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Oregon construction firm values workers above all

No. 1 midsize business: A.A. Boos & Sons

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    Owners Robert Boos, left, and Charles Boos, center, join several of their employees at the headquarters of A.A. Boos & Sons. The company says it will pass on a risky project so that it can keep its workers safe.

    <The Blade/Katie Rausch
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Owners Robert Boos, left, and Charles Boos, center, join several of their employees at the headquarters of A.A. Boos & Sons. The company says it will pass on a risky project so that it can keep its workers safe.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
Enlarge | Buy This Image

At A.A. Boos & Sons company officials like to say the firm will handle “any job, any size, anytime.”

And it has the resume to back up that statement — with the Toledo Zoo’s aquarium renovation, Oregon’s Starr Avenue recreation park/​facility, and Cedar Point’s new GateKeeper ride as just some of the notable projects it has worked on recently.

But the truth is, the general building contractor has some strict caveats about the kinds of construction jobs it will take on.

“We’ve turned down jobs — all the time — and sometimes it’s painful because one of my areas of responsibility is sales and marketing. It’s in my DNA to want every job and bid every job,” said Scott Hayes, vice president of business development for the 67-year-old privately held firm located in Oregon.

“But if it’s not something that we do well, we won’t bid it. If it’s something we think would be dangerous, we won’t bid it,” he said. “The commercial market is really competitive right now and [commercial work] was never our main thing, but we do it. But when your profit margin is so thin, there’s a potential to either cut corners or do the work unsafe. If that’s the case, we won’t bid it.”



Why cut off the possibility of a large payday just because of a little risk? Because, “We do everything we can to make sure our people go home the same way they came in — safe,” Mr. Hayes said.

With that attitude toward its 160 employees, it isn’t any wonder that A.A. Boos & Sons was named the winner of the midsize business category for the Toledo area’s 2013 Top Workplaces competition.

The company, which had 2013 revenues of $25 million, cares immensely about its employees, making sure not only that they stay safe on the job, but also that they stay employed year-round.

“We like to keep employment going, so we do a lot of work inside in the winter, such as doing industrial maintenance,” Mr. Hayes said. “But if we have a period of time where the work isn’t coming in, some guys will want a layoff of a month and we communicate with them on that. But others want to work all year round, so we’ll find something for them to do,” he said.

“Sometimes we will have them work on philanthropic charity events, or we might have them build barricades in the shop. But we keep them working because we want to keep the good ones,” Mr. Hayes said.

And keeping “the good ones” is at the heart of A.A. Boos’ business strategy.

The company could have grown much bigger than it is, but that would have meant taking on projects far afield and hiring temporary workers whose abilities might be suspect, Mr. Hayes said.

Instead, A.A. Boos & Sons believes in having a permanent work force and it invests a lot of time and energy into training and work force development, the vice president said.

“If it’s purely about dollars and cents, it makes sense to do that because there’s a cost involved with coaching, training, and mentoring employees. We’ve done that cost … and this business model works for us,” he said.

Every A.A. Boos employee belongs to one of six local labor unions, “but our typical employee also is a volunteer fireman or, say, a farmer from Genoa. Our people have a strong work ethic,” Mr. Hayes said.

“We expect them to do a good job. But you’re also respected and rewarded for doing things the right way.

There is a consistency that’s weaved in the culture here — that there’s a right way to things, even if it takes a little longer or costs us a little more,” he said.

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