Inside Track: Miner’s passion for construction in his DNA

Work on family projects as a youngster eventually landed him at Rockford Construction as director of pre-construction.
Michael Miner. Courtesy Rockford Construction

Construction was a pastime in Michael Miner’s family.

As a child, he worked alongside his uncles and cousins who were “handymen” on family construction projects. Whether it was swinging hammers or using screw guns, Miner was involved in building such things as decks, gazebos and swimming pools.

Miner also took on construction projects after he graduated high school to pay for college. He helped to build modular housing and trailer houses that sat on foundations.

Decades later, he turned his childhood experiences into a professional career in the construction industry.

Miner is the director of pre-construction at Rockford Construction, where he focuses on quantity take-offs, trade contractor solicitation, bid review and estimating.

Despite growing up working on construction projects, Miner’s path into the construction industry was not clear cut.

He wanted to pursue a career as an orthodontist after enduring an unpleasant dental experience during his adolescent years. He began wearing braces just before his 13th birthday and they were set to be removed a year or so later, but they weren’t removed until his senior year of high school.

Rockford Construction
Position: Director of pre-construction
Age: 36
Birthplace: Sturgis
Residence: Hudsonville
Family: Wife, Danielle; daughter, Emma; son, Flynn
Business/Community Involvement: Member of Grand Rapids Chamber and ABC Young Professionals
Biggest career break: “I think my biggest break is being given the opportunity to lead people.”

Miner relocated after he got his braces and had to change orthodontists. Although his new orthodontist did not remove the brackets he had on, his teeth were not straightening. Some of the people who got their braces at the same time Miner got his were getting theirs removed before he was.

Once his braces were removed years later, Miner was motivated to help others have a better dental experience. His plans included a dental office with TVs, charts that change colors documenting how long people have been there, and providing efficient scheduling times and visits at his office.

He went on to Michigan State University and began taking pre-med classes — including the sciences, which he said he loved — before losing interest after two years.

“I used to love science,” he said. “It was so fun. I liked the sciences. I was kind of nerdy that way (but) I found it interesting. I retained things from it naturally and then over time it kind of turned. After two years I was like, ‘Man, I don’t like science at all. This is not the fun part.’ I wanted to get to the fun part. I kept on waiting for the fun part, but we were just not getting there.”

During his sophomore year, Miner took a construction class to see if he’d like it and he never looked back. In his junior year, he switched his major to construction management.

“Everything they gave me I was eating up,” he said. “I loved it. I liked learning about it. I liked learning about the different solutions you could find with things. I think because of doing the projects I was always curious as to, ‘Why do we use that size board for that instead of this? Is it because of how it holds things? Is it because of the price? Is it a combination of both?’ I was always curious as to why we ended up on the solutions we did for a lot of things.”

Miner recalled a time when he and his family were taking a metal roof off his uncle’s home, which was an original farmhouse, but he didn’t understand why they were replacing it with asphalt.

“‘This metal roof has been here. It was an original farmhouse and you guys have been here for 40-something years and the house has been here for probably 60 years that you know of, why are you taking off the metal roof and not putting a metal roof back on?’ My uncle kidded; he said, ‘Because it is so dang hard to take off and it is loud. I am sick of it being loud. Your aunt is going to kill me, but I don’t like hearing the rain hitting against it. It is super loud, and it wakes me up, but she loves it because it puts her to sleep. It is a big old farmhouse, and we can do all the asphalt at a reasonable price because the price of metal is crazy right now.’ That is how it started. It was little things like user preference and the economy of scale.”

It was that renewed curiosity in construction that allowed Miner to graduate from MSU with a degree in construction management.

His first job out of college was at Graycor, which is headquartered in Chicago. He managed the construction process at the company, which had industrial and commercial divisions. He was responsible for the scheduling, budget, pictures and requests for information.

Miner helped to manage different projects for different companies across the country including Ohio-based American Electric Power (AEP.) His team of Graycor workers and local Ohio skilled workers worked on an environmental project at AEP, where they took the company’s exhaust system and tied it directly to its cooling tower from its power plant and removed components that harmed the environment. 

After 10 years at Graycor, Miner began working at a small residential construction company that was starting a commercial division. He later moved on to Holland-based Lakewood Construction where he was the company’s chief estimator.

Miner said as he moved on to different construction companies, he gained experience in estimation naturally because clients sometimes add different components to their original plan amid the construction of the building, including wanting an extra floor built or making design changes to a lobby.

But when he got to Lakewood, he learned a lot more. 

“That is where I really got to understand the components more and the price for each of them, particularly in West Michigan,” he said. “I figured out how much glass cost. How much aluminum walls on the exterior of a building cost. How much all the bricks for the buildings that you see downtown cost. I started figuring out all those things, all those widgets I call them, and how much each of those cost and (it) really expanded my forte there.”

Amid his learning, Miner said he always had a yearning to lead a team, and Rockford Construction offered that opportunity. He joined the company two years ago. As the director of pre-construction, he leads a team that creates construction schedules, determines the cost of projects, and adds value engineering, which is finding a more economical way to complete a project while maintaining high-quality work.

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