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Building the American dream.

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Russian-born Igor Kirtchakov came to America in 1990 with $126 in his pocket and zero knowledge of the English language.

Eighteen years later, he seems to be living the American dream. The 43-year-old Fort Lee, New Jersey resident heads up the construction company CETEC LLC, which began with only two employees in mid-2007 and now has upwards of 250.

A specialist in concrete foundation and superstructure work, CETEC LLC succeeds IBK Enterprises, another construction company that Kirtchakov and a partner ran for 13 years. In its brief existence, CETEC has worked on projects such as the Strand Hotel, a 177-room luxury hotel on 37th Street; 110 Green Street, a 130-unit condo building in Brooklyn; Hanac Senior Housing, a 183-unit, 15-story structure in Queens; and 1765-75 Townsend Avenue, an 11-story condo building in the Bronx.

The New Jersey company was also tapped for several condo projects still under construction, including 405 West 53rd Street, Tempo 300 on E. 23rd Street, Isis on East 77th and Crescendo on Second Avenue.

CETEC claims $24 million in revenues in its first 12 months of operation. So how was it able to grow so quickly? "Through hard work," Kirtchakov said with a smile and in good English.

CETEC says it has already established a business culture that promotes from within. According to Kirtchakov, an estimated 95% of its workforce is made up of immigrants representing perhaps 50 different countries.

"Since I'm an immigrant myself, I've always appreciated the opportunity I was given to be trained and promoted," he said.

In some senses, the concrete industry has become more competitive over the years. Yet Kirtchakov also said CETEC has no trouble securing contracts.

"The more complicated a project, the easier it is to get," he said, adding he has long specialized in working with private developers--dating back to his time with IBK. "It gave us an opportunity to provide personal needs."

Like others in construction, CETEC remains unsure about the industry's future given today's economic climate. Developers have been running into trouble and credit seems to get tighter and tighter. Having said that, Kirtchakov noted that CETEC has a pipeline of projects 6 to 8 months long and the company itself has so far not been negatively impacted.

"It all depends on how long the dip will last," he said.

Kirtchakov has seen a lot of changes during his 18 years in New York construction. He hopes everyone will be helped by the safety crackdown by the Department of Buildings.

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"It's hard for me to judge whether they're doing enough or they need to do more, but from my perspective, they're doing the right thing," he said of the department, which received a lot of bad press earlier this year after a number of high-profile construction deaths.

Kirtchakov grew up in a family that worked in construction in Russia. It seems as though the tradition will be passed on to another generation, too. Kirtchakov has three children and son Boris, 23, is a crane operator at CETEC, which is also performing work in the former Soviet Union.

After living in the U.S. for 18 years, does Kirtchakov feel like he's living the American dream?

"I'm trying," he said with a laugh.

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Author:Majeski, John
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 29, 2008
Words:540
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