A view form the second floor at the new Rockford Construction building located at 601 First Street Northwest in Grand Rapids on Monday, September 9, 2013. Most of the wood used throughout the building is from reclaimed Grand Rapids Ash tress. According to Rockford CEO Mike VanGessel, the new 35,000 square foot facility is 95 percent recycled and includes an outdoor courtyard with a Grand Rapids themed mural painted by local graffiti artist George Eberhardt, as well as a green roofing system. (Andrew Kuhn | MLive.com)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Rockford Construction Co. CEO Mike VanGessel wants to help set a new tone for the old West Side neighborhood in which he was raised and his 26-year-old company.
That campaign starts with the 33,000 square foot headquarters that VanGessel will show off to the community at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Formerly an industrial painting facility that had sat empty for years, the new headquarters at 601 First Street NW is a sleek and modern office building with all of the energy saving tools and tricks needed to give it a Gold LEED certification. “We see this as a very strategic move.”
ROCKFORD CONSTRUCTION GOES GREEN
Seven things that make Rockford Construction Co.'s new headquarters green and sustainable.
• About 1,375 tons of contaminated soils from the former industrial painting facility were removed and sent to a disposal facility as part of the cleanup phase. Asbestos and lead-based paints also were removed.
• Rooftop skylights include monitors that gauge the amount of artificial light is needed to supplement the daylight in the offices.
• Low-flow showers, faucets, water closets and urinals are designed to reduce water consumption by 38 percent.
• About 5,000 square feet of wood paneling on the walls was created by harvesting ash trees that were afflicted with the emerald ash borer in the city of Grand Rapids.
• Offices are equipped with occupancy sensors that will automatically turn the lights on when someone enters the room and turns them off when the room is vacant.
• The green roof includes plants that bloom throughout the growing season to provide a source of food for local pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
• Where the roof is not "green," there's a white membrane covering designed to keep the temperatures inside the building down during summer months.
Source: Rockford Construction Co.
The $4.7 million project is a key part of VanGessel’s goal to continue a revitalization of the West Side along the Seward Avenue Corridor.
“I think the West Side is unique,” said VanGessel, who grew up near Harrison Park several blocks away. “It’s got strong residential, it’s a great place to work and it’s very walkable.”
“The reason we need to be here is that culturally we want to move into an urban environment so we can walk our talk,” he said.
VanGessel said the project also had to make economic sense and did make economic sense for his company, which is developing a reputation for building sustainable urban structures in “brownfield” settings.
By re-using 95 percent of the existing Miller Products building, VanGessel says his company saved over the cost of building a new office building on a green field in the suburbs.
Most of the building uses existing walls and flooring from the old building. But the floor has been elevated 18 inches to conceal the data cables, plumbing, heating and cooling ducts.
Big windows were cut down and replaced to save energy while still maintaining the goal of having every office exposed to daylight.
While the company now operates in 33,000 square feet of space compared to 40,000 square feet in its old headquarters in Cascade Township, VanGessel said the new offices are designed to create more flexible work space for collaboration.
The new headquarters also pulls together various elements of Rockford Construction that had been dispersed throughout West Michigan in recent years.
Looking over the downtown skyline from the building's glass-windowed third floor perch, VanGessel said his company is in the right place to achieve its urbanist future.
But one aspect that won’t change is the company’s “Rockford” name despite its local association with the town that serves as a bedroom suburb for Grand Rapids.
After more than 3,500 projects worth more than $2.9 billion, the 26-year-old company is too well known by that name inside and outside the region to warrant a change, VanGessel said.
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Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.
John Wheeler, co-founder of Rockford Construction
John Wheeler has sold his shares in the company he co-founded 22 years ago, Rockford Construction in Grand Rapids.
The change in leadership is part of a succession strategy mapped out some time ago, President, CEO and co-founder Mike VanGessel said in a letter sent today to clients and stakeholders.
"While it has been in the works for a few years, we are now successfully moving forward with the succession plan designed to ensure Rockford remains a leader in many areas of construction, management and development. ... The company has purchased John's stock in the firm. Mike has become chairman and its largest shareholder," VanGessel, president for the last 11 years, said in an e-mail sent today.
Mike VanGessel, CEO, president and chairman at Rockford Construction.
"Like many growing businesses, recruiting and retaining experienced, consistent, leadership means diversifying the ownership of the firm. It is with this entrepreneurial understanding and vision that we set out and are moving forward. As of today, our company is now owned by 15 individuals. Co-founder John Wheeler will transition into personal and professional areas within the community and beyond. Don't think of this as retirement; John's commitment to philanthropy and special community projects will remain alive and, likely, will grow.
"John will also continue as a partner in numerous Rockford Development Group projects. Likewise, his well-recognized personal commitment to being involved has
extended into setting forth a road of stewardship for all at Rockford to follow for decades to come."
Rockford employs 160.
Rockford Construction announced the appointment of Steven Frederickson as vice president, overseeing its health care division.
Frederickson will be responsible for building and maintaining relationships with health care clients and will oversee Rockford’s construction projects within the health care sector.
As health care institutions face new challenges after COVID-19, Rockford’s health care team under Frederickson will focus not just on the construction of health care facilities but also on new innovations that support creative models for research and development, more effective patient experiences and better health outcomes.
“When people need to go to the hospital, they are in their most vulnerable state, so I feel it’s an awesome responsibility to create a space that heals people,” Frederickson said. “I feel you can’t just build what’s on the drawings. Most builders are solely focused on cost and efficiency, and that runs completely counter to the healing environment.”
Frederickson brings more than 27 years of national experience in construction, design, development and program management with a unique approach to health care.
In joining Rockford Construction Frederickson has come back home to Michigan after working with Rock Creek Companies in Washington, D.C., where he served as president of the company. Previously, he served as president and chief operating officer of the Christman Company.
Frederickson has led projects with budgets ranging from $1 million to $750 million, including St. Mary’s Hospital master plan, Spectrum Health Cancer Center and Patient Tower, Medical Health System master plan and Michigan State University College of Health and Human Services.
“In addition to his vast industry experience, Steve brings with him a unique approach to health care design, construction and development,” said Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction. “Michigan has become a destination for world-class patient care and innovative research. With ongoing projects like the MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park, we feel this is the perfect time to welcome Steve to the team to lead our work in this critical industry.”
Frederickson said his passion for health care came during his first hospital renovation for what is now McLaren Greater Lansing in 1993. He got to know the chief nursing officer, and she inspired him to care about the professionals and patients his company was building for.
“In our health care system, you put up a temporary wall, and it gets artwork, painted, topiary … we insulate it from sound transmission. It doesn’t look like a construction zone because we’re looking at it from the patient and the family and the nurses’ and doctors’ side of it because when they’re at their most vulnerable, and they feel like they’re in a construction zone, that just raises their anxiety,” he said.
At Christman Company, he started a program called Nurse for a Day, where he would have the field leadership gown up and spend time with nurses before they put up the temporary wall and could understand operations from the health care provider’s point of view.
Frederickson holds a Bachelor of Science in construction engineering and management from Ferris State University.
DU honors Rockford Construction CEO Mike VanGessel and chats with Cleveland Cavaliers’ new coach John Beilein
The Excellence in Business Dinner Gala is Davenport University’s largest annual fundraising event that directly benefits student scholarships. The event has raised more than $2.4 million in scholarships to help talented students earn their degrees and make a lasting difference in our workplaces and communities.
This year’s gala was held at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids on May 17. At the event, Mike VanGessel, chief executive officer of Rockford Construction, was honored with the 2019 Peter C. Cook Excellence in Business Award. The event also featured a discussion between Davenport University President Dr. Richard J. Pappas and former University of Michigan basketball coach and newest coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, John Beilein.
Dr. Pappas kicked off the event.
“We’re here tonight for a few important reasons: To celebrate the business leadership and contributions of Mike VanGessel, to enjoy a conversation with our guest speaker John Beilein and, of course, to raise funds for scholarships, so we can help students at Davenport University ‘Get Where the World is Going’ in business, technology, health and urban education.”
2019 Peter C. Cook Excellence in Business Award Winner, Mike VanGessel of Rockford Construction
The Peter C. Cook Excellence in Business Award is presented to an individual who exemplifies professional success and commitment to community service. This year, we recognized the 22nd recipient of the prestigious annual award.
“It is with great pride that we honor Mike VanGessel for his contributions to business and his service to the community,” said Pappas. “There are few that have contributed as greatly to the successful growth and development we’ve seen in West Michigan over the past 25 years.”
A Grand Rapids native with strong ties to the community, VanGessel is drawn to projects that positively impact the way people live, work, learn, heal and play. He has led the Rockford team since it began in 1987, through more than 4,500 projects, which include building Davenport University’s entire Grand Rapids campus.
In his acceptance speech, VanGessel said, “It isn’t just our company that has the passion for changing communities – a lot of people in this room have helped us along the way.”
“I had the opportunity to meet Peter Cook several times and he was an incredible man. I was blessed to see his humbleness, his kindness…he was a great cheerleader for what we were doing and I can’t say enough about how great it is to be receiving this award.”
VanGessel also recognized Donald Maine – the former Chancellor Emeritus for Davenport – for his role in connecting VanGessel to the university and for helping Rockford Construction grow into what it is today.
Featured guest and Cleveland Cavaliers’ new head coach, John Beilein
This year’s featured guest was John Beilein, the newest coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and former University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach. Beilein is considered to be one of the best tactical basketball minds in the country. He is known for his integrity and continued innovation in college basketball during his four decades on the sidelines.
Dr. Pappas got to chat with Beilein in one of his first appearances after announcing his new position as the Cavaliers’ head coach. Here are a few highlights.
Pappas: What went into your decision to leave Michigan and go to the Cavaliers?
Beilein: I saw it as a very similar opportunity as when I chose to go to the greatest university in the world – the University of Michigan. To have one more opportunity to build something really special and to do it in the NBA with Dan Gilbert and his staff, and with a young team – for some reason, I felt that this was the one last thing I wanted to accomplish in coaching.
Pappas: You instill six values in your players – can you tell us about their origin? And will that change at all in the pros?
Beilein: No, it’s not going to change. All these years I’ve been a coach, we’ve had a lot of success in rebuilding programs and what happened was – we were over in Europe after our third year at Michigan. And, the first year, we weren’t very good. The second year, we made the NCAA tournament. The third year, we missed again. So we were going to Europe and my assistants said, ‘Coach, we’re a little nervous here because you don’t last long in the Big Ten if you don’t go to the NCAA tournament a lot. We know who you are but we have to teach our kids better.’ And I said, ‘We teach them every day.’ But they replied, ‘No, let’s really teach them; let’s get this organized.’ So we came up with the first five values: unity, passion, appreciation, integrity – by far the most important – and diligence. Then we added accountability in 2015 when we felt kids weren’t holding themselves or each other accountable. And since that date, we’ve been to 9/10 NCAA tournaments and four Big Ten championships…it was a game-changer for us. And it’s really important that we don’t forget that young kids today need to be taught these values.
Beilein spent 41 years as a collegiate head coach. He recorded 20-plus win seasons on 23 occasions and finished with a winning record in 35 seasons, placing him in the top 10 for career victories among active NCAA Division I head coaches. We’re excited to see what he’ll achieve in the NBA.
Thank you to our sponsors and supporters
The annual Excellence in Business Dinner Gala wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors and the Davenport community.
“Every day, I meet a leader, an educator, a philanthropist in the Davenport ecosystem who is dedicated to transformational education,” said Rachel Render, executive vice president of alumni and development for the university. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you in the room who have also shown dedication to that transformation by giving to our scholarship fund tonight.”
This year’s gold sponsors were: The Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation and Fifth Third Bank. Silver sponsors were: David and Carol Van Andel Family Foundation, Gentex Corporation, Haworth Inc., J.C. and Tammy Huizenga, Townsquare Media, Varnum and Wolverine Worldwide.
Thank you to everyone who joined us to support student scholarships at the 2019 Excellence in Business Dinner Gala.
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