PHOTO GALLERY — See how SETEX went from local name to nationally recognized company

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

What grew exponentially with one local school district began inside the walls of another.

Nathan Rivers, president of SETEX Construction Corporation, got his start as a draftsman after teaching himself AutoCAD while attending Central High School in Beaumont. Not long after graduation, he began working for a local architect.

“They just needed somebody to draft, and I learned a little bit about how buildings got put together,” Rivers said. “After a period of time, I realized I didn’t have a talent for design. I couldn’t make things beautiful, but I understood the logistical things on how buildings got put together and the parts and the pieces — all of the straight-line stuff.”

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His passion for building grew, and he began working for a small general contractor in Nederland who was designing and building.

“That gave me the opportunity to actually design the buildings myself, have them reviewed by an architect or an engineer, and then we built them,” he recalled.

He would then spend 10 years with a larger contractor where he learned to estimate the cost of construction.

“My next step,” he said, “was to try and do it on my own.”

In 2014 Rivers purchased SETEX Construction Corporation, which was established in 1990. Four years later, they were recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately owned companies in the U.S.

“We grew 1,082 percent in three years,” Rivers said, adding the quick growth also came with a new level of adaptation to ensure all resources were available so that projects could be managed properly. “It was a blessing, but it was a lot of work.”

And that growth, he said, is greatly attributed to the Port Arthur Independent School District, who hired SETEX for a $25 million project following a bond issue.

“It was the largest project SETEX had ever done,” Rivers said. “And that was really what I was used to as an employee, working with someone else, was those larger-scale projects. So it was an easy transition to try and tackle a project like that, and I’m just very grateful for the Port Arthur Independent School District. That was huge for our employees; huge for keeping tax dollars here locally to help fund and keep small businesses. So I will forever be grateful to (Superintendent Mark Porterie) and staff.”

And in turn, that assisted with the addition of a satellite office in Port Arthur.

Since taking over SETEX Construction Corporation, Rivers has managed more than $400 million in Southeast Texas construction projects.

Examples include:

  • Wheatley Early Childhood Center, which cost $6,700,000 to build over the course of 18 months.
  • Creation of the Lamar State College Port Arthur Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center. The 40,000 square-foot facility was built in 18 months for $5,764,000.
  • Renovating the historical Gates Memorial Library at the cost of $1,785,000 over 13 months.

In addition, SETEX renovated The Press Building for the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation, and oversees the construction of Renaissance Apartments at Lakeshore in Downtown Port Arthur.

SETEX Construction Corporation has approximately 35 permanent employees and subcontracts approximately 75 percent of its work.

Hiring local is always a focus.

“You hear a lot about how do we keep the talent in Southeast Texas from going to other places, and to do that they have to have opportunities here,” Rivers said. “Without those opportunities, they have to go elsewhere to find them. When those entities that have the decision-making power select local, it benefits the whole area. It helps retain employees, it helps them learn, grow and further their career and get them to a point where maybe they’re ready to take ownership and do something on their own.”

And it’s something he also finds personal pleasure in.

“Our focus is on employees and having long-term employment — being able for those to train, take their next step up, have their next opportunity,” Rivers said. “I was always fortunate enough that my hard work seemed to rely on some opportunity that was out there, so for me if we can allow that for our employees and whatever path that they’re own, that’s probably one of the most satisfying thing about being a business owner — seeing other better their living circumstances and seeing their families grow.”

SETEX Construction Corporation will soon be recognized as the 2023 Small Business Development Center Star Business of the Year.

“Back in 2014, I consulted with SBDC for assistance in developing my business plan and fine tuning start-up financials to support a bank loan for the purchase of SETEX Construction Corp.,” Rivers said. “Under the direction of Dana Espinal, the LSCPA SBDC continues to provide my business great advice, direction and assistance utilizing the resources offered by the Small Business Administration to keep our business sound and support growth.”