Diversity & Determination
Voss Plumbing & Heating of Paynesville, Inc. builds reputation cemented in, well…concrete
The recently completed The Ledge Amphitheater of Waite Park, Minnesota, is a point of pride for the management group of Voss Plumbing & Heating of Paynesville, Inc. (Voss). It’s more than mere coincidence that the company was up to its ears in the construction of the $26 million facility, which will host the most popular of America’s pop culture, past and present.
That’s because these guys are rock stars in the contracting industry—in this case the company’s Concrete and Masonry division, which poured the concrete at the 6,000-seat showpiece.
“We did all the concrete on it,” says Vice President David Voss. “It’s one of the best pieces we’ve ever done to date.” The company won the concrete job with an approximate $1.2 million bid.
Founded in 1961 as a plumbing and heating service by Voss’ father, Joe, the company today is much, much more.
Beyond plumbing, heating, air conditioning and concrete, the firm also performs site utilities and excavation, radon measurement and mitigation, water treatment and ground thawing—an essential service in the upper Midwest where winter has no mercy. It’s that kind of diversity, not to mention capacity to perform multiple projects, both residential and commercial, as well as skilled employees who can work in more than one division, that has made the company stand out in the marketplace.
“They are very professional and have the expertise to overcome project challenges when they surface,” says Dan Voronyak, General Contractor and Owner of Voronyak Builders Inc.
A Company Still Growing Up
In 2001, David Voss and Dale Klein bought the company from David’s dad. Bob Braun became an equal partner in 2016. Steven Gilk is the company’s Director of Operations.
Klein, the company’s President, is the longest-tenured, full-time employee at 43 years. “I was working for a plumber,” Klein says of when he joined the company. “I was 19 years old. Joe [Voss] had an ad in the Marshall paper. I called him and there you go.”
Gilk, Justin Braun, Tobey Lieser and Aaron Ziemer are minority partners, added on Jan. 1, 2021, as part of a “long-term ownership strategy.”
“We’re young and old all at the same time,” Klein says of the company’s evolved management structure.
When Klein and Voss joined forces to buy the company 21 years ago, there were seven employees, including the new owners.
Today, there are 80 employees—including master plumbers, journeymen plumbers, licensed radon installers and many experienced equipment operators—working for a company that did $24 million in sales in 2020, according to Voss. The key to growth, he says, was merging his concrete business with the company’s other core services.
“It gave us a little bit of foothold with specialized customers to do the dirt, concrete and mechanical,” says Voss. “And Gilk has a general contractor’s license. So sometimes we’ll do a design-build for specialized customers. We don’t advertise as a GC at all. But for many of our customers, we could potentially do 50-70% of their project depending on how their site utilities and dirt numbers were.”
Moving in the direction of design-build has led to a “spike in growth,” Klein says.
Another growth spurt happened when the firm was part of a team that built assisted living and skilled nursing facilities across a five-state area. Among those were Woodcrest of Country Manor in St. Joseph, Minnesota, and another in Bloomington, both projects in the $2 million range.
The company’s design staff can accommodate any size project, from design-build to working with a client’s plans and specs. Voss maintains membership in a number of professionally related associations to stay on top of the industry’s ever-changing contracting business practices.
“We’re going to continue a controlled growth,” Klein says. “We had a couple of spurts that really took off on us. We just slowly grow, add a few employees at a time and our jobs get a little larger. We’re very efficient at everything we do, and our guys work really, really hard.” The reason for the company’s success, Voss adds, has less to do with what management does, but all about “the dedication of all of our employees.”
Home is Where the Heart is
The city of Paynesville’s new baseball stadium, which doubles as a storm shelter, was another company project. The original idea was to erect a grandstand, but it grew into a multipurpose outdoor baseball facility. Then a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) turned this into a project to serve dual purposes for the community.
Much of the company’s work is within a 500-mile radius of its Paynesville hub.
However, it’s not limited to that. As Voss notes, the company was doing work in New Mexico last winter and some thawing work in Colorado.
“We’ll do anything anybody wants us to do,” Voss says. “We don’t know how to say no.”
Yet, while the growth of the company continues, Voss and Klein stay close to home base. Seven employees are designated for work in Paynesville.
“We still carry through after 60 years for our customers on the plumbing and heating side in Paynesville,” Klein says. “We still put in hot water heaters and kitchen sink faucets.”
Adds Voss: “We might go from changing Mrs. Jones’ kitchen sink faucet in the morning to excavating and hauling gravel for Canadian Pacific Railway on the same day—all out of the same division. Voss’ employees do just about everything.”
“I think we can do a lot of things for a lot of contractors,” Klein says. “If you give us multiple contracts, we install quickly when we’re under the pressure of doing all of it. I think it’s rare to find a company that can do that.”
Voss, the company, is active in philanthropy in its community. It’s something the owners are reluctant to talk about, but their fingerprints are on a few things. To them, the best time to give is when no one is looking. They prefer to give privately without a bullhorn.
The company did, however, donate the concrete, plumbing and heating to a Paynesville Community Service Center. Another philanthropy project is Veteran’s Park in Paynesville.
“This is where we grew up and raised our families,” Voss says. “This is who we are.”