Construction Firm Celebrates 50 Years By Restructuring

June 14, 2002
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ADA — You’d think that when a company — any company — has been around for 50 years that it could afford to pat itself on the back and take a deep breath.

But that seems to be about the furthest thing from the minds of Gary Vos and Gordon DeYoung, CEO and president, respectively, of Dan Vos Construction Co.

“We have a thing around here,” DeYoung said, “that we say we aren’t totally built yet. And if we ever think we are built, that’s when we’ll probably go broke.”

He was talking with the Business Journal with less than two weeks in grade as president of the company.

The promotion came Aug. 16, when Vos stepped up from the presidency he has held since 1984 and announced DeYoung’s appointment to the post.

At the same time, Vos named four other new company officers: Everett VanderTuin, executive vice president for financial operations, Dan Blundy, vice-president of construction, John DeBlaay, vice president of business development, and John Sellman, vice president of project development.

Blundy and DeBlaay will continue to serve as the company’s project managers while Sellman will be in charge of estimating, safety and training. The four new vice presidents average 22 years with Vos.

“I’m incredibly fortunate,” Vos said, “to see such depth of leadership and professional potential. We’re not having to recruit leaders. We’ve homegrown them and they’ve already hit their stride as a team.”

Vos said promoting the new officers simply is a reflection of the company’s growth and of what he wants to see the firm do with its other 75 employees. “We are a growing company and this is just one other step toward our future.”

He said the appointments create opportunities for people throughout the company. “My goal is to facilitate their development,” he added.

The two officers note that, on average, most of their employees have been with the company for more than a decade. That sort of longevity is unusual in the construction trades. “Good workers aren’t a dime a dozen,” DeYoung said, “and we don’t treat them as such.”

“We’ve built depth and dedication into the Dan Vos Construction team,” Vos said. “That’s a huge value for our customers. Gordy and I know that if we had an emergency at midnight, there’d be 75 people here with their gloves on to do what needs to be done.”

He and DeYoung agree that the economic slowdown seems to have had no effect on their company. “No effect at all,” DeYoung said.

“We don’t believe in joining them (economic downturns),” Vos cracked.

The only thing that has slowed the firm in the past 12 months, DeYoung said, was an overabundance of snow in November and December, and then heavy rains in spring of this year.

The two men have worked together since 1965 pouring cement, framing, working as site managers and moving into leadership roles over time.

“Gordy and I have a common philosophy about hard work and good people. I trust him to make the right decisions for our team.”

“We also put a lot of stock in handshake agreements,” DeYoung said of himself and Vos. “My goal is to maintain one core company value: trust. Everyone here subscribes to the value of trust, among each other, our customers, and our sub-contractor partners.”

Vos’s father, Dan, founded the company in 1951 working primarily as a builder of homes and churches.

During 1969 the company broke ground on 10 churches. That happened to be the same year that two of the founder’s buddies asked him to design and build a plant for a strange new company that later came to be known as Amway.

That project was the firm’s first commercial-industrial project.

Since then, the construction firm has completed the Pantlind Hotel renovation and built plants and headquarters for Wolverine World Wide, Gentex, Perrigo Co., Haworth, Request Foods and Quincy Street Meats.

DeYoung noted that the company just recently broke ground on its 131st church. He said all of the churches probably lie within a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids.

Vos said church building offers one special challenge: the number of people with whom the company must deal.

“With an office building or something like that, you’re usually dealing with one person. But at churches, you’re often dealing with several different committees. But we’ve built in a way to work with that, so it really hasn’t been a problem.”

There’s nothing like having 50 years of experience to deal with any sort of problem.

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