Christine Meyer grew up around industrial contracting.
She and her sister, Jennifer Battaglia, spent years working for the family business, Battaglia Electric, before deciding to try to breathe new life into a dormant company called Battaglia Associates Inc. (BAI) that their parents had started years before with the intention of going into real estate. In 2007, Meyer had the idea that she and her sister would restart the company and get into the property business themselves.
They decided to give it a go. Meyer got her real estate license. They watched a lot of HGTV.
“It it was 2007 and everything was great,” Meyer said. “Then 2008 came, and nothing was great. So I was sitting there with this license to do all of this really cool stuff and the market was just horrible.”
The sisters co-own the company, based in New Castle, and Meyer is president.
“I run it and she keeps me in check,” Meyer said — and the two decided that, while waiting for the market to turn around, they’d do the legwork and get all of the certifications they’d need.
“Well, it didn’t turn around,” she said, “and certifications were expensive, so we started doing small projects, whatever we could to help pay for keeping us afloat in construction. But it was always industrial, because that’s what we grew up in.”
By the time the economy finally started to turn around, Meyer realized that it was industrial and utility construction, not real estate, that she really knew and could really make work.
In 2015, they completed two small projects — one installing substation security, the other for a fencing company.
“We ended up doing about $2 million in 2015, and we did a good job,” Meyer said. “In 2016, we ended up getting nine of those projects, and by 2017 it kept growing and got crazy.”
In 2019, BAI bought a local excavation company.
“We were working with them all the time, for almost every project, and [the owner] was looking to sell his company,” she said.
Without even realizing it, BAI had become the fifth fastest-growing woman-owned/led company, according to the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and American Express. Companies were ranked according to a sales growth formula, combining percentage and absolute growth. To qualify for the ranking, businesses are required to be privately held, woman-owned or -led, and have reached annual revenues of at least $500,000 as of 2015 and every subsequent year. (Applicants are not required to be WPO members.) The top “50 Fastest” were honored at a virtual award ceremony at the WPO Annual Conference on July 22.
BAI is not only woman-owned, its team includes many women — both rarities for industrial construction companies.
“I surround myself with the best people,” Meyer said. “My contracts manager, she’s a rock star; my sister takes care of the back end and keeping everybody happy. I have a really great division manager, he knows it all. I’m really proud of all of the people I work with and how far we’ve come together, because it’s really tough to be a woman in construction. It’s a tough field to break into. Organizations like the Md. Washington Minority Companies Association, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and the WPO made it a lot easier.”
Following a year like 2019 has been a challenge for BAI, but the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed it down too much: Utilities need to keep working during the pandemic, so as a utility construction company, its field workers kept working while project managers did their jobs remotely. The office reopened in June with strict safety policies.
The lockdown did force the BAI team to start using the Microsoft Teams software they had but didn’t use, and now the team can virtually be in the field — sometimes hours away from the office — without needing to drive every time. Meyer doesn’t see remote work as a regular part of her team’s jobs, but they’ll continue remotely communicating with team members.
And, she said, “if things turn around and we have to go back home, we know we can do it.”