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SANTA ROSA -- Landesign Construction & Maintenance, Inc., one of the North Bay's largest commercial landscape contractors, is setting up a Marin County operations hub as the company picks up more work there.

The goal of setting up a branch office and yard in Petaluma or north Novato by year-end will help reduce labor and transportation costs and allow for going after and better managing of maintenance and construction jobs as revenues for the Santa Rosa-based company grow by about one-fifth a year and it seeks to be diversified with contracts for upkeep as well as installations, according to founders John and Denise Fitzgerald.

"It makes sense with traffic and gas prices to open an office for four to five crews out of there," said John Fitzgerald, president. "We picked up a few more jobs in Marin. There are a lot of commercial properties down there we could work on."

The company usually has 14 teams in the field year-round plus another crew or two in spring for weed control. The maintenance crews typically have three people, and construction teams, seven or eight.

[caption id="attachment_74204" align="alignleft" width="270"] In the past three years, Landesign recruited several employees, seen here at a Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce agricultural business expo.[/caption]

Driving the need for a branch near Marin is a new contract with San Rafael-based Pell Development Co. Renovations at the 96,000-square-foot Pell Plaza office development in north San Rafael includes use of reclaimed water for irrigation. Pell properties included in the contract are the 104,000-square-foot Regency Center office complex also in north San Rafael and the 424-unit Skylark Apartments complex in Larkspur.

"We're trying to pick up commercial projects we can upgrade and improve to help owners lease out space," Mr. Fitzgerald said about marketing in Marin. "Because we have a very large construction background, owners like to hire us because we can do also do construction work."

Another large Marin project has been landscaping around the recently finished renovation of the Nordstrom department store at Macerich's The Village at Corte Madera shopping center.

Tiered water rates long in place in Marin to encourage water conservation provide maintenance and construction opportunities, such as for retrofitting older multifamily and common-interest developments, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The Fitzgeralds started Landesign (707-578-2657, landesign-inc.com) in 1990 as a landscape construction company, but that focus had to quickly shift in the latest economic recession when large-scale new construction withered. In 2007--2008, Landesign built its maintenance division from a few crews to 11.

In the past three years, the company has been preparing itself for further growth. In 2011, an operations manager was hired. Last year, two account managers were brought on board, and an estimator was rehired.

The company has about 65 full-time employees now. With an operations manager to manage training, Landesign is working with Santa Rosa Junior College on a regular internship program for accounting and horticulture majors, according to Mrs. Fitzgerald. Eventually, the company wants to recruit horticulture interns from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Company revenues have been growing by 15 percent to 20 percent a year for the past three years and are on target for about as much this year. Maintenance work is growing at that rate and is steady. Construction work is set to grow by 15 percent this year, largely thanks to the Varenna at Fountaingrove senior-housing project in northeast Santa Rosa for OSL Development.

[caption id="attachment_74205" align="alignright" width="270"] A Landesign construction crew moves a tree into position at Carneros Inn.[/caption]

"Our niche is construction jobs totaling under $1 million, because over that amount the big guys from out of the area will want to bid on it," said Denise Fitzgerald, co-founder and vice president of marketing.

The company's work in Sonoma County continues to grow. Simon Property Group renewed a three-year contract for maintenance of Santa Rosa Plaza and Coddingtown regional malls. Landesign also was involved in the recent upgrades to the west entrance to Santa Rosa Plaza and will be landscaping the forthcoming Target department store at Coddingtown.

Another notable Sonoma County project will be the environs of the Boudin bakery location under construction in the Montgomery Village shopping center in east Santa Rosa.

Napa County is a likely market for expansion, Mr. Fitzgerald said. The company has completed construction projects there, such as the Meritage Resort & Spa expansion last year and a Carneros Inn project a few years ago, but doesn't have maintenance contracts.