Meet the builder of Palm Beach County’s newest ballpark

Jeff Hardin is the CEO of Straticon, the South Florida-based general contracting company that helped build The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, the spring training complex for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

The much-hyped stadium opened in February near the corner of 45th Street and Haverhill Road. Leading up to opening day, crews worked up to 20-hour days to make sure the $150 million stadium was ready for the spring training fans.

Straticon is also overseeing renovation of a nearby office building, which will be transformed into a baseball-themed hotel.

The 197-room hotel, at the Forum office complex on the northeast corner of the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Congress Avenue, will be used by the Astros to house players, coaches and support staff for spring training every January, February and March.

But when the team leaves for Houston each April to start the regular season, the hotel will be available to the general public for the rest of the year.

Last month, county leaders announced a record number of tourists visited the area during the first three months of 2017, an increase they said was fueled largely by a rise in domestic travelers, including visitors from Houston and Washington, D.C.

Palm Beach County tourism leaders did not specifically point to the new ballpark as a contributor for the tourism growth; however, they did say sporting events help promote the area as a vacation destination.

Name: Jeff Hardin

Age: 50

Hometown: I was raised in Portage, Mich., graduated from Western Michigan University and started this company in 1991 in Kalamazoo.

Where you live now: Stuart since 2003

About your company: Straticon is a full-service general contracting company in South Florida. We are a family-owned business specializing in renovating high-rise and historic properties. Over the past 25 years, our company has built or renovated 25 million square feet.

How your business has changed: When our company moved from Michigan to South Florida, we moved six families along with us. The company has grown since then, but the original team is still here with the same family-oriented culture. We have brought on management staff to help with day-to-day decisions, but you can still find the leadership team on-site in construction hats making sure the job is done right.

First paying job and what you learned from it: My first job was delivering the morning edition of the Detroit Free Press. The papers were left in my parents’ driveway at 5 a.m. every morning and they had to be delivered to 25 different houses around a 5-mile radius. It wasn’t an easy job – especially in the winter – but I stuck with it and learned that I had to be self-motivated.

First break in the business: I started a house painting company during my sophomore year in college. I didn’t know a whole lot about painting but I called a church close to campus, and they gave me a chance to paint the entire facility. They were very patient and understanding. I kept a lawn sign in front of the building for the entire summer and had more work than I could manage. I ran that business all through college and paid for my education.

Best business book you ever read: The One Minute Manager. I read the book very early in my career and I liked its simplicity and basic concept of management.

Best piece of business advice you ever received: Never quit on yourself or the people around you. Straticon has been in some very difficult business situations but we have always finished our job. It would have been easier and more profitable to walk away but it’s totally against our company culture. If we take the project, it’s going to get built.

What you tell young people about your business: Our business is all about opportunities. It’s important to come to work every day and maximize your opportunity to be part of building something great.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? The construction industry is booming in Palm Beach County. We are excited about a series of new projects: additional work at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches; building the new city park adjacent to the ballpark; a baseball-themed hotel with the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach; historical redevelopment of Boynton Beach High School; and several golf club projects.

Where we can find you when you are not at the office: I’m often my wife and four kids. We have a large family, and we spend as much time together as possible.

Favorite smartphone app: Venmo. It’s a useful tool for paying or splitting bills easily.

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? We are in the people business. As long as we have people with character and personality, the buildings will come to life.

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