Pancho Castano, founder and CEO of Geometrica, talks custom engineered domes manufactured in Mexico and installed worldwide.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show. Texas Business Radio. Have you been to our website yet? Do yourself a favor. Texasbusinessradio.com, you can see the entire broadcast in beautiful high-definition video, and get your questions in because we will get the experts on here to get those questions answered. A couple of ways to do that. 844-814-8144 is our 24-hour call-in line. 24 hours, call in now, call in later, it really doesn’t matter. We’ll get the experts on here.
We are talking about highly-engineered products. We have a pretty exciting segment for you about domes, big domes that you see when you go to a big church, you go to a sports arena, there’s all kinds of use for these things. We have a very fascinating company in here. I’m your host, Matt Register. Jay Curry is over there. What do you think, sir?
Jay Curry: Well, the thing I love about Poncho and his business is the complexity and the way he’s worked out between having production in Mexico, and then having his main office up here, American, and all the things he’s involved, very complex business, but highly successful, 25 years.
Matt Register: Yep, Geometrica is the name of the company. Poncho Castaño is the founder and CEO. Poncho, welcome to the show, sir.
Poncho Castaño: Thank you, Matt. Glad to be here.
Matt Register: Tell me about Geometrica.
Poncho Castaño: Well, Geometrica is a company dedicated to building big domes. We are primarily focused on the environmental market. We build domes to cover big stockpiles of bulk material, such as coal, limestone, mineral ores. We do this mostly in the developing world, where all these infrastructures that we already have in this country hasn’t been built.
Matt Register: Sure, so they have big piles of coal, big piles of materiel. You come in and build a dome over it. That’s the environmental side. You also have a architectural side as well, correct?
Poncho Castaño: That is correct. We do churches. In fact, we’re building probably the largest church in the world right now in Nigeria.
Jay Curry: Really?
Matt Register: Interesting. We were talking during the break. I was needing to get my head wrapped around this. Why in the world would you build a dome? There’s a couple of reasons, right?
Poncho Castaño: Yes. The obvious reason is the long span. We don’t want columns in the middle of your church or the middle of your stockpile.
Matt Register: Or football field, or whatever it happens to be, right?
Poncho Castaño: Yes. The second reason that is most exclusive to Geometrica is the fact that we can build these domes that are not circular. We can build them in a freeform, which means if you have a heart-shaped stockpile, we can cover that with a heart-shaped dome.
Matt Register: That’s interesting. [crosstalk 00:03:04] I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a non-circular dome before, but they can be built. What you are building, what you have is a factory in Mexico. This is an erector set, for lack of a better word, right?
Poncho Castaño: That is correct. The structure gets fabricated and pre-fabricated in our factory down in Monterrey, which is an hour’s flight away, and put into what we call crates. They are four foot, by four foot, by a foot metal containers. Then ten of those are loaded onto a shipping container and shipped anywhere in the world.
Currently, we have projects in, as I said, Nigeria and Togo, which is a country in Africa, in Greece, in Chile, Peru, Mexico, and other places. In fact, we have one in Maryland.
Matt Register: Interesting. The custom nature of it, because being able to build them in different shapes and everything, there’s a lot of engineering involved, correct?
Poncho Castaño: Yes, that’s right.
Matt Register: How many engineers? A significant part of your company is engineering, custom software development, and things like that, right?
Poncho Castaño: That’s right. Here in Houston we have six people, three of which are engineers. In Mexico, we have about 50 people in the office. Out of those, probably I would say 2/3 at least are engineers, graduate engineers.
Matt Register: Interesting. Talk to me a little bit about some of the challenges associated with having a multinational company. You have manufacturing going on in Mexico, you have engineering going on in Mexico, you have operations going on in the United States. The full weight of both country’s laws are applying to your business. It’s hard enough as an American business, to be able to keep up with everything. You just signed up for a whole nother set of laws, right?
Poncho Castaño: Absolutely, yes. Yes, it is challenging. Of course, if we ever do an instillation in Spain we have to comply with their laws as well, which we have done. We have a bit of a system worked out for those things. Of course, in Mexico and the States, we are very familiar with the law because we operate in those countries. We have a quality management system, that in the policy itself we comply with all local laws, wherever we operate.
We have people looking at those things, and writing the procedures so that we are compliant with every law that applies to us.
Matt Register: Interesting.
Jay Curry: Poncho, where do you get your prospects? You’re all over the world. We’re not talking about little domes, we’re talking about huge domes. How in the world do they hear about you? Where does this come from?
Poncho Castaño: That is a great question. We initially started marketing through trade publications, and that was the way to go back in the ’90s and 2000s, but recently we started doing a lot more in social media. We use Facebook, we use Google, and we are able to target very specific segments. For example, say people that are interested in religion and architecture. We will target those and we get business out of that with advertisements really focused on that.
Matt Register: Is it the architects? Who is the one that actually makes the decision for something like a church or something on the architectural side? Is it the architect itself that is contacting you?
Poncho Castaño: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s the architect, sometimes it’s the owner. For us, it’s not common that it is the contractor. We’ve had projects going as far as having a spec and having chosen a builder. We’re usually not involved, because our product is so specific that we have to get in there early on, the design, either by selling to the owner or to the architect.
Matt Register: Sure. Talk to me about sizes, because you cover a range of sizes that shocked me, quite frankly. What’s the smallest, what’s the biggest that you’re interested in?
Poncho Castaño: The smallest that we will go is somewhere in the order of 15, 20,000 square feet. We’re not that competitive with the small-sized structures. Our sweet spot is more in the 50,000, or 100,000 square feet to cover.
Jay Curry: I would think also different shapes. That’s an advantage that you have.
Poncho Castaño: Exactly.
Jay Curry: You’ve got the engineering capacity, both here and in Mexico.
Poncho Castaño: Yes.
Matt Register: What is the biggest you can do, though?
Poncho Castaño: Well, we can go up to about 1 million square feet. Somewhere in the order of 1,000 foot span. The largest we’ve built is about 280,000 or 300,000 feet in covered area, without intermediate columns.
Matt Register: Absolutely interesting. Talk to me a little bit about some of the tax laws that have just changed. Having an international company, we were talking just recently about trying to repatriate earnings that have happened overseas. What kind of an impact is that going to have on your operations?
Poncho Castaño: My understanding is it’s very favorable because we have, for example, some profits in Mexico from the Mexican company, and the US is a parent company, so eventually we wanted to bring those profits over here.
Now, we have paid taxes in Mexico, and with the new law taxes here are lower, so we can fully use the tax credits to not have to pay taxes on those profits that have already been taxed.
Matt Register: Yeah. Anytime anybody’s wanting to bring money back to United States, you shouldn’t punish them for it.
Jay Curry: That’s right. Say, “Yes, sir,” and bring it on.
Matt Register: That’s exactly it. It’s going to be better for everybody. Who should give you a call? If you’re looking to build a building, who is it that’s your perfect client, that needs to pick up the phone right now and call you?
Poncho Castaño: If you have a stockpile that is creating problems with your neighbors and you need to cover it, just ring us. If you’re planning on building a new house of worship. If you’re planning on building a sports arena for a high school or something like that, we can offer competitive solutions that will give your building or facility a distinctive look that is not quite what you get with a traditional building.
Matt Register: Interesting.
Jay Curry: I love it.
Matt Register: Poncho, what is the easiest way for somebody to get in touch with you, should somebody want to learn more?
Poncho Castaño: Geometrica.com. We have email there and we have also a phone number there for you to reach us.
Matt Register: Geometrica.com. Poncho Castaño is the founder and CEO of Geometrica. We’re going to have that linked right from Texasbusinessradio.com. Thank you very much for joining us, Poncho.
Poncho Castaño: Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Ray.
Jay Curry: Congratulations.
Matt Register: We are, by the way, out of time. We do have to go take a break, go pay some of our own bills. We’re going to be right back right after this break. Don’t forget to go check us out on social media in the meantime. We’ll be back.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.