Combining vision and values; how Keystar is building on the Spottswood family legacy 

Spottswood Companies, Inc. (SCI) and its affiliates, of which Keystar is one, is a diversified, family-owned organization with investments in real estate, timesharing, marinas, hospitality, construction, broadcasting and banking. Founded in 1992, SCI is in its third decade of active property development. However, the Spottswood family has been deeply involved in Key West real estate, politics, and society for over 150 years.

Its affiliate, Keystar, is a general contracting firm, specializing in commercial, custom residential, and marine construction. Over the past 15 years, the company has developed dozens of properties in the Florida Keys with more than 1000 residential and transient units and over 300,000 square feet of commercial space.

The company prides itself on the safety, efficiency, and superior quality of its general contracting and construction management services. Keystar’s goal is to deliver a great product by means of excellent working relationships with its clients, well-orchestrated projects, and seamless customer experiences. Today, the organization is one of the Keys’ largest private employers.

“For a long time, Keystar operated almost exclusively to execute self-performed work for SCI’s interests,” begins Robert A. Spottswood Jr, President of Spottswood Companies, Inc. and Co-President of Keystar. “If we needed a small project done on one of our properties or real estate assets, we utilized Keystar. At that time, the company didn’t engage in third party contracting services, so, one of the major company milestones for me is when we started taking on third party construction work in earnest.”

Charles (Chas) Spottswood, President of Keystar, was integral to instigating and achieving that milestone. After graduating from Key West High School, Chas attended the University of Florida M.E. Rinker School of Construction Management. Upon Graduating with a B.S. in Building Construction, he began his career working for Coastal Construction. Chas later returned to the university and earned his master’s degree in construction management. He continued working for Coastal Construction for another four years on multiple projects ranging from $35 million to $235 million. During this time, he worked as assistant superintendent, project engineer and assistant project manager. Experienced in project planning and management, today, Chas works with owners, developers, design professionals, building officials, and contractors.

“We have grown exponentially over the past couple of years,” Chas shares. “Between 2022 and 2023, we have grown by as much as eight-fold, which is something of which I’m incredibly proud and excited.”

A legacy in construction
Robert is among the seventh generation of the Spottswood family to call Key West home. He attended the University of Florida and graduated with a degree in food and resource economics before studying law at Nova University in South Florida. During his time at Nova, he worked with several environmental groups, including the Everglades Law Clinic, advocating for responsible development and preservation of vital native habitats for endangered and threatened species.

Robert joined Baker & Hostetler LLP in 2015 and focused his practice on real estate and the hospitality industry, specifically fractional ownership resorts. In 2019 he and his wife, Stephanie, decided to permanently move to Key West, where they now reside with their family.

“Chas and I really consider ourselves partners in Keystar,” Robert elaborates. “Since 2016, Keystar has pivoted from small projects to ground-up construction for third parties. Together, Chas and I work at senior management level, and have collaborated to create a bonded team and robust company culture. Chas has extensive expertise in construction, so he leads the company in executing the day-to-day construction operations. And he’s damn good at it.”

Chas is well positioned to elaborate on industry challenges and those particularly pertinent to Keystar’s local area. “The Florida Keys has its own challenges or at least, they seem to be under the microscope in this locale. One of the biggest for us is labor shortages. From tradespeople to project managers or estimators, finding good people can be challenging. That said, one of the things we pride ourselves on is nurturing a good group of people who care about going the extra mile and doing a great job for our clients.”

“The Spottswood family of companies, collectively, employs a little over 500 people in Monroe County,” continues Robert. “It’s a big company, and while labor has been difficult, because of our reputation, and the fact that we’ve been here for a long time, we’ve built numerous great relationships with our employees. You might say we’ve become the place where people want to come and work.

“Alongside that, of course, we’ve faced similar challenges to the rest of the country, in terms of increased costs and inflation. Many of our projects are for third party clients who are building homes or resorts, for example. We’ve had to be creative and re-evaluate how we can value-engineer and make projects work under current circumstances. I think we’ve been successful in doing so; being able to leverage our historical knowledge of the Keys and our workforce to deliver projects, on time and on budget, while continuing to grow, as an organization.”

Dependable family bonds
Alongside the challenges, the industry brings many rewards. “For me, it’s two-fold,” Chas enthuses. “I got into this business because I love to build and create. I wanted to be an architect before I got my construction management degree. Just doing what we do is really rewarding for me personally, but I also love working with people: my family, our employees, subcontractors, and our clients. Working alongside other people who share that passion is rewarding.”

“Likewise, it’s really special for me to be able to do what we love,” confirms Robert, “but add the family aspect and Key West heritage to the mix, and we have something very special. Many of us made sacrifices to come back and be part of what we see as a united effort to not only maintain the Spottswood legacy but potentially expand beyond the Keys to accommodate future generations who want to join the family business. Our family dynamics have produced great results for us; unquestionable trust, the ability to share our different perspectives, and ultimately, to then work towards what we believe to be the right answer.”

While we’ve lightly touched on the hospitality side of the business for SCI, there’s a new kid in town that Robert is super excited about. Brightwild, a vacation management and travel platform, which exists to connect people in real life through personalized experiences and standout stays.

“There’s one particular project,” Robert elaborates, “that showcases our decades of experience, and construction and operational expertise. It’s comprised of 26 homes, with up to ten bedrooms, all within a gated community on the water. It’s phenomenal and highlights our ability to deliver high-end, luxury homes, combining our building experience at Keystar and hospitality background within Brightwild. We’re adept at building these types of properties, particularly in the Florida Keys environment. That said, we’re also resilient and nimble, able to quickly adapt to whatever we’re presented with.”

Looking to the future, while 2023 wasn’t the easiest year, Robert is excited and optimistic for what’s to come in 2024 and beyond. “I’d like to continue to solidify our reputation as the most capable general contractor in the Florida Keys and bring in those larger projects over the next couple of years that have stalled recently as a result of economic conditions,” he concludes.