Perryman Building & Construction Services is one of the best-known names in construction in the Philadelphia area, with a project list that includes some of the most prominent structures in the city, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Lincoln Financial Field, home of Philadelphia. Eagles.
Angelo Perryman, the company’s president, chief executive officer and second-generation owner, said he grew up struggling to expand the small home-building operation his father, Jimmy, started after returning home from the Korean War Are.
Most builders today, even small ones, accept the availability of a line of credit, as materials have to be purchased in advance and subcontractors have to make frequent payments. “You have to work first, and then you get paid,” Mr. Perryman said.
But in Jim Crow-era Alabama, where the firm started, banks wouldn’t give credit to the founder, Mr. Perryman. “When my dad started the firm in 1954, you used to bring in your own cash to finance it. That clearly affected how much we grow – and don’t grow,” he said.
The impact on Angelo and his two brothers was profound, Mr. Perryman said. “When I was 8 years old, I was laying bricks.” (Both brothers remain on the company’s advisory board but are not otherwise involved.)
After gaining 15 years of experience in commercial construction and the death of his father, Mr. Perryman moved the business to Philadelphia in 1998. He expanded the company significantly, but he said the effects of discrimination by his father lasted more than half a century. Later
“As it still is, there are fewer African American-owned businesses,” he said. “African Americans, because they lack access to capital, are more vulnerable” and struggle to grow. “You always downsize,” he said, adding that smaller firms have less leverage in negotiating contract terms and guarantees.