VALPARAISO | When John Barney hired an armed forces veteran at his company, it started a trend that continues as Axis Construction grows.
Barney, co-owner and vice president of the firm, currently employees seven veterans on the two-year-old company's 16-member work crew, including a friend and another vet who are both disabled.
"My best friend is a disabled veteran with PTSS," said Barney, a former union carpenter. "We hired him and another, he’s a disabled vet. Both have limitations but can still do most - 95 percent - of the work. Whenever we have a chance we hire a veteran or put them on top of the list and give them an opportunity in return for what they've done for our country."
He and his brother, Brian, started Axis Construction in May 2011 at the urging of their former boss, Tom Broertjes, owner of' Griffith-based United Services DKI.
"I was working for them as an employee for five years," Barney said. "They got so big they wanted to hire more employees. Tom told me to go on my own and now we're doing a lot of fire restoration for them. He's given us a lot of work as a subcontractor for them and we do a lot of our own work as well."
Barney credits Broertjes for much of his construction expertise.
"He's shown me how to do things right," Barney said. "He's given me help every day. He's my mentor. He got me organized and still teaches me. Every day I learn something from him."
About 75 percent of Axis' work is for United Services.
"I can always cut that back if we have our own work," Barney said. "In the spring it goes to 50-50 when people are getting their tax returns and spending more, but during fall we do more for United Services."
While he runs the company's day-to-day operation, his brother Brian acts as its president and its business manager as well as holding a full-time teaching job at Wheatfield-based Christian Haven school.
"My brother's gets a lot of time off and he was looking for something to do, so I asked him to get involved," John Barney said. "He does most of our administrative jobs and also works with us when he's on vacation from teaching."
The brothers invested about $15,000 in tools when they opened Axis.
"We invested in tools and a lot of time," John Barney said. " We don't pay ourselves for all our time just yet. We invest in more tools and live on money from what we make from United Services."
He expects to make their original investment back in two years and start making a good profit thereafter,
"We're not making a lot of money yet because we’re investing back into the company," John Barney said. "We're working hard to build the company."
Barney contends construction as a whole currently is doing better.
"A lot of people are fixing their homes now rather than buying new ones," he said.