Focus and Construction

C.D. Barnes marks 60 years by staying lean and conservative

Promoting from within and staying debt free top list of priorities.

January 31, 2014
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CD Barnes Todd Oosting
Todd Oosting keeps C.D. Barnes Construction moving forward with projects like the one the firm completed for Celebration! Cinema. Photo by Michael Buck

C.D. Barnes Construction is celebrating its 60th anniversary by honoring its legacy and keeping an eye on the future.

Specifically, that means the Grand Rapids-based general contractor plans to do its level best to stay out of debt, keep its overhead low, cherry pick the projects it will handle locally and nationally, and groom the next generation of leaders.

“When things got scary in the construction business (during the Great Recession), a lot of our competitors were taking jobs just to stay busy but hardly making any money,” said Todd Oosting, the company’s executive vice president.

“We decided we’ll get smaller and stay profitable. We have no debt. We own all our own equipment. We prefer to stay lean and conservative.”

C.D. Barnes got its start in 1917, a year when President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Giants four games to two in the World Series and, in Grand Rapids, brothers Cleve Dell (C.D.) and Roy Barnes, started a construction business by the name of Barnes Construction.

Following the end of World War II, several adult children of Cleve and Roy had joined the family-owned business. Over time, that involvement also included their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 1954, the two brothers split Barnes Construction into two entities. Roy incorporated the business under the original name, Barnes Construction, and Cleve Dell operated his business with the moniker C.D. Barnes Associates Inc.

Ownership of C.D. Barnes Associates Inc. remained in the Barnes family until the sudden death of owner Spencer Barnes in 1999. With his death, four C.D. Barnes employees purchased the company: John Drozer became president, Carter Huffman became executive vice president, Todd Oosting took the position of secretary and David Smith became treasurer.

Though Carter remains a trustee, he sold his shares in the company in 2009, some to the current owner, Todd Oosting, and some to a new partner, Dale Kraker.

2012 brought more changes for C.D. Barnes Associates. As the company pursued markets outside of Michigan, senior management determined the term “associates” led some people to believe they were attorneys or accountants, not commercial construction representatives. That resulted in the firm’s current name: C.D. Barnes Construction.

The company’s services include construction management, design/build and general contracting services. It specializes in the construction of theaters, child care facilities, restaurants, retail centers, dental practices, senior living facilities and industrial spaces.

West Michigan clients include Celebration! Cinema and Uccello’s Ristorante, as well as Milestones, Lighthouse, Appletree and Goddard child care facilities. Additional clients are Elite Baseball and Softball Training, Robinson Dental, OsborneKlein, Eastown Veterinary Clinic, Notions Marketing, the LaCati Group — and many others.

Nationally, clients include corporations such as Walmart, ALDI, Sears, Art Van, Alltel, Jimmy John’s, Culver’s, Houlihan’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and Cummins Bridgeway.

Oosting said he is not content to look in the rearview mirror of the company’s history.

“Right now we’re grooming the next generation of leadership,” he said.

“We like to promote within rather than hire a bunch of people from outside. We cross-train all our people, so a carpenter can work their way up to being a site superintendent, then project management and estimating. We’ll bring in guys who’ve been in the field for a long time and bring them into the office and cross-train them in estimating and marketing. We just see where their talents take them,” he said.

Signs that the Great Recession is in the past also are visible, Oosting added.

 “Our industry is coming back, and people are getting excited about the construction industry,” Oosting said. “But you’re only as good as your players. We’ve got such a good reputation with our niches that we’ve built for years. We’ll continue to give our clients good service — and that’s you how survive in this business.” 

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