by Christine Ballew-Gonzales
SBJ Contributing Writer
Louis Kramer probably had no idea what would come of the small family construction company he started in Iowa in the early 1930s, according to his grandson, Rich Kramer, president of Rich Kramer Construction.
But Louis Kramer, originally a carpenter by trade, wanted more than just a way of making a living he wanted to forge a way of life for his family.
"My grandfather wanted to have a future for his sons and grandsons," Rich Kramer said.
The construction company continued to grow in Iowa, Kramer said, until 1991, when Kramer, who had moved to Springfield and worked for other companies, helped his family's company relocate to the Queen City.
While it might seem that the Kramer family was starting over from scratch with a new location, Kramer said that wasn't the case.
"I had my personal name from working for others," he said. Working with the contacts he had made in Springfield, Kramer, with his brother, Bob, and their father, Charles, built their Springfield client base.
Rich Kramer Construction does commercial and industrial construction projects, working extensively in steel erection.
In addition, the company acts as a steel erection subcontractor for other construction companies, Kramer said.
Rich Kramer Construction has worked hard to develop its own niche in the Springfield construction market, he said. "We do a lot of work in-house that other construction companies sub out," Kramer said.
Doing work such as concrete, carpentry and finishing that would normally be subcontracted has additional benefits for the customer.
"We have better control over what's going on," he said. Also, "We drug test everyone, so we have a lot safer crew. We also own our equipment."
Coordinating projects is easier with the work bring done in-house, and that helps Rich Kramer Construction complete jobs in a timely manner.
"We want to deliver the best quality we can and the best on-time delivery possible," he said. "Weather does affect us, but we do push our guys to the limit."
Pushing Rich Kramer Construction's crews to finish jobs quickly has led to the many fast-track projects that the company works on. Again, doing work in-house that other construction companies might have to subcontract out gives the firm an edge when projects are pushed up.
"When you're waiting on subcontractors to get things done, you're going to be waiting awhile," Kramer said. Producing high-quality results on time has helped the company lock in plenty of repeat business, he added.
And a good reputation goes a long way.
"When people say that anyone with a truck and a hammer can call themselves a contractor, it's true," Kramer said, adding that these characters tend to adhere to minimal industry and legal standards, hurting the construction industry and sometimes the customer.
In addition to a good track record and reputation, another key to the Kramers' three generations of construction success has been controlling turnover, a common problem in the industry.
"I try to treat the employees the way I want to be treated," Kramer said.
Good treatment includes fully paid medical insurance, paid vacations and invitations to company-sponsored summer recreation at the lake. Such perks are a rarity among construction companies, Kramer said.
What will the next chapter of the Kramer family business story be about?
"I look for continued growth to a point, then I need to see if any of the kids are interested in working with the company," Kramer said.
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