Russians Pay Three Week Visit To Area Construction Firms

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPDS — Owners and officers of local construction firms this month are entertaining a dozen of their counterparts from Russian construction firms.

According to one of the project organizers, Dennis Woiderski, treasurer of DeJager Construction in Wyoming, the visitors are here in order to see something of American construction methods.

"They are people who are both in the commercial and residential construction business," he said, adding that most of them are owners or executive officers of companies ranging from 35 to 500 employees.

He said that while hammers are hammers the world over, and Russian nails are no different from American nails, the visitors are very much interested in American construction companies' management techniques. He said they are curious about local companies' organizational arrangements.

Also of special interest to all the visitors are matters of quality control, financial management, marketing, safety and recent software.

The group is visiting Grand Rapids through a national program called the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI), and sponsored locally by Construction Financing Management Association Group and the West Shore Region of Kiwanis Clubs, an association in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland and Hastings.

Woiderski said they are one of four groups, each from a different industrial sector, currently in the United States under the aegis of CCI, a San Francisco-based non-profit body that promotes cultural and economic exchanges.

Woiderski explained that the group is spending up to half a day at a number of area construction firms watching and often videotaping American methodology. For example, Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. gave the visitors a comprehensive tour of the county courthouse construction project.

In a way, it's difficult to avoid the feeling that the group didn't come here at the right time.

Just days later and they could have gotten a view of contractors breaking up and carting off big blocks of thick pavement in the start of an accelerated project to replace the main runway at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Four months ago they could have crews approaching completion of their S-curve contracts.

But, as Woiderski noted, most of the visitors are not owners of big contracting firms, though some of the older delegates, as the program describes them, probably are part of some of the truly mammoth construction work undertaken by the now-defunct Soviet government.

All of their companies were founded during the Glasnost period or after the end of the Soviet government.

The names of some of the companies seem to reflect the times in which they were founded — Vash Dom (Your Home), Novaya Era (New Era), Dekor (Russian phonetic equivalent of the French "Décor") — but others such as Obyedineniye Psikhiatriya defy the American tongue and, in the absence of a translator, American understanding.

Speaking of which, one of the Russians informed the Business Journal that the visitors are strictly citizens of European Russia, not of federation states such as Ukraine or Belarus.

He said they all come from east of the Ural Mountains and live in the environs of cities ranging from St. Petersburg and Ekaterinberg in the North to Rostov and Volgagrad (formerly Stalingrad) in the southern part of the country.

Most of the Russians speak at least some English, Woiderski said, so that they are able to communicate in the evenings with their hosts.

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