Based in Collooney, Co Sligo, Arken Construction works in a wide range of sectors in the building industry with commercial projects being the main body of its work. Building Ireland spoke with co-director Stephen Clancy to learn more about the company – from its origins to the state of business today.
The next couple of months sees the project books full at Arken Construction and the plan for company directors James Armstrong and Stephen Clancy is to try and keep up that trend right into next year.
Established 15 years ago by James Armstrong, the company has grown to become Sligo’s premier building contractor having carried out projects all throughout the Yeats County and beyond its borders.
Today, Arken Construction employs 12 full-time staff from its base at Northwest Business Park in Collooney.
Building Ireland touched base with Stephen Clancy to hear more about the company’s current projects and its plans for further growth going forward.
“James and I would both come from building contracting backgrounds,” he outlined. “My father, Gerry Clancy, operated as a general building contractor around the North Leitrim, South Donegal & North Sligo areas for approximately 30 years until his retirement in 2013, and James’ father Michael Armstrong operated as a general building contractor in south Sligo over a similar period, so we’re both second-generation builders.
“Arken Construction is a general building contractor and we work in a wide range of sectors in the industry. Commercial projects would be the main body of our work and we also carry out educational work as well as leisure work.
“Right now, we’re working on the National Surf Centre of Excellence in Strandhill which is our biggest project to date and a very interesting one to work on. We expect to achieve completion on it this Autumn.
“We have also just completed a refurbishment project on Sligo NCT Centre for Applus Automotive. This was a challenging project due to the fact that the Centre had to remain operational throughout the construction period and also the timeframe allowed was very tight meaning we had to bring a high level of organisation to the project which thankfully has worked out well for us with the job finishing on time and within budget.
“In the past few years we have also successfully completed significant commercial projects for Arrotek Medical in Finisklin, Sligo and Kaon Automation in Collooney Co Sligo as well as a veterinary practice in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo and a multi department office refurbishment for Mayo County Council at their headquarters in Castlebar.
“On the educational side of things, we have completed extension & refurbishment projects at Carns NS and Rathcormac NS, both in Co Sligo as well as a number of minor works / repair projects at Ursuline College, in Sligo.
“In terms of leisure projects, last year we carried out a nice project on the Strandhill Community Park which included a new spectator stand, walking track and pitch irrigation system as well as a number of energy efficiency and environmental measures. Also in the past number of years, we constructed the Sligo GAA Centre of Excellence in Strandhill which is a project we are very proud of.
“In the past we would take on a small amount of residential work here as well, but not much in the last few years. Our focus now is on non-residential work.”
A Quantity Surveyor by trade, Stephen had worked across the northwest as a QS before joining the team at Arken Construction and becoming a director of the business in 2017.
What makes Arken Construction work is the fact that both James and Stephen understand the evolving needs of their client base and are proud to deliver a high-quality service showcasing excellence and professionalism on all of their projects.
Business right now is flourishing and it looks set to stay that way into next year, with the books full up for the coming months.
“Business is good and we’re busy for the short-term with work lined up until the end of the year,” said Stephen.
“There seems to be plenty of work on at the moment and we have enough secured for the coming months. Because we’re not that big of a company, we don’t need so many projects going on at the one time. We prefer to manage our workload carefully and concentrate our efforts on a small number of projects at any given time.
“We’re planning to finish the National Surfing Centre of Excellence in Strandhill in the Autumn and, at the moment we are working on a number of tenders for similar sized projects which hopefully we will be successful with and commence on site in the next few months.”
Indeed, as a medium sized building contractor, Arken Construction doesn’t need to take on an array of projects at one time but expansion is certainly an aim going forward.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government lockdowns which followed in order to combat the spread of the virus, the company’s size was actually beneficial in that it was able to keep on a handful of projects which were deemed essential.
“We were fully closed during the first lockdown and during the second one we carried out some essential works at the Ursuline College here in Sligo,” Stephen outlined.
So, all of that considered, what has been the secret to Arken Construction’s continued success over the past decade-and-a-half?
How has a small contracting start-up, established at the start of a recession, grown into a thriving business that now employs a dozen full-time and has its project books full for the months ahead?
For Stephen, the key has been a professional approach from the word ‘go’ to ensure that each project is carried out to a tee for the client.
“We do get a lot of repeat customers and we know that word of mouth gets us an awful lot of our work,” he said.
“We’re a very professional company and from our head office in Collooney, we are ideally located to cover the entire Northwest region as we are on the N17, N4 & N59 roads. As the company has grown in size over the past number of years, our staff numbers have grown both on site and at our head office in Collooney. We now employ a great team in the office including quantity surveyors, health & safety officer and accounts / administration staff to deal efficiently with our increasing workload. On site we have assembled an excellent team of Foremen, tradesmen and general operatives. Last year we also took on two apprentices as we aim to reinforce our staff numbers in the years ahead and minimise the effects of the staff shortages in the industry.
“We are also members of the Construction Industry Federation and are one of the very few Sligo based building contractors registered with CIRI. By registering with CIRI, we are demonstrating our commitment to delivering excellence in every aspect of our work and are competent and capable to deliver the job at hand. Being CIRI registered assures our clients that we run our business in a professional manner and that we sign up to continuous professional development to stay at the forefront of construction best practices.
“At Arken Construction, we take our responsibilities in relation to Health & Safety very seriously. We employ our own full-time in-house Health & Safety Officer and have been Safe-T-Cert accredited since 2018 and are members of NISO.
“Our plant & equipment is all maintained to a high standard and is all fully certified.
“Everything is done right and we do as much as we can in-house as well.”
He added: “Our quality of work is excellent as well and the staff we have here are highly trained and highly skilled as well. We also have a very low rate of staff turnover because we do our best to look after our members of the team here.”
Despite the challenges out there with current material costs, things are looking bright for Arken Construction going forward.
The company will be occupied with projects until the end of the year at least and, after that, they’ll be eyeing further growth again according to Stephen.
“We definitely hope to keep growing here,” he stated. “We’re growing year on year and hopefully that’s still possible given the climate that we’re in.
“So, we want to keep growing steadily and keep delivering projects for our clients to a high quality on time and within the agreed budget as well.”
Great to hear.
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, August 2022, Vol 8 No 8