Granger Construction: Exceptional Approaches Behind a Prominent Bottom-up Builder

On its path to become an impactful contracting firm, Granger Construction advances the art of building by extending its local impact and enhancing relationships with both employees and customers.
Granger Construction staff at the Sheriff office
Courtesy: Granger Construction
By | 12 min read

Founded in 1959, Granger Construction is an ENR Top 400 company headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, specializing in design-build, construction management, integrated project delivery and general contracting services for the commercial, industrial, K-12, higher education, healthcare and corrections market segments. Granger Construction is a family-built company, starting from Alton Granger and is now led by his son Glenn Granger.

Being a Partner, Not Just a Builder

Granger Construction is a results-oriented general contractor with an established base core of values: integrity, quality, schedule, and safety with a focus on client service. Don Kowell, Vice President of Business Development for Granger Construction, feels that these values help set the company apart from other construction companies. Granger Construction values honesty and looks out for the owner’s best interest to minimize cost and ensure quality and lasting value.

Granger Construction appreciates the time and effort involved in the development of plans and specifications, and it is important to provide exactly what is required. Sometimes, however, when budgets present a challenge, the company prides itself on the ability to creatively work with owners and architects, examine the issue and find creative cost-effective solutions when needed without affecting quality and functionality.

“We do our due diligence,” says Bob Poresky, Business Development Manager for Granger Construction. “If there is not good synergy, it is not beneficial for us or for the client.”

 Through exuding this type of integrity and honesty, Granger Construction has achieved a good reputation in the construction industry and has several repeat clients.

“Granger Construction’s commitment to customer service is what impressed me the most,” says Brian Hanson, an architect in Syracuse who has in the past worked with East Syracuse-based Granger Construction.

Granger Construction collaborate in an internal training
Courtesy: Granger Construction

The company constantly reflects on the relationship with its customers and enhances Granger’s values through insights gained from them. It is a requirement of every Granger Construction Project to have a published list of the owner goals. These are usually collected during an initial project meeting that includes the owner, architect and other key providers.

“Over the past few years, we’ve put a lot of effort into extracting and examining the unique elements of the Granger Construction experience and DNA. We captured a portion of this with our Value Proposition: ‘We understand the owner goals and aspirations and seek to provide unconventional solutions.’ For this post, I’m focused on diving deeper into understanding the owner goals and how doing so can help steer our customer support and decision guidance.” – Glenn Granger shared.

Putting Employees First 

Granger has a strong history of prioritizing its employees’ development and is constantly recognized as one of the best companies to work for. A couple of days ago, the company announced its intention to provide a 401(k) plan with employer matching for its union trade employees. House and Senate stimulus measures passed in March of this year are intended to bolster pension plans, and Granger is taking this extra step to further ensure its employees’ financial futures.

“This added benefit allows our union employees to take personal responsibility for their financial future. Not only does this augment Granger’s overall employee benefits package, but we’re also doing our part to improve the construction labor market for our industry,” said Glenn Granger. “We know our team members are the firm’s greatest asset.”

“There are many reasons this is great for the tradespeople at Granger,” said Superintendent Rich Grove. “Granger will be the only union company that offers this benefit, which will ensure that we attract the best talent and have the strongest teams in the field. The 401(k) plan also provides an additional source of retirement income alongside our pension and annuity. This allows us to invest our annuity into our own plan upon retirement with no penalty. The 401(k) will also give us more control of our retirement; we can choose to invest our own dollars and receive matching funds from Granger.”

Granger Construction collaborate in a meeting
Courtesy: Granger Construction

This program enables individuals who are not formally part of a labor organization to roll their 401(k) into the Granger plan and become a part of the team.

Granger Construction also implements learning programs to boost its human resources’ excellence. In 2017, Granger offered more than 560 hours of learning opportunities to its employees and greater than 3,800 hours of actual learning was recorded by Granger employees – an average of approximately 28 hours per full-time employee.

 The learning goals for 2017 focused on three primary areas: leadership, internal systems and processes, and company-wide strategy. Implementing these learning goals was no small task for Granger’s senior leadership and human resources representatives. The company increased its headcount by nearly 20 percent throughout the year, increasing the challenge associated with delivering quality content to the right people at the right time.

Granger’s most dynamic program is the Dale Carnegie Leadership Fitness Class, comprised of a weekly four-hour class for 12 consecutive weeks. Granger employees develop confidence, stress management and general communication skills through participation. Graduates of the leadership program exhibit improved public speaking skills, greater workplace happiness and open mindedness.

 “This class was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had at Granger,” said Visual Design Coordinator, Erica Ross. “The class required us to dig deep personally and sometimes things were difficult to share or challenges were nerve-wracking to overcome. But, I feel a special bond with the other participants in this class and I feel more confident in my abilities as a leader after participating in this course.”

In addition to its standard training curriculum, Granger selected three topics of focus based on the company philosophy around successful project completion. These sessions are formally known as Core Trainings and include the topics of Change Management, the Preconstruction Process, and Project Closeout. These training sessions are attended by all project engineers and team leaders to ensure quality delivery on the jobsite.

Employees can also benefit from numerous IT training sessions, program tutorials and groupthink workshops. These training systems have proven successful on the jobsite, as numerous organizations provide rave reviews about Granger-led projects.           `          

Building “Big” by Staying Local 

When Granger Construction goes into a community to start a project, the team tends to “become the local guys,” said Vice President David Olson. And the company wants to maintain that, even as it expands its footprint, as it did many years ago in Grand Rapids.

Lansing-based Granger, which has worked in West Michigan for decades, established an office in Grand Rapids the “right way,” Olson said, by selecting a location in a high-profile downtown building, the Boardwalk on Monroe Avenue N.W.

“We felt, in the West Michigan community in particular, you need to have a presence there and be involved on multiple levels, including philanthropic,” President Glenn Granger said. A company needs to participate in the local community to build a network of relationships and projects, he added.

Granger Construction staff at a job site and inspect
Courtesy: Granger Construction

That focus on local participation carries over into another major goal for Granger Construction: putting local people to work. The company spends time up front to work with the local community and subcontractors and help them succeed. “We set up shop in a community, we advertise for local subs, we meet with them, we talk about the project — because we want the money to go where the money’s coming from,” Olson said. “There are taxpayers that pay for this, and they should derive the benefit from that.”

West Michigan Regional Director Rob Train believes utilizing local companies is more important now than ever. That’s evident, for example, in the bond proposals that keep passing even in the down economy, he said.

 “I think with local governments — like K-12 school districts and maybe smaller municipalities, cities, townships — there seems to be an overriding theme with these folks that ‘We want to do this project now because we want to put our people to work,’” Train said.

In fact, long-time client Ferris State University even asked Granger Construction to measure how much money from a student housing project was being spent locally. The numbers were surprising even to Granger. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of the labor hired and money spent stayed within a 60-mile radius.

 “We can’t be everywhere; we can’t always be local,” Train said. “But when we do come in, as a construction manager, we’re usually a small, insignificant piece of the pie, dollar-wise, but our resources around the state can connect the right people to get local contractors involved in these projects.”

Train thinks subcontractors usually are happy with Granger’s approach to including local companies. During an addition to the Newaygo County jail, he found a lot of local subcontractors were interested in the project. But after meeting with Granger and reviewing the project, “they would respectfully decline if they didn’t feel like they could” perform the work.

 “I think they were happy to see the project go forward with somebody else, but they don’t have any sour grapes about it,” Train said.

 And Granger took a unique approach to local labor while finishing up an expansion to the Michigan Youth Correctional Facility in Baldwin last winter, Train said. The construction team asked a local minister, with whom they’d become familiar, if he could recommend a company for the final cleaning of the project. He couldn’t, but he knew a lot of his church members were out of work. Both he and Granger saw this as an opportunity.

The minister had to put together a bid and get insurance, but he ended up securing the job for those individuals. “That was just a neat experience to see him go through, from nothing to being able to put together a group that could do cleaning on this project,” Train said.

 Even if the impact isn’t so obviously direct, utilizing the local work force has multiple benefits for both the project and the community.

Granger Construction staff in a training session
Courtesy: Granger Construction

“One is it tends to add people who are more committed to the quality of the product,” Granger said. “It also tends to help with the local economic development goals that a project has because, typically, when you’re building a project in the community, that’s only one element of the job creation. There’s also the fact that people can go out and go to the coffee shop and go and do their dry cleaning and all the things that happen when the salaries stay in the community.”

Granger Construction plans to continue its focus on local subcontractors even as it looks for areas in which to grow. In addition to the company’s core strengths, such as education, health care, corrections and municipal work, Granger Construction is also looking at alternative energy projects. Olson believes that is the biggest emerging market, especially in Michigan.

 “All over the state, there’s a lot of opportunities,” Olson said of the push into alt energy. “We’re kind of in all of those, in as much as the opportunities are presenting themselves. Some are (progressing) faster than others, but we’re in the mix on all of them.”

Expanding into the Healthcare Market

Although Granger Construction’s primary focus has been on the northeast and greater New York state, its team has traveled further down the east coast with their repeat clients.

Granger Construction has a diverse portfolio, showcasing experience in various types of construction, including hotels, multi residential facilities, cinemas, grocery stores, retail complexes, commercial office buildings and healthcare facilities. Poresky says Granger Construction is committed to further expanding into the healthcare market. The firm is capable of managing new construction from the onset of a project, as well as interior office build-outs, and specialized types of healthcare projects including, but not limited to facilities for medical or dental offices, new or redeveloped assisted- and senior-living communities, specialist services, imaging and diagnostic centers, dialysis facilities, and physical therapy offices. Granger’s capabilities fit well in managing projects such as a medical campus comprised of multiple buildings, single or multi-story.

“We are experts in understanding the requirements in the theory and applications of construction principles, irrelevant to the building type,” Poresky says. “Whether you are building a new building or renovating an existing space, you have a vision and expectations of the project; completion dates, budgets, quality and functionality, comfort and esthetics; you expect it done right. Granger Construction Company will deliver those results, exceeding your expectations!”

Although healthcare projects are specialized, Granger Construction’s team has the depth of experience required. The architect designs each project, develops the drawings and specifications providing a full understanding of the details needed to deliver exactly what is intended. Granger Construction Company has worked in collaboration with owners, facility managers and design teams to develop projects from conception to planning, budgeting, approvals and then construction. The team concept is especially relevant in aiding clients who are looking to build, renovate, expand or just reconfigure in an effort to solve a space constraint in a current facility. Similar to triage the design team gathers facts to fully understand the challenge, diagnose and prevent potential side effects, examine cost, schedule and assemble the right team of subcontractors and suppliers. Then the team manages and monitors the process. The result is a healthcare project that meets or exceeds expectations in quality and function, while meeting schedule and budget goals

Focus On What Matters

Granger Construction engineers at the office during break
Courtesy: Granger Construction

Kowell and Poresky both agree that project management is key to a successful build and urge owners to inquire about a construction company’s management, availability and background prior to negotiating a contract or entering a competitive bid. Granger Construction carefully screens all employees and makes sure to assign the right people to each job when using subcontractors and other laborers. They utilize sound techniques, and the right technology to ensure quality control, scheduling and overall management.

“Sometimes companies overextend themselves by taking on too many projects at a time,” Kowell says. “However, we are very conscious of capacity and availability of our subcontractors to ensure that we will have the resources to complete an awarded project.”

“Once a project is awarded, a project manager and a full-time, on-site superintendent are assigned to oversee the team,” Poresky says. “The business development group stays involved as liaison in support of the project team. The team stays on task from the beginning to completion of the project.”

 There is so much more to a project than just a low bid price. Granger Construction strives to meet or exceed client expectations by placing a focus on communication between owner, architect and the entire construction team, through collaborative efforts, careful management of the project and demonstration of their core values.

The Golden Rule

Building a strong community is the golden rule and has been the foundation for Granger Construction since its inception. For Granger, giving back comes back to his faith: “‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’ — Luke 12:48. I’m inspired by this passage and just incredibly grateful for the privilege of being part of this community. God has given our family a lot to be thankful for, and I have a strong desire to be of service to others.”

Granger also gives of his time generously. He has been part of the Strategic Planning Committee and campaign chairperson for the Capitol Area United Way for years. In addition, he is an emeritus board member for Alma College, where he served for 13 years; is an emeritus board member for the Sparrow Foundation; and is a Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce board member. He has also been a member of the Lansing Rotary Club for more than 20 years.

Granger’s civic-minded nature even extends to the family dog, who was named 2020 Pet of the Year from the Capitol Area Humane Society. Still, Granger remains humble.

  • About: Lina Tran
    Joining EnvZone with a focus on performance analysis, Lina is thrilled to explore the business world by covering the ups and downs of hundreds of companies from which her clients…