Iowa Concrete General Contractor evolves from subcontractor into general contracting and design-build firm
Iowa Concrete General Contractor has been evolving since its beginning in 2011, when Mike Accola and Troy Zaruba joined forces and founded the company Iowa Concrete LLC as a concrete subcontractor.
Iowa Concrete General Contractor is now a full-service general contractor with design-build capability, and the company’s leadership team continues to focus on progress in an effort to meet the needs of veteran and new clients.
The concrete subcontractor has come a long way, offering expertise in architecture, computer-aided design, interior design, steel erection, carpentry and yes, concrete.
“We are versatile. We are a concrete company. We are into carpentry, steel erections. We’ve added three full-blown trades,” Troy says. “We became a general contractor that’s looking to take on as many self-perform trades when it makes sense for us.”
The company is based in Swisher, Iowa, and, in an effort to accommodate a growing client base, also operates out of New Franken, Wisconsin, near Green Bay. The Iowa Concrete General Contractor team travels across the country as needed to take care of new construction, renovations and maintenance projects, with experience in multiple industries, including commercial/industrial, logistics, hospitality, health care, senior living and multifamily. Beyond Iowa and Wisconsin, Iowa Concrete General Contractor crews have completed projects in states as far as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, Minnesota and Tennessee.
Shift to General Contracting
Iowa Concrete General Contractor had already earned a reputation for reliable, high-quality work when owners Mike and Troy hired Todd Kollross as Vice President of GC Operations in 2016 to help develop the general contracting services.
With that expansion, Iowa Concrete General Contractor has become a go-to firm for logistics companies Heartland Express, Inc., Millis Transfer and Schneider National, Inc. along with the home improvement retailer Menards, Mike says.
“Heartland Express was taking notice of our experience and work history as a general contractor, which basically led to Iowa Concrete General Contractor taking care of all of their needs throughout the lower 48,” Mike says. “That led to us getting an opportunity to be their one-source contractor for multiple projects.”
"General contracting made sense as the company’s next move," says Dean Dequaine, Director of Design/Build.
“It’s interesting to see how the company has grown and developed,” Dean says. “Relationships is the word that comes to mind.” Mike and Troy, who have almost 65 years of combined construction experience, have developed strong relationships with clients and colleagues, which in turn have created opportunities for their company, Dean adds.
Design-Build Services Lead to Cost/Risk Savings
As the company continued to grow, design-build services became an obvious next step. Adding this division allowed for better client contact plus cost, time savings and risk management. Iowa Concrete General Contractor works directly with clients for the duration of the project—pre-construction, construction and post-construction.
“Someone can hire us to develop the sites, create the drawings, pour the concrete, erect the building and complete the finishes of the building,” Troy says. “It allows us to control the schedule. We’re taking our own self-perform tradespeople with us when we travel for these projects and align ourselves with local subcontractors.”
The design-build model also allows for better quality control. “We know the capabilities with our self-perform crews, and we can guarantee quality,” Dean says.
Recent projects include a 28,000-square-foot development on 10 acres in Burleson, Texas, for Millis Transfer, a logistics company based in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Iowa Concrete General Contractor designed the project so that operations could continue during most of the demolition, development and new construction. The final project includes new stormwater infrastructure and a closed-loop system to reclaim, clean, treat and reuse water for the facility’s drive-thru truck wash. The facility includes offices for operations and dispatch, training rooms for drivers and a full-service truck and trailer shop.
A recent Heartland Express project was also designed to continue services without interruption. Iowa Concrete General Contractor renovated multiple buildings, totaling 45,000 square feet, for Heartland in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. This included full interior finish and lighting upgrades, an expanded service area for drivers and an improved truck wash and fuel island.
“During construction, this site was hit by a tornado. This event devastated the entire area and surrounding buildings,” Dean says. “Being on-site, we were able to react quickly to get the building weathertight.” Tornado damage created new needs, including replacing structural columns and portions of the roof along with rebuilding the guard building and replacing fencing and lighting.
Growing While Staying Small
While Iowa Concrete General Contractor has grown, the leadership team maintains that they still operate like a small company. “We are a small company yet we do a lot of work,” Troy says. “Mike, Todd, Dean and I are involved with all of our customers.”
Strong relationships have been essential for the company’s success not only among clients but also with employees. When the leadership team hires, they’re looking first for people who will fit within the Iowa Concrete General Contractor culture.
“We try to hire good people,” Troy says. “We can’t have enough good people. We do a lot of on-the-job training. We write standard operating procedures continually and rewrite them as we continue to learn.”
When they’re recruiting, they look for employees with positive attitudes and a commitment to expanding their careers long term with the company. “We want to hire someone who will complement our team and promote continuous improvement,” Mike says.
Looking Toward Legacy
Mike and Troy aren’t focused only on short-term growth and progress. They are actively managing the company toward legacy ownership with the goal to keep the company going long after they retire.
“It’s very hard to sell a construction company,” Mike says. “Legacy carries on the company. It makes sure that the company doesn’t dry up and go to auction one day. If the owners don’t plan for this, what happens to it?”
Hiring and leadership decisions are made with the long-term future in mind. Mike and Troy work to identify younger leaders who can eventually move into ownership. “You want to pay back the people who are helping you grow and achieve dreams,” Troy says. “We couldn’t have had the growth without them.” Working for a company that’s focused on legacy encourages innovation and camaraderie, Dean adds.
“Anyone in construction who is goal-oriented wants to have an opportunity to take over a company and grow and build it,” Dean says. “You start getting involved and learning different sides of the business—banking, legal, safety. You expand your own knowledge in these different departments, and you come back with fresh ideas.”
Mike and Troy welcome feedback from younger employees, Dean says, which encourages trust and growth within the company.
Solving Problems as a Team
The owners are proud of the company’s project oversight committee that meets weekly to solve project problems.
“We have a total team approach when it comes to problem-solving,” Dean says. The committee includes the leadership group, project manager and superintendent. They look at the overall schedule, owner issues, plan changes, equipment needs and more.
“It allows the whole team to stay current on the project both in the field and with client needs,” Dean says. “It helps the leadership group understand where each project is at and what we can do to improve. I’ve had experience with other general contractors, and I feel that this is a unique approach.”
As Iowa Concrete General Contractor continues to evolve to meet the needs of clients, the leadership team also stays focused on providing opportunities for its crew of about 50 full-time employees. “We’d like to build something that keeps going once the next generation takes over,” Troy says.