The winner was chosen by a panel consisting of W&C’s publisher, editorial staff and editorial advisory board. The goal of the award is to honor a contractor that employs industry best practices, provides a good working atmosphere for employees, and excels at both quality workmanship and customer service.

“This company has a longstanding history of top-quality workmanship and integrity, and a proven ability to adapt to changing times,” says W&CPublisher Jill Bloom. “They also have shown a commitment to helping their communities and giving back to our great industry.”


American Gypsum, AMICO, Armstrong, CEMCO, ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Dryvit, Fresco Harmony, Georgia-Pacific, Knauf, Owens Corning, UltraKote Products, USG, and more. The company’s primary distributor is L&W Supply.

Members and Affiliations 

Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders of America, American Subcontractors Association, Better Business Bureau, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Economic Development, Albuquerque Public Schools Join-a-School-Work Program, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, University of Mexico Lobo Club

Lone Sun Builders

Despite what the acclaimed television series “Breaking Bad” may showcase about the populace of Albuquerque as a haven for outlaws, the New Mexico city isn’t a drug-zoned Wild West town. Poetic license can take any city and mold it to an individual’s image of dystopia, but when grounded in reality, most people find the city on the cusp of something great. At more than half a million people, the city’s peak in regards to growth, investment, development and all that lushly follows shouldn’t be long. The city continues to grow and no doubt looks to San Antonio and Scottsdale as its template for development.

So it makes sense that for this inaugural profile of our Contractor of 2014, that we selected a western contractor that has been pioneering innovation, quality and technological leaps.

Under the leadership of President Chet Karnas, Lone Sun Builders Inc. is a licensed general contractor specializing in commercial retail and remodel construction that was founded in 1988. This 26-year-old company provides hands-on project management, qualified supervision, a certified safety program, on time critical path scheduling and ethical business practices, and it’s growing despite a tough economy. The company is now second generation with the inclusion of Karnas’s son Mason, who serves as the estimator and project manager.

This contractor specializes in commercial projects of all scopes—drywall, steel framing, stucco/EIFS, carpentry, ceilings, insulation and more. The company has done its best to align itself with other worthy builders of excellence and provide timely scheduling with cost efficiency. Currently, the company has a staff of 65 employees. Lone Sun Builders has been honored numerous times for its endeavors:

  • Ranked 106 of Top 150 Specialty Contractors
  • Named 13 of New Mexico Top Specialty Contractors
  • Ranked Second in the New Mexico Safety Rating

By the Time I Get to Albuquerque

“We perform projects of all sizes from multimillion dollar projects to small repair work orders,” says Mason Karnas. “As for a specialized niche, over the last five years we have performed over $10 million in bonded work on a nuclear site in southeastern New Mexico at the National Enrichment Facility in Eunice, N.M.”

Fun Facts 

Oftentimes, we don’t see the personal sides of the subjects and Lone Sun Builders have a lot of interesting views and thoughts beyond business. W&C asks Karnas about his interests:

What city would you like to take a tour of?
Naples or Lacedonia, Italy

Share a recipe that you believe you do better than anyone?
I don’t have one that I do better than anyone but I can cook a feast for any holiday, make eggplant parmesan from my garden, any color salsa from a pile of vegetables, homemade marinara; and many simple health foods with beans, corn, squash and chilies.

What subject are you most knowledgeable on (aside from business)?
Health and nutrition.

The Beatles or Rolling Stones?

What’s the greatest book ever written and why?
The Bible—for guidance, wisdom, historical content, translation and never ending knowledge.

What season do you look forward to the most and why?
Summer: I love the sun.

If you’re not working what are you doing?
Gardening, exercising, working outdoors, cooking, brewing beer, eating, hiking, biking and concerts, just to name a few.

Mason Karnas says the company’s business started the year off a bit slow but the work has picked up the last half, with a decent backlog that has them all over the state, including Eunice, Artesia, Carlsbad, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Albuquerque.

“The impact of the economic recession was very challenging, particularly for our trade. The market got extremely competitive with pricing ‘bottoming out’,” says Mason. “We saw people make business decisions they would not normally make, some of which were unethical. Clients were not happy, workmanship and quality diminished, suppliers were stiffed, and corners were cut. We stuck to our core values: kept all of our employee benefits intact; met and exceeded all expectations from our clients; kept our supplier and client relationships very solid, and; continued the same great service we’re accustomed to providing. That’s part of the reason we are still standing and strong as ever. People recognize that and want to work with us.”

When asked by W&C why Lone Sun Builders feels it is one of the best contractors around, Chet Karnas answers confidently:

“Because we’re versatile and well-trained, we keep up with best practices and industry standards, we constantly strive to stay ahead of the curve, we rise to the occasion regarding performance requirements including nuclear training and testing, government work requirements, compliance standards; and partnerships with OSHA, health and safety alliances, insurance and bonding companies,” he says.

God forbid the industry thinks about the next recession and hard times but when it will hit next, what did Lone Sun Builders learn that the company will apply next time? Plenty: “We will probably approach it in a similar manner: assess our sales requirements, adjust our overhead commensurate with sales projections, discuss our finances with our banking and bonding partners, seek specialized work to maintain our workload, create projection goals for all of the above,” says Chet Karnas. He plans to have company-wide meetings to create the best organizational chart possible to make it through another downturn should that day come. “We live by our motto ‘We Sell Service’,” says Chet Karnas. “Our employee benefits package and Human Resources department allow us to provide our employees with good wages, a health plan, dental plan, life insurance, 401K, annual bonuses and more. Our employee benefits package has created a family atmosphere of trust and loyalty between all members of our team which results in higher productivity, better quality and great service.”

One factor that attributed to the company’s continued success and survival instincts was an important project in Albuquerque that Chet Karnas believes is one of Lone Sun Builders’ greatest achievements.

 “We have had a few but our most recent was the completion of $10 million of bonded work on the National Enrichment Facility in Eunice, working on the URENCO uranium enrichment facility,” he says. “It enabled us to get through the recession that began in 2009.”