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History of Firm Build


Firm Build established as a Merced County Housing Authority program to teach construction skills to the low-income clients. The Housing Authority is overseen by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

October 1999

Firm Build becomes an independent nonprofit. Though it's not connected to the Housing Authority, it still relies solely on funding from the agency.


A Housing and Urban Development regulation changes that makes Housing Authority employees report their Firm Build wages, reducing the amount of rent assistance they receive. Firm Build looks to MCOE for more students. The nonprofit ends the year with $198,026 in the bank, according to public tax filings.


Firm Build requests and receives a $300,000 loan from the Housing Authority as start-up capital as it tries to grow. It ends the year in the red with $1.1 million in revenue and $1.5 million in expenses.

May 2005

Merced County Board of Supervisors appoints Buendia to the Housing Authority board. Firm Build can no longer contract with it because of federal conflict of interest regulations.

December 2005

Firm Build stops paying off its $300,000 Housing Authority loan, leaving about $100,000 outstanding. It has $2.3 million in revenue and $2.4 million in expenses.

May 2007

Firm Build president Patrick Bowman, also an MCOE coordinator, asks the Housing Authority for a $500,000 grant to pay off debt. The request is denied because public money can't be used to pay off private debt. Housing Authority commissioners Buendia and Joe Ramirez, a Firm Build board member, abstain from voting.

June 2007

The Merced County District Attorney's Office receives an anonymous tip about Firm Build's demise and begins an investigation. Firm Build's records, seized by investigators, show more than $700,000 in overdue bills.