Triangle Digs New Digs

February 3, 2003
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WALKER — Kent County’s second-oldest construction company has a brand new home.

Triangle Associates Inc., founded in 1918 as George Datema & Sons, moved into a new headquarters in December — one that is loaded with high-tech communications gear.

The 16,500-square-foot building at 3769 Three Mile Road NE also offers lots of creative space for the company’s 107 full-time employees, giving them room to interact collectively or privately, with each other or with clients.

President and CEO Craig Datema said moving from its longtime Grand Rapids location on Taylor Avenue was necessary because Triangle grew dramatically over the past decade.

Triangle expanded the building on Taylor in 1998, work that provided some relief to its cramped situation. But the addition also spread staff members across two buildings, which made communicating internally a little tougher than Datema and his partners — James Huyser and Jeffery Scott — thought the process should be.

“We felt it was very important for us to bring our teams under one roof to improve communications and synergies for clients,” said Datema, an architect by trade, a fourth-generation leader of the firm, and a great-grandson of George Datema.

Datema said another reason for the move was Triangle had a desire to create a learning environment that would complement the team-oriented approach the firm practices. In fact, the new home, just off the Fruit Ridge exit of I-196 in Walker, was designed to get everyone’s input into a project.

“During the project development stage we are really looking for the expertise of our operational people that are involved in the construction end, as well as the people involved in pre-construction, architecture, finance, marketing — all of those various facets that are important to make a successful job for one of our clients,” said Datema.

“We’ve created some opportunities here where people can come together on an informal basis and exchange ideas and thoughts. We also have two synergy rooms where they can come together more formally to work on projects together in a team atmosphere,” he added.

The building is marked by a 48-foot-high pyramid skylight built from four glass triangles and is filled with state-of-the-art equipment.

“The first thing that you see when you walk in is our mission statement, placed on the walk immediately opposite of the entrance at the door. And that is there to tell all of our customers and our partners, as well as our employees, what our mission is,” said Datema.

“On the back side of this wall we have an area we call the gathering zone. It’s the informal area where we have three tables with bar stools. On the back side of the wall, we placed all of our corporate values to continuously remind everybody as to what the drivers of our company are and how well we should be practicing our daily activities.”

A new Novar Control System constantly monitors the building’s environment. Wireless networks and a flat plasma screen are linked via the computer system to all the workstations and meeting areas, with access also available from the firm’s job sites.

Triangle is a full-service company, one that offers its customers general contracting, construction management and design-and-build services. Triangle is also a high-profile builder that is currently working on a variety of noteworthy projects in the area.

The Richard J. Lacks Sr. Cancer Center at Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center, the Forest Hills Public Schools Fine Arts Center, and Terrazzo, the Hurwitz family’s retail venture, are being built by Triangle. The cancer and fine arts centers will be finished in 2004, while work on the upscale retail center will be done this year.

Triangle can do such a diverse list of projects because it has six divisions. Those divisions — educational, medical, commercial, industrial, residential and governmental — have made Triangle a recognized name throughout the state.

Datema said Triangle would remain heavily involved with the community at its new location, as the firm has been for generations on Taylor Avenue. He plans to hold at least four community forums on Three Mile Road each year. Datema also said that business was better in 2002 — about 5 percent better — than it was in 2001.

In 2003, Triangle turns 85 years old. Only the Owens-Ames-Kimball Co. has a longer construction history here. Craig Datema is following in a path first walked by George, then by his grandfather Roy Sr., and then by his father Roy Jr. The firm had been at its Taylor location for over 60 years, having moved there before World War II began.

“My dad tells stories of sliding down from Kent Country Club across Plainfield all the way down to the Grand River when he was a young boy. So we had a lot of roots in that area and we certainly embrace our roots,” said Datema.

“But the company has grown both in size, as well as the way we operate, and a new building will help facilitate a lot of our ideas.”           

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