May 14, 1983.
On that day, the first papers were signed incorporating Bronson Builders and Design. A joint venture between a Kalamazoo-based architectural firm and Bronson Healthcare Group, this entity was the predecessor to CSM Group.
The first few years for the new entity were rocky at best as the local construction market was still suffering from the effects of the early 1980’s recession. This factor, plus the lack of a track record and an “alternative” (general contracting was the dominant commercial delivery method in this market at the time) delivery method, combined to make times difficult for the fledgling company.
By early 1986, the company had experienced net losses approaching $500,000 and the partnership relationships strained. The architectural firm had taken all initial design and field operational responsibilities and as the losses mounted, a decision was made to segregate those responsibilities.
Bronson brought in a veteran facilities director – Don Simmons – to head up the organization. His assignment was simple: assemble a field project management team, fix the projects that were already under water, and find a way to make up for lost revenue.
Don quickly jumped into the fray and within a couple of months, he had hired a project director, Tom Clark, and a director of field operations, Steve East. This small group tackled the cleanup of ongoing projects and launched several new projects, primarily for Bronson Hospital. The most notable of these were the new child care center at Crosstown and a new helicopter hangar/landing pad facility for the air ambulance service.
As 1986 and ’87 evolved, the relationship between the partners remained strained, and it became apparent that the partnership was in jeopardy. By late 1987, Bronson executives had determined that it was time to end the venture and initiated a buyout of their architectural partner.
No longer having a design component, the company evolved into a construction management firm and underwent the name change to the CSM Group. The acronym was a reference to Construction Supervision & Management (the engineering curriculum that Steve was involved with at Western Michigan University). Can you say lack of imagination?
Fortunately, the team had more inspiration than imagination and during the final years of the 80s, they managed to work hard and smart enough to recover the previous losses and return a modest profit to the corporation.
Several key hires and projects occurred in these couple of years. Walt East, Shannon Rice, and Todd McDonald were all employed during this time and major projects – including a new $10 million trauma and emergency center and the $18 million Bronson Place Retirement Center – were secured. These opportunities put the company on the map in the local market and enabled some momentum to develop.
As 1990 dawned, Bronson Healthcare Group engaged in a restructuring and refocusing effort. The essence of this effort was to focus on “core” services and, therefore, eliminate ancillary entities. CSM was a member of a group of these companies housed in a subset organization called Bronson Management Services that was slated to be sold or mothballed.
It was at this time that Don Simmons, who had successfully built and guided the company to its initial successes, decided he would return to the healthcare group and finish out his career there as director of facilities. Tom Clark had departed the organization in 1988, and this left Steve East as its president and prospective buyer.
Steve was able to negotiate a deal with Bronson and in the spring of 1990, the papers were signed establishing Steve as the owner of CSM. The company had approximately 15 employees at this time and revenue under $20 million annually. Steve incorporated key employees into ownership positions, and two of those (Todd McDonald and Shannon Rice) remain with the company today.
The ensuing years brought many great opportunities and continued growth. Significant projects in the early part of the decade included the Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies and the West Michigan Cancer Center. The company also ventured into other markets with the addition of Meijer as a client. CSM thus began a multi-year effort building dozens of superstores for Meijer in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.
The turn of the century ushered in several significant changes as the company continued to build on its health care legacy and launch efforts into the food and beverage market.
Fast forward to today and the company is now a national player with offices in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, MI and Memphis, TN. CSM employs approximately 100 construction professionals and hosts operations in 26 states. Market-focused divisions in healthcare, food and beverage, industrial manufacturing utility, education, advanced technologies, and commercial serve clients such as Kalamazoo Public Schools, Whirlpool, National Heritage Academies, HARK Orchids, two of the nation’s largest food manufacturers, Catalyst Development Co., and many others.