Construction and Small Business & Startups

Old-school values paying off for NewCo

Contractor rides the West Michigan development wave.

January 29, 2016
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Lake Michigan Credit Union
Lake Michigan Credit Union is headquartered in Grand Rapids. Photo by NewCo

NewCo Design Build takes a new-school approach to its offerings, but when it comes to building relationships, NewCo is as old school as they come.

The Grand Rapids-based commercial contractor prides itself on being a relationship-based company. Since opening its doors in 2010, NewCo has built relationships with its clients the same way a building is constructed — from the ground up.

That work is paying off for the firm, which experienced a revenue increase of more than 60 percent in 2015.

“It’s a little bit of a slower process, but it’s more tried and true,” said Chris Van Doeselaar, president.

“We’ll say, ‘Let’s just start with something small, do some service work, prove we’re capable.’ And from there, things get bigger and bigger as we show we’re capable. As we gain their trust, we become a one-stop shop — one call and we can handle anything from service work to a brand new build,” Van Doeselaar said.

Unlike some contractors, NewCo employs an in-house architect, which helps streamline the process and allows for quicker and more accurate budget estimates. The entire design process is handled internally and allows the 22-person company freedom to control its own schedule and adjust on the fly if the client needs it.

By steadily establishing and maintaining a strong connection with its clients, NewCo has built a reputation as a firm that retains its base of customers. And in doing so, it just posted one of the best growth years in the firm’s short history.

In 2015, NewCo Design Build’s West Michigan revenue ballooned from $5.6 million in 2014 to $9 million, a 60.7 percent increase. While the contractor has seen steady growth in each year since its inception, Van Doeselaar said there were a number of factors that contributed to the company’s expansion in 2015, which also accounted for eight or nine staff additions.

A number of those clients for which NewCo had been laying the groundwork blossomed into larger projects, and some good word-of-mouth did wonders for NewCo’s workload — especially in a year where development in West Michigan skyrocketed.

“There was a large amount of work last year that just seemed to come out of nowhere,” Van Doeselaar said.

NewCo isn’t the only West Michigan contractor that saw a stark increase in revenue last year. Rockford Construction posted a 31.5 percent jump in West Michigan revenue; Pioneer Construction increased its West Michigan revenue by 21.1 percent; and Orion Construction nearly doubled its West Michigan revenue, from $33.4 million to $60 million in 2015.

It was a good year all around for construction in West Michigan, and 2016 projects should continue that trend. NewCo vice president Craig Van Doeselaar, Chris’ brother, said the demand for subcontractors in 2015 was so large, some companies had to push their projects back a year, creating a backlog of projects.

“For the longest time, clients would say they’re ready to do a project and throw it out there, and contractors would fight to pick it up,” he said. “Now they’re throwing projects out there, and contractors are telling them they’re too busy right now. The dynamic has shifted, and clients are realizing they have to find someone quicker than they used to.”

That’s made for a busy start to 2016, and lofty projections for the year ahead. Craig Van Doeselaar said that backlog of projects could carry into 2017, as well.

The trend isn’t just happening on the west side of the state — development is increasing throughout Michigan as the state continues to mount its comeback.

“I think the growth we saw last year and this year is not exclusive to West Michigan,” Chris Van Doeselaar said. “We do know some contractors in Detroit, and they’re busy too. But outside of Michigan, I don’t think anywhere is as crazy as it is here.”

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