After struggling to find construction workers, Ryan Leestma decided to take matters into his own hands.
Leestma, the owner of Leestma Management, Adelaide Energy and Adelaide Pointe, started his own construction company with his wife, Dr. Emily Leestma, to overcome the pent-up labor demand in the industry.
Leestma said he worked with staffing agencies and networked with individuals. His new construction company, which is part of Leestma Management, hired about 20 people during the summer.
“I have always been very good at finding people and developing talent,” he said. “That is probably one of my core skills, so even if someone didn’t necessarily have the skill that we were looking for on day one, I think if you surround them with the right people, you give them the right training, you give them the right tools, most people will rise to the occasion unless they don’t have any interest in working in the first place.”
One of the projects Leestma said the team worked on between April and November of last year was a $250 million multi-phase development at Adelaide Pointe, a 30-acre former industrial site on the Muskegon lakeshore waterfront, which is considered a brownfield opportunity zone.
The project includes building the largest marina on Muskegon Lake, 300 condominiums, 200 in/out slips, 450,000 square feet of vehicle storage, a restaurant, an event center and three public parks.
Leestma’s team of construction workers remodeled 225,000 square feet worth of warehouse space. They removed all the asbestos, lead-based paint and environmental contaminants, and installed new heaters, lights, roofs and signs, as well as new wireless and security systems and a new 8-foot-wide, 200-foot-long dock. They also refurbished the parking lot and painted buildings.
Leestma also was able to start an RV and boat storage business for vehicles up to 24 feet tall, 30 feet wide and 60 feet long at Adelaide Pointe, which also includes a multifamily residential building and a commercial structure.
Leestma said there are currently seven employees in the construction division and he plans to ramp up hiring again in the spring.
The city of Muskegon already has approved some of Leestma’s Adelaide Pointe plans, including a $12 million development agreement, $35 million brownfield plan and his Planned Unit Development design.
Beginning in February, Leestma said his company Adelaide Energy is scheduled to install a number of solar panels in the Midwest. Adelaide Energy was formed in 2018 and since then has “deployed more than 1.25 million watts of solar on Leestma Management’s properties,” he said.
Leestma said he expects the construction division to grow when begins allowing customers within his client portfolio to use its services.
“I would anticipate that probably in the next year or two we’ll be able to start looking at other types of construction jobs that would normally be competitively bid amongst some of the more established construction companies out there,” he said.