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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 5 years ago

Builder hearts Florida

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A $400 million Michigan builder and contractor, Rockford Construction, seeks to gain business traction in Florida.

A $400 million Michigan builder and contractor, Rockford Construction, seeks to gain business traction in Florida.

The company recently opened a Southeast regional office in Estero — its first outpost outside its Grand Rapids, Mich. headquarters. And it's already won and completed some jobs, including two senior living projects. One is the recently completed American House Coconut Point in Estero, a 194-unit facility with independent living, assisted living and memory care apartments. The firm is also currently working on a 108-unit senior living project in Key West.

Rockford founder and CEO Mike VanGessel says the company will also look to win work in hospitality, retail, education and multifamily. “I love the Florida market,” VanGessel tells Coffee Talk. “There are a lot of great people in Florida and a lot of great Midwest connections.”

VanGessel founded the firm in 1987, initially in Rockford, Mich., a small town outside Grand Rapids. It has since worked on more than 4,200 projects worth a combined $3.8 billion. Rockford had $408.2 million in sales in 2014, and was ranked No. 162 on Engineering News-Record magazine's 2015 top 400 largest contractors list. It has 315 employees and has handled projects in 30 states.

Rockford worked in Florida prior to the Estero office and American House Coconut Point. Notably, it built the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School campus in Tampa in 2012. That project involved repurposing a former insurance company's office building into a 132,000-square-foot law school that includes a 25,000-square-foot law library, a 336-seat auditorium and 24 classrooms. It holds 700 students.

VanGessel says one goal in Florida is to find not only projects, but also clients who seek more than four walls and a roof. The firm also targets clients in need of real estate consulting services, from development to leasing. “We believe the clients we work with are looking for a professional turnkey response to real estate,” says VanGessel. “We want to do custom work on many different projects.”

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