JE Dunn Construction is coming back to Florida — and Jake Nellis is coming home.
Nellis, a vice president with JE Dunn, is a Tampa native who’s moved back to the city to helm the company’s Florida office.
When the real estate market collapsed, JE Dunn closed its Florida office in 2008. But after winning major contracts with Brandon Regional Medical Center and BayCare Health System, the company sees enough potential growth in the Sunshine State to open another office here — and Tampa is its choice.
“For the last year we’ve been doing a lot of research, studying the market to find out where we want to be and what made sense,” Nellis said. “There’s absolutely tons of growth in Tampa and Florida in general.”
JE Dunn has retained Franklin Street to help it search for office space. The company is looking for about 5,000 square feet in the Westshore area, where it hopes to establish a permanent office by early 2016. It will employ about 20 people, many of whom are Florida natives — and some, like Nellis, who are University of Florida grads.
JE Dunn has completed more than $1.2 billion in construction projects in Florida since 1989. Its eastern region headquarters are in Atlanta.
Nellis, a Jesuit High School alumnus, graduated from UF in 2001 and has spent the last 14 years in Atlanta, where he was the commercial group manager for JE Dunn.
In Tampa, JE Dunn will focus exclusively on health care, Nellis said.
“For the right opportunity, we’ll diversify,” he said. “But for now, it’s health care.”
The company also has offices in Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Savannah, Georgia.
Besides the resurgence of the construction industry, Tampa has changed since Nellis moved away, as downtown is becoming more vibrant, between an influx of residential development and the Tampa Riverwalk.
But in the weeks he’s been back in town, he’s routinely run into friends and familiar faces everywhere he goes. He and his wife have bought a home in South Tampa
“A lot has changed, but a lot is the same,” Nellis said. “but mostly it’s a close-knit community where everybody seems to take care of each other.”