Generations of Growth: H.J. Martin and Son
Another recipient of Walls & Ceilings’ popular Top 50 roster, H.J. Martin and Son Inc. celebrates its 85th anniversary this year with one of its most successful annual margins in recent times.
The company is a nationwide specialty contractor with services in walls and ceilings, glass and glazing, residential and commercial flooring, commercial doors and hardware, millwork installation, and retails solutions, including fixture installation. That’s quite a punch these northerners offer and its reputation for quality and “have license, will travel” ethos has certainly made them known amongst their national and international players (in the case of Canada just north of Wisconsin).
The company was founded in 1931 and spans four generations. Third-generation leader Edward Martin is the CEO and has been joined by two of his three sons, David and Joseph, who represent the company’s continued legacy.
The company got its start in the early ’30s when founder Henry John Martin began selling paint and tile out of the family garage in Green Bay, Wis. The subcontractor continued to expand through the years, adding flooring and glass products in the 1960s. In 1984, current CEO Edward Martin went to purchase a forklift from a local drywall company that was liquidating its assets. A conversation with a former employee of the closed business led Martin to start the Drywall division of H.J. Martin and Son (now Wall and Ceiling Division). From there, the rest is—presumably—a very successful history.
Nationally, the company has approximately 600 employees across all divisions: within its Wall and Ceiling department, there are roughly 120 employees.
“When we first got into the drywall business in the 1980s, it seemed like much of our work was in the construction of shopping malls,” says Edward Martin. “Today, while we are involved in the renovation of retail space, much of our new work comes at healthcare facilities, hospitality space and single-location retail such as grocery stores.
“We started with one screw guy and now we’re in all 50 states,” he says. “We have continued to add services throughout our history, maintaining the motto that one good job leads to another.”
Some recent and important jobs include Festival Foods, St. Norbert College, Navitus and Meijer. It seems following the Great Recession, more and more contractors have bounced back gloriously with record years. According to Martin, this year is wrapping up to be its best year ever, in terms of installer development, sales and efficiencies. He adds that 2017 already is forecasted to be even better than this year.
A Decade That Improves
Martin continues, at least in respects to the company’s Wall and Ceiling Division, that the current construction climate continues to be strong. H.J. Martin and Son recently landed a major drywall project in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that could see 100-plus H.J. Martin and Son employees on the job site at one time.
Also, national retailers continue to renovate and “refresh” their stores in lieu of building new locations, he says.
“Because of the trust we have built with some of the country’s best-known retail chains for both quality work and on-time completion, we continue to be tapped to handle their renovation projects.”
FESTIVAL FOODS PROJECT NOTES
Project: Festival Foods, Green Bay, Wis. Owner: Festival Foods, De Pere, Wis. Architect: Somerville Inc., Green Bay, Wis. Builder/General Contractor: RODAC Development and Construction, Green Bay, Wis. Wall and Ceiling Manufacturer Products Used: Dow Building Solutions, ClarkDietrich Building Systems, National Gypsum, CertainTeed Gypsum and Insulation (Divisions), Nudo Distributors: Badgerland Supply, Acoustech Supply, Foundation Building Materials, Torborgs Lumber
The diversification of services offered by the company allows it to have several different opportunities at a single location. Also, because the company is licensed in such expansive regions, it has opportunities to travel with general contractors should the market slow locally.
“Things usually slow down at this time of the year—but not this year,” Martin proudly says. “We are starting the major drywall project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (referenced earlier) and just got a remodeling project for 35 Menard’s stores.”
It’s clear Martin has as much emotionally invested in the company as he does financially. Creating a long-spanning legacy is clear to all the Martins. One of its goals is to create attractive employment and foster long-term careers for its staff, which creates company growth. As he says, when you provide more opportunities for your people, there is wage growth.
“We have had many installers eventually develop professionally, where they become project managers or move into other supervisory roles,” Martin says.
One of the recent highlights for H.J. Martin has been its work for Festival Foods, an experienced-based grocer with two dozen locations throughout the state of Wisconsin. The grocery chain is building a second location on the east side of Green Bay to complement its existing location, which often is overcrowded. H.J. Martin is handling multiple aspects of this project, including 94,000 square feet of drywall.
Due to rainy weather conditions that has slowed the pouring of concrete and roofing of the building, the subcontractor is condensing what normally would be an eight-week drywall project into approximately a month and half. To achieve this challenge, the typical average crew size of a dozen expanded to 16 to meet the demands of the job.
“Though we were delayed in starting due to the up-front delays which were out of our control, we still need to hit our completion date as the store’s casework and refrigeration units still arrive on a fixed date,” says Martin. The store is scheduled to open next month, before the New Year rolls in.
H.J. Martin and Son is handling the following items on this project: metal-stud framing, drywall, taping, exterior framing, foamed exterior walls (insulation), rough carpentry (wood blocking, plywood backing, etc.), the finish carpentry, the wood cornice on the exterior front, and the plywood for the main store signage.
Other divisions of the company are involved in this project: doors and hardware, ceramic tile installation, the overall flooring installation, and the fixtures installation.
How to Grow
Like any company endeavoring to evolve, H.J. Martin says it looks at difficult projects as opportunities for growth as challenging jobs make everyone better. For example, in 2015 the subcontractor handled high-end work for the first Wisconsin location of national retailer Nordstrom. Among the difficult aspects of this project were the ceiling-cloud layouts, criss-cross escalators, all drywall at a Level 5 finish, wood-ceiling installation with no face anchors, an interior vestibule and fine-line exterior canopies.
“Another unique project we participated in was the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., site of the annual World Dairy Expo,” says Martin. “More than 900 lineal feet of plenum was utilized to form the duct chase for a state-of-the-art ventilation system to keep the cattle comfortable.”
Martin believes that its long history of work at iconic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, gives potential clients assurance of its quality standards.
“We also are trusted to handle historic projects,” says Martin. “This year, we began work on the 90-year old YMCA in downtown Green Bay. The challenge is to bring an old structure up to current standards while maintaining its historic integrity.
What also gives the company an advantage is its willingness to travel. The company is licensed to handle work of all sizes from coast to coast. Additionally, because H.J. Martin has multiple divisions, it is able to package a lot of different services.
“We have the mentality that we are as only good as our last job,” Martin says. “In addition, we continue to focus on the customer experience. We want to anticipate our customer’s needs with great communication and execution from the design to installation phases. We hold job recap meetings, yearly customer reviews, yearly vendor partner reviews, and take all of their feedback and constructive criticism and implement it immediately. This ensures that our customers know we have their best interests in mind and are adapting to their expectations.”