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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

Evergreen, a housing development in southwest Springfield, has been open only a year. But developer Steve Corbett has a good idea who will be buying homes in Evergreen's newest phase growing families.

Corbett, who co-owns Cor-mac Inc. with his wife Patti and business partner Mickey McAlister, said the "build it and they will come" philosophy doesn't apply when it comes to developing residential real estate. Instead, Cor-mac gears each of its developments toward a specific market.

Steve Corbett said he believes niche marketing has been key to Cor-mac's success. The son of local developer Jerry Corbett, who owned Corbett Building & Development until he retired in 1996, Steve Corbett has been on job sites since he was 11 years old.

He started Steve Corbett Building & Development in 1985. Then, in 1994, he decided to team up with McAlister to form Cor-mac Inc. Corbett's wife Patti also came to work for the company.

The move gave Steve Corbett more time to focus on the hands-on aspects of the business. Although trade contractors, such as plumbers and electricians, are brought in to work on Cor-mac homes, Steve Corbett coordinates and oversees their work along with creating the blueprints for each home. He also supervises two company employees who do everything from operating backhoes and other heavy equipment to detailed carpentry work.

In turn, McAlister handles the interior design. She selects the tile, countertop materials, carpeting, paint and type of woodwork used in each home.

Patti Corbett, a Realtor, oversees day-to-day operations and works with the company's bookkeeper. The biggest part of her job, however, involves sales and marketing research.

"Trying to anticipate what the market will do is like trying to hit a moving target," Patti Corbett said. "I do a lot of the research, but everyone is involved in the decision."

When eyeing a piece of real estate, the Corbetts and McAlister take many factors into consideration. Is the plot of land too small to be developed? How difficult would it be to hook up with the city's sewer system? How close is the land to schools and to the city of Springfield? What is the price range of existing homes in the area? Would a home in that same price range sell rapidly?

Still, unforeseen problems, such as rising interest rates, can affect how quickly homes sell in a development. To offset this risk, Cor-mac often sells several lots in each development to maintain a healthy cash flow, according to Steve Corbett.

One of the other challenges faced by Cor-mac is finding property that can be developed. Like many other building contractors, Cor-mac's developments are on Springfield's south side.

"The market drives where builders go, and right now the demand is in south Springfield," said Steve Corbett. "Finding real estate in that area that is suitable for development is getting more difficult."

The Corbetts and McAlister also take trends into consideration. Five years ago when Cor-mac developed Cobblestone, the trend was toward all-brick, upper-scale homes with less square footage. Today, developments like Evergreen reflect the new shift toward larger homes with maintenance-free siding and fewer amenities.

"The competition among developers in Springfield is getting tougher," said Steve Corbett. "There's probably 30 developers in the market in this area at any given time. If you're thinking about getting into the building business, I'd think about it real hard. It's not easy to get in there and make it."

Still, the Corbetts and McAlister are optimistic about the future of Cor-mac. While they believe their business will grow, they don't plan on developing real estate in nearby cities or in other sections of Springfield.

"This is really a niche market," said Steve Corbett. "I have just as much an idea about what a buyer wants in north Springfield as I do about what a buyer wants in Kansas City or St. Louis. The market is that different. For now, we're going to continue to market to buyers who want to live in southwest Springfield."

COR-MAC INC.

Year founded: 1994

Address and phone number: 50A17 S. FR 131, Springfield 65810; 883-2270

Owner's name: Cor-mac Inc.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Steve Corbett coordinates and oversees the work of trade contractors who work on Cor-mac homes.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Steve Corbett, co-owner of Cor-mac Inc., with wife Patti and business partner Mickey McAlister, says niche marketing is the key to the company's sucess.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Steve Corbett, co-owner of Cor-mac Inc., targeted growing families with the Evergreen development in southwest Springfield. [[In-content Ad]]

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