Whitewater Building Materials banking on economic rebound
As the allure of retirement called to them or the recession-driven drop in profits weighed on them, the owners of several Grand Junction-based construction-related companies sold earlier this year, banking on buyers to maintain operations or provide needed financial backing.
Whitewater Building Materials chose, instead, to add to its holdings.
That doesn’t mean the third-generation, family-owned business hasn’t felt the effects of the down economy. The number of employees has dropped to 42 after topping out at 60 a few years ago, sales are off 60 percent since 2008, and Vice President Mark Gardner expects business, even with a 4 to 5 percent increase this spring, to end the year flat compared to 2010.
But Whitewater’s purchase this month of a number of adjacent parcels of land from Mesa County represents a long-term investment and company confidence that the economy will rebound.
Ed Gardner said his family is betting on that rebound. He spends much of his time at the office with sister and Whitewater President Arline Stewart and son Mark, despite being retired.
Whitewater Building Materials, which supplies sand, gravel and ready-mixed concrete, agreed earlier this month to buy 12 lots at 1009 S. Ninth St. and 925 Fourth Ave. for $630,000. The property is immediately west of Whitewater’s offices at 940 S. 10th St.
The county used the parcels for years for a portion of its Road and Bridge and Traffic shops. It put the land on the market and intends to consolidate its Public Works Department operations at a new facility under construction on Coffman Road near the county landfill.
In the short-term, Whitewater doesn’t have any big plans for its new land. It will utilize the existing office and shop, which are newer than the buildings on Whitewater’s property. Mark Gardner also noted that the former county shop boasts air conditioning and twice as many bays for vehicle maintenance as Whitewater’s shop.
In the years to come, the additional property gives Whitewater the ability to expand and the convenience of direct access to Ninth Street, a major north-south corridor for industrial businesses.
“We’re down here in this area for the long term,” Mark Gardner said.