Ortega builds a bridge for others

October 10, 2008
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Dick Ortega turned to entrepreneurship for survival and found what he was born to do.

“All I do is work. That’s all I know how to do. I’ve worked since I was 9 years old,” said Ortega, co-founder of Alternative Mechanical, a full-service mechanical contracting company. “I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t hunt, fish, drink, smoke, gamble — none of that.”

Ortega’s first job was as a newspaper carrier. He now owns two companies: Alternative Medical Supplies and Alternative Mechanical, which won the award.

Alternative Mechanical began about five years ago when Ortega and his friend and now business partner, Kevin Fahl, found themselves out of jobs.

“We were both unemployed, but we both had the experiences of plumber, pipe fitter, pipe welder. I had 30 years’ experience and my partner had 25, so we decided to start a company: just the two of us and a pickup truck,” said Ortega. “We actually found some other trades guys who had been laid off a long time; they were out of unemployment and health care insurance. And we started going after jobs and were fortunate enough to get some.”

The company now employs 35 people and has worked on some large projects, such as the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion.

“I have a great partner and a great staff. The guys are real conscientious. I’ve got letters of referral from the general contractors we’ve worked for that we’ve exceeded their expectations, (that) we were quick to respond to their needs,” said Ortega, adding that quality installation and customer service are the company’s strengths.

Ortega said Alternative Mechanical has been doing well.

“We’ve had a good run,” he said. “I was recognized as the 2007 Minority Business of the Year Honoree and I just received this 2007 MI-SBTDC Small Business of the Year.”

Ortega feels honored to add the new award from the Grand Rapids chamber.

“It means a lot to me,” said Ortega. “The biggest reason I think it means so much to me is it gives me a chance to recognize my partner and crew for all the work they do. They deserve it.”

Encouraging diversity in the work force is a passion for Ortega.

“In order to build a firm foundation for the future, you have to build a bridge from the present. And that’s what I do. I’m working at building that bridge for other people behind me to get to the other side so they can have a future too.”

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