After rebranding ‘challenge,’ Jacksonville-based contractor Opus Group renamed Avant

The company’s name, involved in several Downtown redevelopment projects, was too similar to The Opus Group construction firm in Minneapolis.

By Mike Mendenhall

The Jacksonville Daily Record

Ellen and Alan Cottrill co-founded River City Contractors in 1997, then changed the name to Opus Group in 2021. Now they have rebranded the company as Avant.
Ellen and Alan Cottrill co-founded River City Contractors in 1997, then changed the name to Opus Group in 2021. Now they have rebranded the company as Avant.

Signage and branding for Jacksonville-based contractor Opus Group posted at many Downtown adaptive reuse construction sites will soon be replaced with the name Avant. 

It’s the second renaming by the 26-year-old company in fewer than 18 months. 

Avant President and founder Alan Cottrill said that changing from River City Contractors to Opus in November 2021 was about updating the company’s branding to better describe what they do. But moving on from Opus to Avant was a requirement.

“Part of the challenge of being in business is making mistakes and recovering from them,” Cottrill said Feb. 3. 

“We changed our name a year ago and thought that we had crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s.”

What Alan and his wife, Avant Human Resources and Marketing Manager Ellen Cottrill, didn’t find in their rebranding research was that Opus Group was already a trademarked and copyrighted similar business. 

It is the name of a larger design, development, construction and construction management company, The Opus Group, based in Minneapolis. 

Alan Cottrill said the Minneapolis Opus sent a cease-and-desist letter in late 2022. Ellen Cottrill said when they received the legal correspondence it “was a bit overwhelming.” 

“There were a few tears, I have to admit,” she said.

Avant completed its legal name change Jan. 25, according to a filing with the Florida Division of Corporations. Ellen Cottrill said the logo changes will start to appear after a public announcement expected by Feb. 20.

The new logo for Avant keeps the “Collaborative Construction” tagline.

A ‘forward-thinking’ name

According to the Cottrills, Avant was inspired by the word’s Italian version Avanti meaning “let’s go,” “ahead” and “forward-thinking” — avant-garde.

They want it to have a similar impact on the company’s branding as Opus, a reference to the word for a musical work or set of compositions by a composer and that the Oxford English Dictionary says is “any artistic work, especially one on a large scale.” 

“Much like our industry is managing chaos and bringing people together to create an end product. That’s a great representation of what we do,” Alan Cottrill said.

He said attorneys for the Minneapolis Opus gave them the time needed to complete the naming transition. 

“I would give them credit for being agreeable, friendly and not confrontational,” Alan Cottrill said.

Ellen Cottrill said the change will likely cost Avant $10,000 to $20,000. The company had to redesign its logo and websites. All the employee polo shirts, construction site signage and graphics on the company trucks must be replaced. 

But there also are changes like names on bank accounts, email signatures and the message on the Avant voicemail inbox.

Ellen Cottrill said if a client or a vendor is not notified and the company receives a check with the former name, Avant would not be able to cash it.

“All these little things that happen. No matter how much you plan, no matter how efficient you are. There are things that will go through the cracks,” she said.

Alan said Avant is trying to look at the change as an opportunity. 

“We are pie-in-the-sky thinking of it not as rebranding, just as renaming because we feel like we are on-brand,” he said. 

“We’re using it (Avant) as an impetus to say who we are as a company that helps our customers. We get things done. We’re moving forward,” Alan Cottrill said. “We’re helping our customers who in turn are helping our communities and our city move forward.”

“Avant is the perfect name to represent our company,” Alan Cottrill said in a written statement. “We pride ourselves in projects that have unique character and design.”

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