29 August 2013

NICK Georgalis has some sage words of advice for anyone hoping to enter Canberra’s competitive constructions industry: don’t screw it up.

“You just can’t survive in this business if you’re complacent or make mistakes,” the founder and managing director of Geocon says.

“You’ve got to get it right all the time; getting it right, knowing your market and delivering all the time.”

It’s a mantra that’s served the driven, fast-talking 36-year-old well – his construction firm, Geocon, has gone from building small developments of one or two townhouses to developing hotels, apartments, commercial buildings and soon, Canberra’s tallest residential building, Belconnen’s 8/47 apartments, standing at 114m.

The born-and-bred Canberran, who has a Greek background, says it’s a feat he couldn’t have imagined when he had his first taste of the construction industry.

“My father was a builder and carpenter, and when I was young I would help him out, so for me it was a natural progression to follow in his footsteps, but I didn’t really think about what would happen from there,” Nick says.

Nick’s first construction project was with wife Sonya on their first house 11 years ago; the couple and their four young children now live in Kingston.

After studying for a diploma in construction and management, Nick worked for a local construction company, but quickly started to invest in properties or developments of his own.

“I was very driven and I wanted to build something of my own or create some sort of legacy,” he says.

Nick founded Geocon in 2007, and from that time the business has gone from being a small fish in a big pond to a high-profile competitor in the industry, with a team of almost 50 people, and seven multi-million developments currently on the go.

“When we first started, we were doing small developments of a couple of houses or townhouses, now we’re doing high-density apartment complexes, commercial buildings and the three Abode hotels, and we’ve just moved into our new office in Fyshwick that is five times the size of our previous office,” he says.

Nick says Geocon “aggressively pursued” celebrity gardener Jamie Durie as an ambassador for its new apartment development, “Observatory Living” in Wright.

“As a landscaper, Jamie could see what the drivers were for the project and he is very in line with our thinking,” says Nick.

“That partnership has been a success, we’ve sold the first two stages of our pre-sales for that development, so that’s 160 apartments.”

Nick says he wants to prove to a changing city that “affordable” isn’t a negative word.

“Over the years, the whole landscape of Canberra has changed,” Nick says.

“People are looking for something more innovative, accessible and affordable for their first house, and buying an apartment early in life is more affordable than a house. Now that we’ve got a younger, smarter Canberra, they’re accepting it. For us, it’s an exciting time to be developing. To constantly be innovative in an affordable market, is a challenge we like to have.”

Nick says Geocon’s greatest achievement will be the ambitious 8/47 development, which is currently awaiting approval by the ACT Government, but he is already looking ahead to the next challenge.

“You can say something’s a success, but then there’s always another challenge we’re looking forward to,” he says.

“To say we’ve come this far, with our achievements and more achievements to come, isn’t uncomfortable or intimidating. For the future I picture myself in Canberra, still doing what I’m doing now.”

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