Grand Rapids, MI, August 25, 2011 – Local construction company Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. (O-A-K, hereafter) announces a year-long celebration of its 120th anniversary. O-A-K has built some of the most recognizable landmarks in the City, including Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Van Andel Institute – Phase II, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and Kent County Courthouse.
Founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1891, the company has an extensive West Michigan portfolio. But the landmarks listed above are only a small part of the legacy O-A-K has created. It is the company’s sense of commitment, to the local community, to their employees, and to the relationships they build with their clients, that stands as a major testament to their success over the past 120 years.
Commitment to Community
“As an employee-owned corporation, we feel a genuine commitment to the communities where we build and we’re fortunate to be able to demonstrate that commitment every day, in a number of ways,” says Frank Stanek, Director of Operations and Equal Opportunity Employment.
In celebration of their anniversary, O-A-K is demonstrating their commitment to both the local employees and the City of Grand Rapids with an extreme office makeover, complete with state-of-the-art technology, collaborative workspace design and a welcoming glass entryway.
The company has been headquartered in downtown Grand Rapids since its founding in 1891. Their current building, located at 300 Ionia NW, has not undergone remodeling since the mid-80s. Maroon decor and non-handicap accessible entryways were no longer acceptable in 2011, so the options were: a) relocation; or b) renovation. Although option “a” could have been far less expensive, option “b” made more sense for the future.
“I’d like to say the renovation was a no-brainer. The truth is, a lot of urban offices have gone suburban over the past few decades, and for appealing reasons. But at the end of the day, that’s not the kind of message we wanted to send. We love this City and we plan to remain downtown for decades to come,” commented Bill Schoonveld, O-A-K President.
In addition to revamping their corporate office, O-A-K is thanking the community through an anniversary campaign they’re calling GIVE 120. Each month throughout 2011, they are donating much-needed resources to local organizations, whilst cleverly incorporating the number 120. For example, in February they donated 120 books to Brookside Elementary School in Grand Rapids. They also donated to the school in April, with 120 white pine trees for Earth Day. In June, they created a $120 scholarship, allowing two children to attend the Civic School of Theatre Arts’ Kidsplay Kamp and they sponsored the musical Hairspray.
O-A-K’s commitment to the community does not stop with a giving campaign. Because the company prides itself in hiring people based on attitude and training for skill, most of the employees are actively involved with local organizations outside of work. From little league coaching to serving on non-profit boards, O-A-K encourages their employees to be active and engaged.
“It’s been that way for 120 years. The values that our founders held remain a major part of our company culture,” says Stanek.
Commitment to Employees
The employee-owned company continually encourages their employees to give back in ways that are meaningful on an individual level. This encouragement acts as an internal morale booster, which they firmly believe has an affect on the average employee’s longevity. O-A-K is committed to maintaining high morale and retaining employees. Currently, the median employee within O-A-K’s Michigan operations has been with the company for 16 years. That’s 11.8 years longer than the average American in the construction industry. (According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure for a construction employee with current employer in 2010 was 4.2 years.)
“That’s one of the most exciting things about O-A-K. The majority of the people we hire end up retiring from our company decades later. We truly are a family.” says Schoonveld, who has been with the company for 33 years.
Despite global economic hardships, O-A-K has continued to hire new talent over the past few years. In fact, they’ve had zero layoffs in 2011.
“We are managing to keep lots of people at work. And we aren’t taking that for granted,” says Stanek.
Commitment to Client Relationships
O-A-K attributes a great deal of their success to the relationships they’ve built with their clients. Because so many of their employees have been with the company for decades, they get to know their clients thoroughly. Many of those clients, like Rockford Public Schools and Frederik Meijer Gardens, work with the same O-A-K employees on all capital improvement projects. But it’s not just capital improvements that they build. O-A-K provides General Contracting, Construction Management, Design Build and skilled labor for projects both large and small.
“Have you been to the Grand Rapids Art Museum?” jokes Bill Ogden, Director of Operations and Safety. “We didn’t build that one, but we did change the light bulbs!”
Although O-A-K has managed the construction for some of the most iconic projects in West Michigan and has overseen additional projects in 37 of the 50 United States, they are not above rolling up their sleeves. In fact, they frequently remind themselves that their founders’ resumes were written in the lines of their hardened, calloused hands.
O-A-K’s high number of repeat clients, which was 95% in 2010, speaks for itself. They are proud of “telling it like it is:” which means they tell their clients what they need to know, not just what they want to hear. Their commitment to client relationships is grounded in a genuine sense of integrity.
What does the future hold for O-A-K?
They envision a future much like their past. Where they’re founded in a commitment to community, employees and clients; they stay up to date with new technology; and they focus on conservative financial practices.
In addition to practicing commitment, their recent shift toward innovative technology included the adoption of smart phones, so their employees can access the new web-based project management system from virtually anywhere in the world. Also, being employee-owned has and will continue to help O-A-K exercise responsible financial decision making, keeping the company strong and lean.
One of their core values is to never compromise the long-term condition for short-term gain. This has paved the way for success in West Michigan for more than a century. O-A-K will continue to build in West Michigan throughout the country for another 120 years, at least