Construction and Manufacturing

Kalamazoo concrete company solidifies its presence in Greater Grand Rapids

April 22, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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A Kalamazoo-based concrete company is investing in its Grand Rapids operations, with a new fleet of ready-mix trucks, a Rockford plant and a second concrete batching plant at its Byron Center location. A specialty grinder from Italy also has been purchased for the company’s facility in Wyoming.

The investments will add significantly to Consumers Concrete’s capacity in the Greater Grand Rapids market, said Thomas Richeal, a company sales representative.

Consumers Concrete has 28 concrete plants across the state, many in the southwest region of Michigan, but company executives believe the best opportunities are in the Grand Rapids market.

“We’ve taken a hard look at it and Grand Rapids is where things are going,” Richeal said. “We want to be one of the players in the market, but we didn’t want to cause a fuss at first. We’re a quiet company.

“Those days are past us, and we want to take a much more aggressive approach.”

Richeal said Consumers Concrete wants to solidify its Grand Rapids presence due to the region’s potential growth in the next five to 10 years.

With more than 9,000 types of concrete formulas, Richeal said Consumers Concrete is well positioned to capture a significant piece of the market. Specialty mixes were made for New Holland Brewing’s new Grand Rapids location, and Richeal said high-end jobs for the Michigan Department of Transportation are a regular occurrence.

The company is able to diversify its products through a relationship with international firm Lafarge Concrete, which supplies Consumers with its mixes. Consumers is the first company to be allowed to brand the mixes under its own name, Richeal said.

While most would consider concrete a simple product, Richeal said that’s hardly the case in today’s construction and design markets. He said engineers are asking for faster set-up times, stronger products and more mixes designed for specific uses.

For instance, a new self-leveling concrete will be of benefit to the construction industry, Richeal said, especially for companies struggling with worker shortages. The mix makes a concrete twice as strong as conventional concrete and levels itself, so a job that normally takes five workers can be performed by two.

Consumers Concrete uses Lefarge’s brands and backs it up with marketing, sales and services teams to make sure clients know the capabilities of the concrete the company offers, he said.

“There’s a shift coming, and just having a general mix design isn’t going to be good enough anymore,” Richeal said. “Engineers are now requiring a lot of specifics, and that’s only going to grow.”

The specifics being asked of concrete providers and the ability of Consumers Concrete to deliver has allowed the company to fill a niche in a market that is fairly saturated. Richeal said there are many great concrete companies in Grand Rapids, including Grand Rapids Gravel, Huizenga & Sons and Hunderman & Sons; however, many of them are small, single-plant operations that have found construction niches.

He said Consumers Concrete has established itself in a specialty niche of supplying contractors with concrete that goes beyond standard expectations.

“It became apparent that’s what people think of us as, and where it has gone naturally,” Richeal said. “Why would we want to fight that image? We do this well. We’ve transformed from a producer putting out bulk yardage and focused on the correct concrete for the right applications.”

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