at a time when it was so difficult for me.”