How do you celebrate your 100th anniversary? How about with a ribbon cutting, cupcakes and a tour of your recently opened facility?
That is what Rieth-Riley Construction, Inc. did today, May 5, exactly 100 years ago to the day when Indiana civil engineer and surveyor Albert Rieth started the asphalt and concrete paving company.
“We have found the City of Wyoming to be amazing,” said Chad Loney, Rieth-Riley’s regional vice president for Michigan. “The city has been very generous and is very pro-business. They have bent over backwards to help us accomplish this goal.”
Formerly based in Ada, the company bought five Aggregate Industries locations in 2009 including the one at 2100 Chicago Dr. SW. When the economy slowed, Rieth-Riley shut the facility down but a couple of years ago, decided to move its regional operations out of Ada to the Wyoming location.
“We are happy to have them come back to Wyoming,” said Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll, adding that Reith-Riley is a great fit to the industrial area located along Wyoming’s Chicago Drive corridor.
“We have about 13 acres here,” said Rieth-Riley Area Director Kirk Breukink. Breukink said the company has actually been on the Wyoming site since November 2014, redesigning the location to make it more efficient including tearing down an existing building and constructing a new facility. Those who attended the open house and ribbon cutting on Thursday were able to tour the site along with viewing a 10-minute video on the history of the company.
Started in 1916 by Rieth, the company’s focus is road construction and through its history has remained true to that providing highway construction, asphalt and concrete paving, site preparation and excavation, bridge construction, underground utilities and drainage construction, asphalt and concrete recycling, curb and sidewalk construction, mining and aggregate processing, and sand, gravel and other aggregates for construction projects.
Rieth’s first project was a county road in Elkhardt County, Indiana, his home state and where he founded the company. The project was $25,000 and later became known as Country Road 32. In 1918, George A. Riley became Rieth’s partner, hence the company’s name Rieth-Riley.
In the 1920s, the company expanded into Michigan with its first contract to lay paving on the Michigan State Trunk Line No. 11 near Sawyer in Berrien County. From there, the company grew with today there being 14 plants in the state. The Wyoming location serves as the regional office for the state and oversees operations at the Wyoming and Zeeland facilities. Breukink said the company has worked on about every major highway in the state of Michigan including 1-96, US-131, US-31 through Holland, M-6, and the M-231 bypass around Grand Haven, which helped the company earn a Michigan Asphalt Pavement Award and a National Asphalt Pavement Award.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Rieth-Riley is that it is 100-percent employee owned. With the deaths of the owners, Rieth’s sons Blair, Lee, and William, it triggered the company to move toward the establishment of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1986. Fifty percent of the company was sold to the employees at that time. In 1992, the employees bought the other 50 percent making it a fully employee-owned company.
“It was quite cutting edge to do that,” Loney said, adding Rieth-Riley was one of the first companies become employee owned. It also was a risk but one that appears to have done well for the business. Talking to employees, it is easy to find people who have been with the company 17, 23, 30 and more years.
Breukink said the company is in full swing for the construction season and is already working on various road construction contracts.
Approximately 80 people attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration at the site. It was a mixture of employees, city officials, and local business owners.