Winesburg Builders, a premier hotel, apartment, and senior housing builder, based in Millersburg, Ohio, is in full-growth mode. According to Brad Grose, President of Construction, the company, which was founded in 2002, started out as a small framing crew that grew organically into rough carpentry, and then finish carpentry, and finally into general contracting when, in 2008, it did its first general contracting job on a hotel. “It was decided then that they really wanted to get into and focus on the general contracting side,” Grose says. “We have since gone the general contracting route that specializes in hotels and senior housing. We do apartments, but our two largest niches are senior housing and hotels.”
Winesburg Builders offers a complete range of services for its clients all the way from project feasibility studies, to land selection and acquisition, to project design and construction, and even on to operation and management. The company also has the ability to assist in finding both construction and permanent project financing. Its many levels of expertise have served its bottom line, well. “We’ve doubled in revenue for the last five years,” says Grose.
“We’ve hired some very good people who are very good at what they do in the senior housing market and the hospitality market,” he declares. “Everybody says ‘cost-effective,’ ‘under schedule,’ and ‘quality.’ But we’ve taken it to a level where we’ve been able to hit some of the larger senior housing people and some major hotel chains. And we’ve done good enough that the hotel chains, themselves, are recommending us to their existing and new clients. We’re getting recommended not just by the hotel owner, but by the entire brand – Choice Hotels is our biggest one.” Choice’s portfolio of companies includes Comfort Inn, Sleep-Inn, Sleep Inn Mainstay, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, and Clarion Hotels, among others.
Grose says that Winesburg continues to grow mostly via word-of-mouth and repeat clients. When it does bid on a project, it’s because it is specifically invited to do so. “We have great clients who are large in the industry and they recommend us to other people,” he explains. “We have a great relationship with the Choice Hotel brands and in a lot of cases we’re recommended as the contractor. So, we get a tremendous amount of leads from that. We’ve owned properties, we’ve owned hotels, we still do own hotels, so we know that side of it from open to close – from the design all the way through the management side of it. We also have great contacts, locally, with sub-contractors who do nothing but work for us. So, we can maintain quality and schedule, and our reputation has grown.”
Another reason that Winesburg Builders has prospered is because of its leading edge, energy-saving, construction products and processes. “We do a lot of ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) walls,” says Grose, “which is not something that many are doing. We’re probably one of the largest ICF installers in our region.” ICFs serve as a forming system for poured concrete walls. They are made of expanded polystyrene panels held together by plastic ties which are embedded into the foam to hold the form together. These forms not only hold in the concrete, they also act as wall insulation. Thus, ICF constructions create buildings that are energy efficient, environmentally friendly, sustainable, quiet, and comfortable.
“We promote that product and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re very comfortable in doing it,” says Grose. “And we can get it to a price point where clients are willing to spend the money to go that way because not only can we sell the product and install it cost-effectively, but we can also, having owned some hotels that have that type of structure, prove to them the cost-effectiveness of it from an energy standpoint, long term.”
Winesburg Builders has about 100 employees, but due to the company’s dramatic growth on the general contracting side, it has imminent plans to split off its skilled field tradesman of around 75 workers to a whole new firm, still within the Winesburg family. Regarding its employees, Grose says that the company has always been fiercely loyal to all of its employees. Even during the height of the Great Recession, when project funding all but evaporated, it never laid anyone off. “We always had work,” he reports. “The margins obviously changed, but our goal, at the time, was to keep everyone busy, keep everyone employed.”
The company continues to treat its employees like family, involving their families in company parties and events. “Our guys work hard – many times long hours. We want to recognize the family that allows them to do that,” Grose says. That kind of company fealty, he maintains, is returned in kind. “We have tremendous retention” he adds. “People are staying and I think part of that is because we treat them as a family. We honor their kids, we honor their wives. We make sure everybody in that family is touched in some capacity.”
With the economy continuing to improve, Grose says that Winesburg will continue to expand in its preferred markets. “Our clients are very stable and, at least in the senior housing market, if a recession hits again, that market is not going to get hit as hard as other markets,” he avers. “The senior market kept us busy, even when hotels died down. And that market is going to remain strong for some time yet. Assisted living, private pay is also growing dramatically. Another one that’s moving very, very fast is memory care. People are specializing in that sector, now. So, we’ll continue to expand in those niche markets, and we’ll get into some apartments, as well.”
Grose says that the company is also growing its design services. “Right now, we’re designing for projects that we have some form of ownership in, as well as being able to provide design, in-house, for our clients as well,” he states.
“We are pretty much willing to go anywhere as long as the correct opportunity arises. We don’t go to areas just looking to find work. We’re asked to go by a specific person or for a specific deal” Grose adds.
Grose is optimistic about the company’s future prospects based on its current successful track record: “I don’t see why we can’t be a hundred million dollar company in five years,” he surmises. “We’ve definitely done some things that others have not; we’ve separated ourselves in cost because our area is very strong in trades; we have great access to wonderful labor forces and suppliers; and we operate a pretty lean and mean operation. We’ve got great people, great clients, we’ve got good processes and infrastructure. And we’re growing like crazy. I don’t see that stopping.”
Winesburg Builders – going full-throttle.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Winesburg Builders
WHAT: A full-service design/build firm and general contractor
WHERE: : Millersburg, Ohio
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