Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust

Expanding Job Opportunities for Ironworkers and their Contractors

The off the Job accident program has been a God's send for our injured members and helps them from digging a financial hole. There is a process  of educating the members, following up with the paperwork to the Trust Fund, insuring the member is paid. This extra time is on behalf of the Business Manager but it is worth it.

Michael L. Baker
Iron Workers District Council of North Central States




Relationships, employee relations key to Foundation Steel's growth

By Jose Davila IV

Foundation Steel's name does not just allude to the work it does, it also speaks to the strong roots of the company in its employees and safety.

The relatively young structural and reinforcing steel installer — it was founded in 2008 — has just been named to Inc.'s top 5000 fastest growing private companies list, coming in at number 3210. It is a fitting achievement for a company with roles in the ongoing Glass City Metropark and I-75 bridges projects.

Founded by Charlotte Dymarkowski, the Swanton-based company is one of the few owned by a woman in the local and national construction industry. Company officials, contractors, and union officials all pointed to Foundation's treatment of its employees, safety standards and relationships with other construction partners as reasons for its rapid growth.

"Contractors work with us because of our professionalism, safety standards, and we keep our word," Ms. Dymarkowski, who is also the CEO and President said. "We don't rest and look to make progress wherever we can… We are always looking to get better."

The company was founded in the aftermath of the breakup of the former Sawyer Structural Steel, another steel fabricator based in Holland. Foundation Steel, along with a handful of other steel firms like Black Swamp Steel, popped up to fill the local need for steel installation and maintenance in Toledo.

"Charlotte has a unique management style. Her style is as a coach," General Counsel Doug Dymarkowski, who is also Ms. Dymarkowski's brother-in-law, said. "She tries to bring the best out of each employee. You try hard everyday because you don’t want to let Charlotte down… It is also very unique to be a woman-owned company in a male-dominated industry."

When she first started the company, Ms. Dymarkowski said that she "didn't have a lot of respect" with the local construction industry and that many expected the company to fail.

Twelve years later, the company has expanded to include projects in Dayton and Columbus as well as in Southeast Michigan. In 2019 it topped $43 million in revenue and boasts a backlog of projects worth more than $50 million, Ms. Dymarkowski said. It also ranked 17th nationwide for the square footage installed with 775,500 square feet last year, almost doubling its 2018 output, according to a survey conducted by Metal Construction News.

Foundation offers a multitude of services to local contractors. The company erects steel structures, completes rebar and concrete reinforcing, maintains and moves heavy industrial equipment, and consults on project design where necessary. According to Todd Cooper, the general manager of the structural steel division, the company is working on about 20-25 projects at one time during a normal year. Some projects last for years, others only take about a week to complete.

Currently, the reinforcing division is working on a rebar project at the under-construction Glass City Metropark with The Lathrop Company and a project for North Star BlueScope Steel alongside Rudolph Libbe in Swanton. Down in Bowling Green, the structural division is building a new plant for auto parts supplier Magneti Marelli with Mosser Construction and, in Fremont, the Fremont Ross High School project with Hancock Structural Steel.

The big project, however, is the ongoing I-75 reconstruction project from the I-280 interchange south to Findlay.

"We have had five of the projects on I-75 and Foundation has been with us on all of them," Craig Wing, a senior project manager for heavy highways with Kokosing, said. "I've watched them grow and I've been a big champion of them. We have a great relationship with them. They do things the right way."

Doing things the "right way" seems to be the key to Foundation's success. For contractors and project managers like Mr. Wing and Kokosing that means keeping their word about when and how they will complete a project and putting safety at the forefront of their work. Ms. Dymarkowski also highlighted the company's constant communication with contractors as reason why they keep coming back to work with Foundation.

Employees, many of whom are members of the International Ironworkers Union and Local 55, also seem to appreciate the focus on safety and the care that company shows to its employees.

"Charlotte even bought a vehicle for somebody that was struggling after their vehicle broke down. She helped him get a vehicle so he could get to work," Mr. Cooper said of the company's dedication to its employees. "I call us a unicorn because a lot of construction companies are dog-eat-dog, but we are like a big family."

Foundation is a signatory union contractor to the IWU and is the largest employer of Local 55 members, Rob Monak, who works in workforce development and organizing for the union, said. Foundation's strong relationship with Local 55 -- Ms. Dymarkowski sits on the apprenticeship and annuity boards of the union -- has also been a driver for its growth.

"[Foundation] are the ones putting the men and women to work, so they've got their eyes on the talent," Mr. Monak said. "We are producing that talent. So, that relationship is structured so that they have a voice and that they have feedback when it comes to the direction of the ship."

The future still looks bright for Foundation even as some owners look to postpone projects due to the coronavirus pandemic. Construction on large-scale projects, like I-75, continues even amid the pandemic.

So, while the aim is to continue to grow, the slight slowdown in projects will allow the company to reassess what it needs to succeed and strengthen the aspects of the business it does well, Mr. Cooper said.

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