CD Barnes Expects Record Year

October 7, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — CD Barnes Associates Inc. is expecting this to be the best year in its 55-year history, capping off an unbroken streak of annual volume increases since management acquired the company from the Barnes family in 1999.

Principal Todd Oosting attributes the growth of the construction management company to a steady diversification effort that began long before the succession.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done only manufacturing buildings,” Oosting said.

Forty years ago, nearly all of the company’s work was in the manufacturing sector, he said, which carried the company through its peak in the 1970s.

When the company began shifting its focus in the late 1980s, the industry was predicting that specialization was the key to the evolving market.

“At seminars, you’d hear that you have to specialize, you have to be the expert in building strip centers or whatever it might be,” Oosting said. “I didn’t see the wisdom in that.”

Instead, the firm staked claims in several markets. Now the mid-sized firm at any given time boasts at least one project each for retail, education, health-care, government and multi-family residential clients.

It has aligned itself with growth markets as well as growth clients, such as Wal-Mart and AppletreeChristianLearningCenters, the latter of which has taken CD Barnes throughout the Midwest

“If (manufacturers) are expanding, they’re expanding in Mexico, China, and all these other places,” Oosting said. “We make our living out of this area growing. … If you follow the market, there will always be growth.”

Oosting is hoping that as the economy continues its slow resurgence, the wind will blow back toward the industrial and traditional commercial markets. And he has reason to believe that it will.

“We’re seeing a lot of people talking about projects and a lot of pricing of projects and it’s just got to burst,” he said.

Much has changed since CD Barnes was incorporated in 1954 through a halving of the second-generation Barnes Construction Co.  The company has moved from a self-performing contractor to construction management and design build. It’s adopted green building practices and has hired diversity coordinators. All of its project workers are storm-water certified.

“A lot of companies are fighting those kinds of things, rules and regulations,” Oosting said. “We’re embracing them.”

Led by the management team of Oosting, John Drozer, Carter Huffman and David Smith — which bought the company from Spencer Barnes in 1999 — CD Barnes is expecting revenue of $45 million this year. A far cry from the region’s largest construction management firms, Oosting said the company is comfortable with its size.

“I don’t want to do $200 million,” he said. “We’ve never been the largest construction company and I don’t think we ever will.”

Oosting said the company’s goals for growth are focused more on margins than revenue. It has turned down work that could hurt profitability, particularly those that don’t fit its expertise.

“We’re not going to build everything for everybody,” he said.

Nonetheless, CD Barnes had added one or two employees a year since 1999, swelling to 25 employees, and it is currently hiring. Its facility at

3437 Eastern Ave. SE
is already at capacity.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to grow quietly,” Oosting said.      

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