Success Through the Decades
Hildebrand Concrete Construction Inc. promotes family-friendly culture
Work ethic and quality of craftmanship. These two assets are what inspired George Hildebrand, President of Hildebrand Concrete Construction Inc. (HCC), to open his own business in 1971. George’s keen passion and skill for the construction trades, specifically commercial and residential concrete construction, are at the heart of HCC. What began as a general concrete construction company, focused mostly on garage slabs and multistory buildings, is now a highly specialized firm that provides curb and gutter and site concrete throughout the Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, metro areas.
The company purchased its first concrete curb machine in 1983, which helped narrow its focus to curb and gutter projects for both private and public clients. Today, HCC has three curb machines and more than 30 employees, several with the Hildebrand moniker. As HCC evolved, so did the participation of the Hildebrand family. As a young adult, George’s son, Rick, started working for the family business. Today, Rick is the Owner of HCC, and in 2015, his son Paul followed in his footsteps and joined the company. Paul now fills the role of General Manager. That doesn’t mean George isn’t still very active. At 86 years young, he still visits the office every day and attends the annual World of Concrete trade show.
HCC works in a variety of markets, including transportation, education, retail, health care, historic preservation and residential. Rick says, “We did a lot of residential subdivision work up until 2008 when the recession hit; then we focused mostly on commercial projects.” Today, HCC’s portfolio includes a variety of mixed-use commercial projects, such as the Vancouver waterfront development project. This 35-acre site along the Columbia River is being transformed to offer offices, restaurants, shops, housing, a hotel and a park. The construction will create 3,300 residential units and approximately 1 million square feet of office space. Participation in this $1.5 billion project marks one of the largest in HCC’s history.
Creating something new isn’t always the focus; sometimes noteworthy projects result from unfortunate events. For example, the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 caused massive destruction to the surrounding forests, bridges and roadways. HCC was contracted to help restore the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, a 370-foot-high, 600-foot-long bridge along Washington state’s Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. The image of the HCC crew hauling a curb machine around an 8,363-foot mountain is certainly indicative of the strong work ethic George instilled in his team from the beginning.
Curbing the Competition
According to Paul, HCC has the best and brightest curb machine operators and curb finishers in the Northwest. “We’re the No. 1 curb contractor in the area. You can count on one hand the number of active slipform curb machines in the region. They are challenging to own and maintain, but we’ve got it down to a science,” he says. A variety of errors can happen when operating a curb machine, which can be costly. Rick says, “We have experts who operate and maintain the machines. If something goes wrong—and it has—you stand to lose all the material. Fortunately, we’ve learned enough lessons to catch many problems early on to save both money and time.”
Also, the ability to coordinate concrete supply with the general contractor’s timing is critical in the concrete construction world. Paul notes, “We have long-term relationships with general contractors in the area because we adapt to meet their schedules consistently, which can make or break a project.” Adhering to timing includes making sure equipment is operating optimally, which is why HCC’s machine operators stay on top of the latest trends and technology in curb machines.
Flexibility in Scheduling Is Key
HCC’s ability to work with general contractors on construction schedules and phasing is of paramount importance. “They are under a deadline and the schedule is always changing; we have to change with it and be flexible,” Paul says. This nimbleness has proven to be an asset, as seen in HCC’s enduring relationships with top local general contractors Tapani Inc., Robertson & Olson Construction Inc., and Granite Construction Inc.
Rick adds, “We’ve partnered with Granite on large ADA ramp improvement projects throughout Portland and Vancouver.”
Paul notes further, “We produce successful projects because we cooperate with one another. We both know what we must do to get the job done and coordinate daily to develop a rhythm. That seems to work well for us.”
This type of business is challenging, fast-paced and very competitive. According to Rick, HCC is often recommended by contractors on one simple premise: the staff members will always answer the phone or return a call regardless of how busy they are.
Cooper ‘Says’ It All
Long-term relationships with clients and contractors are important to HCC’s success. But what about culture? According to Office Manager Tyna Plumb, “when you work for HCC, you feel like you are part of a family. I’ve worked here for 12 years and have brought my dog Cooper to work with me for the past 10. He’s our mascot.” It’s not just a pet-friendly environment that attracts talent; it’s also about monetary and scheduling perks. Tyna says, “HCC pays 100% of employees’ health care costs. The company also offers a 401(k) match and holiday pay and bonuses.”
The power of flexibility is also demonstrated in how HCC supports its employees’ relationships with their own families. “Many of our field crew have families in Mexico. We let them have time off to visit and work with their families for a couple of months. Not many companies would allow that and keep the staff on as employees,” Tyna says.
This supportive environment has led to staff longevity. Many HCC employees have been with the firm for decades. “Barbara Anderson, our Accountant, has been here for 30 years. Estimator Greg Plumb has been here for 25,” Tyna says.
Paul chimes in saying, “Larry Curtis, our right hand when it comes to field management, has been with the company for 30 years as well. He’s a great field foreman and coordinator, expertly negotiating schedules with the contractors we work for.” Schedules and flexibility are a running theme at HCC—both adhering to them on the job and making quick adjustments when family or personal needs arise.
Good Staff Are Hard to Find
Working with family can be challenging, but Rick says, “We make it work because Paul manages the field crews and I focus on the business operations.” When it comes to staff outside the Hildebrand family, Rick says, “We look for people who are loyal. Many of the people we employ have been here for 20-30 years. We don’t lay people off just because we are slow for a month. We do our best to bid and schedule our work to keep everyone working consistently as much as possible.”
Good people are hard to find, so a culture of understanding, flexibility and loyalty is key. HCC’s success for nearly half a century may have started with foundations in work ethic and quality craftmanship, but its longevity is sustained by the family-friendly work environment.