Elder Construction celebrates 20 years this week as a local commercial general contracting company. President and CEO Tom Elder sat down this week to talk about his family business, and how his sons are following in his footsteps.
How did you start the business?
I always worked construction. My brother and I had a construction company in Kansas for a couple of years. When we parted ways, I decided it was a good time to get to Colorado. My wife Lisa and I moved here in 1979. I accepted a position as project superintendent for a company called L.R. Johnson Construction, and I was his first hire. I also worked for Dunn and Art Klein construction companies. I knew I always wanted to get back into business for myself. That happened in 1994, this month. Like many starting out in business, I had big ideas but not much money. My office was a couple of folding tables in my unfinished basement.
It’s a family business; please expand on that.
In a small business environment you become close to the people you work with. There is a mutual respect that we try to foster, and we watch out for each other. What I’m most proud of as a business owner is that I employ people and they’re able to take care of their families. When things slow down, I don’t even like to think about what that would do to an employee. Also, our two sons, Christopher and Patrick are both in the business with us. In 2009 we opened an office in Loveland to serve the northern Front Range. Chris and Patrick both graduated from Colorado State, and they wanted to stay in the area. After about five years working for other people, they decided to join the craziness of working for themselves. One of their best friends came to work for us, and now it’s the three musketeers.
What kind of structures do you build?
We are a commercial general contractor and pretty much cover everything except maybe heavy industrial and municipal, such as treatment plants. In the last several years, we have done more than 25 dental offices and medical facilities. We have also provided an excellent value to the charter school community with clients such as The Classical Academy and Atlas Preparatory. We do ground-up structures and we hold licenses from Pueblo to Cheyenne. We have built a very loyal client base because we deliver quality products at a reasonable value.
A few years ago we did a little research on past projects and how we became involved in them. Seventy percent were due to repeat customers or referrals from those customers. I think that speaks volumes on how we treat our customers and the value they place in our integrity.
What has been your favorite project?
That’s a tough question. I enjoy renovation, taking something that has maybe seen its better days and make it new again. In the ’90s we completely redid the Hibbard Building downtown on Tejon. It’s a five-story building. We completely gutted that building, put in new elevators, all new electrical, new mechanical.
The challenge was that it was downtown, and it was our first venture to going vertical. We had a tight space to work with — Tejon Street and an alleyway. That was a fun project.
Another one we’re doing right now is a 17-unit apartment building we’re renovating to help families move from a position of vulnerability. We’re providing single mothers and others a safe, healthy place to live for a year and also to educate them while they’re living there. This is a project we’re doing for Dream Centers of Colorado Springs, an endeavor of New Life Church. The project is on Airport Road east of Chelton.
It’s a good project for us. It’s got such a huge impact on the community.
How has business fluctuated during the economic slump?
We make goals for ourselves, and we’ve surpassed those goals. We went from about $6 million in 2010, and now we expect to do $22 million. That’s both offices combined. I’m proud of that. We appear smaller than we are, but we have the firepower to do some good-sized projects. Our bonding capacity is very good. We’ve gone from 15 employees to 32 and eight new trucks in the last year and a half.
What is it like having two locations?
Having two offices has its challenges. We work hard at trying to maintain the one-company feel and the family feel as well.
We have a great Christmas party and put the folks from the north office up in a hotel. We meet in the summertime for a Rockies game which has been a great time for everyone.
We also Skype every Thursday afternoon when we have our company staff meeting just to stay connected better.
What projects has your company been working on lately?
We just finished the Colorado Business Bank on Pikes Peak, and we are currently remodeling the Vladimir Jones offices. Also, we just started the ANB Bank at Flintridge and Academy.