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VETERAN OWNED BUSINESSES: Chris Dambach, Owner of Industry Standard, Liverpool

U.S. Marine Corps

By Mary Beth Roach

Chris Dambach, third generation military, believes that some of the lessons he learned while in the U.S. Marine Corps have helped him start and grow his company, Industry Standard, over the past 13 years.

Those lessons include the ability to get along with people from all walks of life, the need to execute the mission, that one never gives up and that failure’s not an option.

He has honed those life skills in building his company and earning a spot on Inc.’s 5000 fastest-growing companies in the U.S.

He started a lawn care company with a mower and a borrowed truck in 2010. Today, he owns Industry Standard, based in Liverpool, boasting 45 employees, (expected to grow to 60 next year), multi-million-dollar contracts throughout the Northeast, and 9,500 square feet of combined office and job space.

Dambach entered the Marine Corps in 2007 and when he returned to Central New York in 2010, he started the lawn business as a form of therapy, he said. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had some rotator cuff and knee issues.

“It’s the best thing I could have done,” he said. “I just wanted to merge back into society.”

He began with 30 residential properties, working six days a week, at least 12 hours a day, he said. Word of his solid work record spread and he was able to expand, taking some commercial clients.

Dambach attended the Operation: Start Up and Grow, an annual event for current and former military, reservists and National Guard members at Onondaga Community College. It became a turning point for him, he said. He was able to learn of a number of resources, including the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, SCORE, Vetcon and SBA.

He then learned about the state’s service-disabled veteran-owned business certification, which aims at 6% of participation on state contracts by SDVOBs. He met with the Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Watertown, which helps businesses learn how to conduct business with all levels of the government. Three weeks later, he had a contract handling lawn care for a local reserve center.

Then, while browsing a government contracts website, he bid on and won a contract tending the grounds at the Brooklyn VA Hospital. For two years during the growing seasons, he would pull his team together; his wife, Meghan, would pack food for them; and they would head downstate every two weeks.

About 10 years ago, he got a multi-million contract with the VA National Cemetery Administration to trim around hundreds of thousands of headstones in the 350-plus acre Long Island National Cemetery.

Word-of-mouth and good report cards, which are done at the end of each contract, have helped Dambach secure these contracts.

The cemetery contract was a game-changer, he said. But he needed a loan for the start-up money for this project. After about six banks turned him down, he was finally able to get financing. He didn’t give up.

Now, the company has its biggest contract to date — replacing an 800-space, five-acre parking lot at the Albany VA. Among other jobs, he has crews building solar farms; doing site work on several Thruway rest stops; and handling some upkeep at the Syracuse VA.

For the future, Dambach sees Industry Standard becoming more involved in site work and general contracting work, and the company is investing a good deal of money in heavy equipment and technology.

“We’re very excited about what’s to come. We’re in a perfect position where we’re at right now,” he said, pointing to the number of infrastructure and construction projects planned for the Central New York area, such as those connected with the Syracuse Internation Hancock Airport, Interstate 81, Micron and the aquarium planned for the Syracuse Inner Harbor area.

With “hard work and grit, you’re going to get there”, he said.


Veterans at the forefront in several area businesses

Chris Platt, Owner of Storm Power Solutions LLC, Pulaski

Eileen Baugh, Owner of Admin-On-Call, LLC, Syracuse

Corey Christman, Owner of Bravery Wines, Penn Yan

J. Vasquez, Owner of The Ship Yard, Oswego

Michael Bower, Owner OF Eagle Metalcraft Co., E. Syracuse

William R. Barry, Owner of One Cut Above, LLC, Fulton

Gerald Searfoss, Owner of Black OPS BBQ, Brewerton

Steven Mollica, Co-owns of Fort Frisbee LLC, Fulton

Resources Available to Entrepreneurial Vets