In the spring of 2005, John and Tamara Schmidt filed the paperwork that brought Tri-City Groundbreakers to life. John, a machine operator in his late twenties, set out with the mission–
“To provide exceptional value and superior workmanship while maintaining an upright character and a commitment to excellence beyond ourselves.”
With a team of just himself and one hired worker, John and Tamara planned to do small residential work. Little did they know that the industry had very different plans.
Within the first two years, two contract opportunities arose that set a new course for the business. Both Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor initiated work in their plants and asked for bids on the projects. Despite the obvious hurdles of tackling large jobs with a new company, John and Tamara decided to take the leap. “It wasn’t really even a discussion,” John recounts. “I think that’s how John’s brain works” Tamara added. “What’s the next challenge? Where do we go next?”
Taking advantage of the opportunities, Tri-City Groundbreakers went from one to twelve employees in one and a half years. To complete the transformation, the young company eventually replaced waning Dow Corning work with MDOT and commercial projects. Ironically, John found himself bidding the jobs on which he used to operate an excavator.
In 2008, John and Tamara moved to the Midland area. Still working from an office trailer in the driveway, they both knew it was time to find a permanent location for the business. The opportunity soon presented itself after some property came up for sale just north of Midland, MI. Tri-City Groundbreakers moved to its new home at 4440 N. Eastman Rd.
As the company approached the 5-year mark, John continued to invest in the latest technology. GPS-integrated bulldozers and excavators, vacuum trucks for hydro-excavation, and estimating software allowed Tri-City to continue its growth. John’s progress-oriented mindset did not allow for complacency, and his efforts were rewarded in 2015 when he secured the Geddes Avenue contract from the City of Ann Arbor. After the project’s completion, Tri-City Groundbreakers received the 2017 Project of the Year Award from the Michigan Chapter of the American Public Works Association.
Tri-City Groundbreakers has continued to grow by adding a full-time estimator within the last two years and expanding its capabilities to handle bridges and box culverts. As the team grows and capabilities expand, Tri-City Groundbreakers has also begun implementing cutting-edge teamwork and continuous-improvement initiatives. Based on the principles behind the legendary Toyota Production System, LEAN Construction focuses on eliminating all kinds of waste, establishing visual controls, and constructing only what the customer values. The future promises higher quality, lower costs, more bid wins, and faster project completion.
Tri-City Groundbreakers Yard on Eastman Rd
2017 Project of the Year awarded by the American Public Works Association
From operator to owner; from small residential to award-winning commercial; from an unspoken idea to a full-scale reality—Tri-City Groundbreakers stands as an example of entrepreneurship, innovation, and the American Dream.
Tri-City Groundbreakers has chosen to partner with one of the premier LEAN consulting partners in North America. With experience ranging from GM and Nexteer to Thrustmaster, Arconic, and Ferris University, DLW Partners boasts a highly qualified executive team. At Groundbreakers, we have already begun reaping the astounding benefits of their world-class consulting. We look forward continuing our partnership and are excited about the vast opportunities ahead!
Explore the history of the legendary Toyota Production System and learn how it applies to the construction industry of today.
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