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The Weitz Company, Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History

construction building moines iowa

Capital Square
400 Locust Street, Suite 300
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2331
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives:

Just as a building is constructed on solid footings to endure over time, so too has The Weitz Company built its business on a sound foundation of Core Values. Handed down from generation to generation since our inception in 1855, these values continue to guide us today. Simply put, our core values are performance with absolute reliability, long-term perspective, honesty and integrity, respect for people, and nurturing personal growth. Our mission is for Weitz to be a recognized leader in providing quality construction services. We will achieve this recognition by consistently exceeding our commitments to and the expectations of our clients, designers, subcontractors, and vendors. Recognizing the key to success is our people, we are committed to providing opportunities for career development and personal growth within a positive work environment.

History of The Weitz Company, Inc.

The Weitz Company, Inc. is one of America's top-ranked general building construction companies. Its expertise in building industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities earned it a number of honors as a general contractor, construction manager, and design-build expert. It constructs office buildings, malls, schools, hotels, industrial plants, golf courses and clubhouses, and luxury custom homes. Some of its well-known clients are AT&T, Hyatt Regency, Ritz Carlton, Motorola, TCI, Marriott, Hy-Vee Food Stores, MCI, and Du Pont. The high-rise Fox Building in Los Angeles became one of the company's better known buildings when it was featured in the 1988 movie Die Hard. The Weitz Company is the nation's leading builder of senior living communities, assisted living facilities, and continuing care facilities, with 129 projects completed in 25 states, totaling $1.2 billion. Its web site declares it to be "the oldest construction company West of the Mississippi River," based on its 1855 origin. This employee-owned company in April 2001 reported 121 consecutive months, or more than ten years, of profitability, an enviable record, particularly in the construction business.

Origins and Early History

The Weitz Company was started by German immigrant Charles H. Weitz. After living in Columbus, Ohio, for two years, Weitz moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1852, just six years after Iowa became a state. He made a strategic decision to settle in Des Moines just as the city was named the state capital. When Charles Weitz Contractors, the original name of the business, was started in 1855, Franklin Pierce was in the White House and slavery controversies were tearing the nation apart.

Charles Weitz's early work included placing windows in the Savery House, building a saloon and saddlery, and erecting fences when other work declined. In 1878 the founder branched out into coal mining for a short while as an adjunct to the construction business. The company continued to win noteworthy commercial and residential projects, such as the Younkers department store in downtown Des Moines, through the end of the 19th century. Many of these buildings still stand and remain an elegant illustration of the company's insistence on quality.

Charles Weitz died in 1906, but his three sons continued under the name Charles Weitz' Sons General Contractors. In 1908 the three brothers built the Des Moines City Hall. In 1910 the company built Des Moines' Lexington Apartments, a six-story building at 18th and Pleasant Street that at the time was "considered the first high-rise building west of the Mississippi River," according to Chris Olson in the July 8, 1996 Omaha World-Herald. That was followed by construction of The Hubbell Building in Des Moines in 1913 and Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, in 1917, the year the United States entered World War I. In 1919 the company built Hotel Fort Des Moines.

In 1929 the family business became incorporated under the name The Weitz Company, Inc. While many businesses failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, The Weitz Company won federal contracts to build post offices in 42 states. With the economy back on its feet during World War II, The Weitz Company grew by building defense facilities, such as the Ankeny Ordnance Plant finished in 1942. The plant later became the John Deere Des Moines Works.

Post-World War II Developments

After the war ended in 1945, The Weitz Company diversified into the construction of different kinds of buildings, such as retail stores, retirement communities, educational buildings, apartments, and mixed-use structures. In 1948 it built the Des Moines Register building. It also built the Des Moines Art Center in 1968.

In 1960 Weitz went international and started building grain storage in Pakistan and other developing nations. Although the specialty need was short-lived, Weitz demonstrated once again a knack for developing expertise in knowledge in a specialized area of construction. That flair for discovering new markets continued to serve Weitz well as it began working in the continuing care and retirement community sector. The company landed its first big project in 1964 with Lakeview Village in Lenexa, Kansas. With an eye for opportunity, Weitz began developing specialized systems and procedures to build these facilities. The company's early entrance into the burgeoning retirement industry gained Weitz recognition as the leading builder of retirement communities and continuing care facilities. In 1971 Weitz complemented its construction expertise with the creation of Life Care Services, a separate company that became one of the first to design, manage, and develop continuing care and retirement homes for senior citizens.

The Weitz Company in 1973 built the Big Creek Dam and then in 1979 completed construction of the Des Moines Civic Center. In the 1980s it finished two other projects in central Iowa: Capital Square in 1983 and the Prairie Meadows horse race track in 1989.

Going National in the 1980s

Beginning in 1981, The Weitz Company began expanding beyond its traditional Iowa market by starting its Florida Division based in West Palm Beach. By 1985 the company had added offices in Phoenix and Boston, although the Boston office later was closed. In 1986 the company almost doubled its business by acquiring Al Cohen Construction based in Denver and Colorado Springs. In 1987 The Weitz Company won the contract to build the Greenleaf Woods fitness center/office complex in Portsmouth, Massachusetts. It included a 33,000-square-foot sports club and seven office condominium buildings. The company was also the general contractor for Portsmouth's Sheraton Harborside hotel and condominiums. Based on its 1988 dollar volume from constructing institutional, commercial, and industrial buildings, The Weitz Company was ranked as the nation's 36th largest general contractor by Building Design & Construction in July 1989.

As Weitz expanded in the Southwest, the company found itself at the middle of a controversy that changed Arizona's bidding laws. In the late 1980s the city of Tempe, Arizona, and the Phoenix Cardinals requested bids to build a new training complex. Although Big D Construction Corporation of Ogden, Utah, had the lower bid, The Weitz Company was selected because of a state law giving local contractors preference if the bid was no more than 5 percent higher than the lowest bid. Although Weitz was based in Iowa, it also had a Phoenix office and had paid state taxes for two consecutive years.

Big D filed its original petition in Maricopa County Superior Court, but that request was denied. The state Court of Appeals also rejected Big D's request. At that point, Big D allowed The Weitz Company to go ahead with construction, but it did appeal to the state supreme court. The Arizona Supreme Court in 1990 ruled that the state law was unconstitutional. It said the law passed to aid local companies during the Depression "creates an economic burden, not a benefit, for the public entities bound to follow it," as reported in the March 31, 1990 Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, The Weitz Company in the late 1980s worked on more projects in eastern Nebraska. "The company had been working in Omaha out of its Des Moines headquarters for several years before opening an Omaha office," said Leonard Martling, president of the company's Omaha Division in the July 8, 1996 Omaha World-Herald. "We opened that office at about the time we were doing the renovation of Westroads Shopping Center and the construction of Two Pacific Place."

When Bruce Willis starred in the 1988 Hollywood movie Die Hard, most viewers did not realize that the high-rise Fox Building in Los Angeles had been built by The Weitz Company. Weitz President Glenn DeStigter cringed when he saw the skyscraper explode into flames as the result of terrorist bombs, even though he knew it was just from special effects. "You watch it with two eyes, one on the interesting movie and the other on what they're doing to our building," said DeStigter in the February 18, 2001 Des Moines Sunday Register. "There's a personal pride in these things we build."

The Weitz Company in the 1990s and Beyond

In 1995 The Weitz Company and Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc. formed Hy-Vee Weitz Construction to build, remodel, or expand Hy-Vee grocery stores. Before this joint venture, Weitz had built the Hy-Vee corporate headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa, as well as Hy-Vee stores in Creston and Pella, Iowa. The first project of the joint operation was a new Hy-Vee grocery store in Lincoln, Nebraska. The company initially expected to generate annual revenues of between $50 million to $70 million. Weitz and Hy-Vee each owned half of the new firm and shared equally in its profits.

Soon after the Hy-Vee alliance was started, Weitz began another joint venture. It partnered with Impark Limited, a major developer and manager of parking structures, to create Imperial Weitz, which was set up to build and repair parking facilities.

The company in 1995 became an employee-owned firm after four generations of Weitz family ownership. A debt-free buyout resulted in about 150 managers and executives owning the company. According to its web site, in 1995 the "new leadership of Weitz adopted a new management style based on the Federalist model ... by allowing for its diverse operational units to be allied under a common flag with a shared identity." In December 2000 the company's board of directors broadened the opportunities for more employees to own part of the company, so that in 2001 more than 250 employees were Weitz shareholders.

The Weitz Company in 1996 built the Principal Financial Group "Z" Building. In October 1996 officials of Palm Beach Atlantic broke ground on their $5.5 million recreation center to be built by The Weitz Company, the general contractor. The West Palm Beach, Florida complex was designed to include a fitness center, indoor jogging track, courts for handball and racquetball, an 1,800-seat main arena, an auxiliary gym, and four locker rooms.

By summer 1996 the Omaha Division of The Weitz Company had constructed seven projects in Omaha. The Omaha Division also finished two projects in Blair, Nebraska (Dana College's classroom center and its Trinity Chapel and MidAmerica Computer Corporation's facility) and two in Lincoln, Nebraska (Somerset Apartments and the Gateway Mall's enclosure). At the same time the division was planning or working on the Council Bluffs Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites; the Marble Rose Estates assisted living facility in Bellevue, Nebraska; and the Kellom Heights town homes and St. Vincent de Paul Education Center in Omaha.

In 1998 The Weitz Company seized the opportunity to enter a new arena of business. Weitz Golf International, LLC was founded in December 1998 and immediately teamed with Golden Bear Golf, the design firm of golf great Jack Nicklaus, to work on several projects. The Weitz Company previously had built The Links at Spanish Bay, a Pebble Beach, California golf course; and clubhouses for John's Island Golf Course in Vero Beach, Florida; the Tonto Verde Golf Club in Rio Verde, Arizona; the Ibis Golf and Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Ancala Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona; Columbine Country Club in Littleton, Colorado; and Wellington, Florida's Binks Forest Club. In a Business Wire dated December 14, 1998, Golden Bear Golf Chairman Jack Nicklaus said, "Golden Bear Golf made a decision to team with a contractor who has a national reputation for quality and integrity. The company's track record speaks for itself."

Building Design & Construction in July 1999 ranked The Weitz Company number 25 out of 70 contractors, based on the 1998 dollar volume of construction of commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings. Commercial buildings accounted for 72 percent of Weitz volume, with 14 percent from industrial buildings, 11 percent from institutional buildings, and the rest from water treatment plants.

In 2000 The Weitz Company acquired Abell-Howe Construction Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Founded in 1921 as a Chicago cable and chain company, Abell-Howe became a general contractor in the 1930s and began in Cedar Rapids in 1948. After World War II, it built Iowa City buildings such as the Collins Radio Building, the Square D plant, and structures for the National Biscuit Company and Sheller Globe. It also completed buildings for Iowa Electric, Weyerhaeuser, Alliant, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, General Mills, Kirkwood Community College, Brenton Banks, and Guaranty Bank & Trust.

Examples of Weitz construction projects included the expansion and renovation of The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida; mechanical parts of the central heating and cooling plant in Denver's new airport terminal; and the corporate office building for Hi-Bred International Inc. in Des Moines. Writer William Ryberg reported in February 2001 that The Weitz Company and Kansas City's Turner Construction Company had been selected to construct the $160 million Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

Experienced leaders played a key role in the company's success in gaining and fulfilling such contracts. For example, its nine division presidents averaged more than 20 years with the company, and all were promoted through the ranks. Its superintendents had more than 25 years' average experience. Weitz President and CEO Glenn DeStigter, a graduate of Iowa State University, began with The Weitz Company in 1968, continuing his own family's tradition in the construction business.

Other factors also were important. Its 35 project web sites strengthened communications among its subcontractors, architects, engineers, and others. In a traditionally male occupation, The Weitz Company hired many women. Such innovations in technical and personnel matters, combined with its heritage of accomplishment and sound leadership, prepared The Weitz Company for future success.

Principal Subsidiaries: Capital Resources Group, Ltd.; Village Distributors, Inc.; Vulcan Construction Company.

Principal Divisions: Weitz Corporate; Weitz National; Weitz Arizona; Weitz Colorado; Weitz Iowa; Weitz Florida; Weitz Nebraska; Weitz Golf International; Hy-Vee Weitz; Imperial Weitz.

Principal Competitors: Sundt Corp.; Turner Corporation; Whiting-Turner; JE Dunn; Kiewit; Taylor Ball.

Chronology

  • Key Dates:
  • 1855: Charles H. Weitz founds the company.
  • 1890: Weitz constructs home for the blind.
  • 1903: Charles Weitz' Sons General Contractors is handed down to three sons.
  • 1929: The business is incorporated as The Weitz Company, Inc.
  • 1930: Weitz wins project to build post offices for the federal government and over the next several years completes projects in 42 states.
  • 1960: Weitz builds grain storage in Pakistan and other developing countries.
  • 1962: Weitz wins contract to build Lakeview Village, a retirement community in Lenexa, Kansas.
  • 1971: Weitz starts Life Care Services, a developer and manager for continuing care retirement communities.
  • 1980: Weitz expands by forming Weitz Southwest in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • 1986: Company acquires Al Cohen Construction with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs and doubles in size.
  • 1995: A management-led employee buyout of the construction company is completed, and Weitz adopts a Federalist style of management with autonomous division offices; The Weitz Company, Inc. is incorporated as an "S" corporation, and the Omaha construction office becomes Weitz Nebraska, a full-service division; The Weitz Company and Hy-Vee, Inc. form Hy-Vee Weitz Construction, L.C.
  • 1998: Weitz Golf International LLC is founded in North Palm Beach, Florida, to work with golf course designers including Jack Nicklaus.
  • 1999: Weitz Golf International goes bicoastal with the acquisition of Fairway Construction, a golf course builder in Temecula, California; based on its 1998 revenues, the company is listed for the first time in Forbes magazine's list of the nation's largest 500 privately held companies.
  • 2000: Weitz Iowa acquires Abell-Howe Construction Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a new division is launched: Weitz Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas.
  • 2001: Weitz Colorado purchases Norris & Associates, a Glenwood Springs, Colorado-based builder of commercial buildings and homes; Weitz expands employee ownership opportunities by reorganizing as a limited liability company, effective January 1.
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