Lamar Construction Changing Hands Staying Same

May 17, 2002
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HOLLAND — The sale of the business to three managers will enable Lamar Construction Co. to maintain continuity for its customers for years to come, the firm's retiring CEO says.

Bob Lamar is "slowly pulling back" and plans to retire by his 60th birthday in September, he said.

Selling to his managers was the obvious option for the 59-year-old Lamar, the president, chief executive officer and sole owner of Lamar Construction since he bought out his brothers in the mid-1990s.

Buying the company are Chief Operating Officer Carl Blauwkamp, Executive Vice President George Holmes and Vice President Doug Lenters, who's also Lamar's son-in-law.

The three have a combined 46 years of experience with the Holland company and, in Lamar's words, worked their way from the bottom up into ownership positions.

The sale of the company to the three was a natural, he said.

"You always want to look at your own people first," Lamar said. "We don't want that (continuity) broken up. They earned it."

Lenters, a 20-year veteran, started as a mason tender and today manages construction projects and subcontractors.

Holmes joined the company 11 years ago and serves as head estimator.

"You're buying your own hard work," Holmes said of the sale.

Blauwkamp has been with Lamar Construction since 1985 and presently oversees all operations of the company. He'll become Lamar Construction's president upon Bob Lamar's retirement.

Lamar Construction's roots date back to 1935 when Peter Lamar began building chicken coops and fixing up cottages in the Macatawa Park and Castle Park area around Holland. The company would later specialize in the construction of churches.

Peter's son, Russell, later joined him and they held the company together during the World War II years, when building materials were hard to come by.

Russell Lamar bought the company from his father in 1945. Bob Lamar and his brothers, Carl and Don, joined their father in 1958 and assumed operations of the company in 1982 when Russell Lamar retired.

Bob and Don bought out Carl's share of the firm in 1994. Bob bought out Don a year later.

Today the company's specialty — the construction of manufacturing facilities and related offices — represents about 75 percent of its business. Lamar Construction also handles retail and commercial projects.

The company, with a work force of 70 people, has grown from about $12 million in annual sales five years ago to $40 million last year, Blauwkamp said. The partners hope to continue that pattern of controlled growth, he said.

Bob Lamar said he decided to retire so he can spend more time doing other things, including traveling. Lamar is also involved in community organizations, including serving on the boards of Heritage Homes and the Better Business Bureau in Grand Rapids.

He was also elected last fall to a four-year term as township clerk in his hometown of Laketown Township, which is just south of Holland.

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