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Ogden, Perlman work together to make Kayden a success

Marques Ogden, CEO of Kayden Premier Enterprises, Inc.

Marques Ogden and Arthur Perlman are not typical business partners.

Ogden, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, calls Perlman “pop” while contradicting him over dates and numbers. Although Perlman, who has worked in the building industry for more than 30 years, does not shy away from speaking, he declines to be the focus of a photograph, insisting that Ogden be the face of Kayden Premier Enterprises, the construction company the two lead together.

“We’re the strangest combination you’ll ever see, a 30-year-old African-American male and a 72-year-old Jewish man,” said Ogden, the company’s founder and chief executive officer. “It’s a strange combination, but it works as a sort of icebreaker with our clients. It keeps things light.”

From their office in a small brick house in Rosedale, Ogden and Perlman run Kayden Enterprises, a minority-owned and -certified construction company that has seen significant growth since it was founded in 2006, despite poor odds for new businesses in a struggling economy.

“When we started was the year the bottom fell out of the construction industry,” Perlman, the company’s chief operating officer, said. “The industry is still down. I’ve been through boom times and bust times. This is the worst bust time I’ve ever seen.”

For Kayden, the weak economy may have been a blessing in disguise.

“We had to get jobs done,” Perlman said. “At the time a bunch of companies were going belly up and they needed people to fill in. That’s a big part of how we got our foot in the door.”

After taking in $2.4 million in total revenue in 2010, Ogden and Perlman said they expect that number to increase to between $5 million and $6 million in 2011. The company began turning a profit last year in its third year of working in commercial construction, in an industry where, Perlman said, five years is the norm.

Ogden’s potential as a businessman was apparent early on to Brian Billick, former head coach of the Ravens, who worked with Ogden on and off for two years. Billick said the same factors that contributed to Ogden’s athletic success prepared him for success in business.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s in an entrepreneurial role right now,” Billick said. “Marques was always very intelligent, very focused. He was able to take the attributes that he used on the field — hard work, perseverance — and transpose that into the business world. He knows what it’s like to be knocked down and have to get back up again.”

Although the company has seen some success, employing 30 workers and completing jobs for the Johns Hopkins University, Towson University and Fort Meade this year, it faces a slew of challenges. Anirban Basu, chief economist for the national Associated Builders and Contractors organization, said that the beginning of recovery may still be two years away for the construction industry, despite the fact that the country is officially in a period of economic recovery.

“It’s a challenging environment,” said Basu, who is chairman and CEO of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group Inc. “There’s a lot of competition for the work that is available. Most firms don’t have very big profit margins generally speaking, and have little room for error.”

Basu said Kayden’s location is an important factor in its early success.

“In Maryland, there’s a significant amount of construction financed by the federal government,” Basu said. “That’s one of the reasons why Central Maryland is one of the better markets in the country for new construction companies.”

The company’s status as a certified minority-owned business has also been critical in helping Kayden obtain some of this business, Ogden said, because Maryland government contracts require 25 percent of their business be given to minority companies. Kayden qualifies as a minority-owned business because of Ogden’s 51 percent ownership share.

“The states are demanding that contractors use these minority-certified businesses,” Ogden said. “It helps us getting in the door. But we’ve been getting more and more repeat business and more contracts that aren’t using us because of our minority status.”

Ogden also cited Kayden’s relationship with the Harbor Bank of Maryland as a great help in their success while many banks are unwilling to lend.

“No one today wants to lend to a construction company. We’re the most dangerous company to lend to,” Ogden said. “But Harbor decided to back us, as bad as construction was.”

Representatives from Harbor Bank didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Ogden and Perlman met through a mutual acquaintance in 2007 and partnered soon afterward. In 2008, they expanded from residential to commercial construction.

Ogden said he initially financed the company with $17,000 of his savings, insisting that he received no financial backing from brother and former Baltimore Ravens great, Jonathan Ogden.

“When I started out in 2006, I used my NFL savings to finance the business,” Ogden said. “I didn’t borrow a penny from my brother then and I haven’t taken a penny from him since.”

Craig Wess, senior vice president and director of construction at Manekin, a Baltimore-based development and construction company, said he saw potential in Ogden early on, prompting him to offer Kayden its first job doing construction for the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Eldersburg.

“He was always trying to get more,” Wess said of Ogden. “He was going to be successful, you could tell that. He knew what he wanted and he made it happen.”

Ogden and Perlman both said their optimism was the primary reason why their business took off.

“We absolutely had doubts, especially in the beginning when we were losing money,” Ogden said. “But it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to make it, it was a question of when we were going to start seeing those brighter days.”