Whatever the reason, the founder and president of the engineering and consulting firm Driesenga & Associates Inc. is the latest Holland entrepreneur to earn statewide honors as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Michigan Small Business Person of the Year.
“When I think of all the great companies that are out there, it is humbling,” said Driesenga, who founded his civil engineering firm in January 1995.
Driesenga is the seventh Holland business owner in 18 years to receive the SBA’s Michigan Small Business Person of the Year award after winning the same honor locally from the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce.
That track record says a lot about the quality of the Holland business community and the local entrepreneurial spirit, said Richard Temkin, deputy director of the Small Business Administration’s Michigan office in Detroit.
“You’ve got a good group over there,” Temkin said. “It is pretty impressive for what is a relatively small population.”
Since starting the firm as a one-man shop, Driesenga has grown the business from first-year sales of $450,000 and seven employees to 2001 revenues of $6 million with a workforce of 84 and offices in Holland, Spring Lake, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Kalamazoo, which offer a myriad of engineering services — land surveying, civil engineering and design, soil and construction materials testing, and environmental consulting.
During that time he’s been heavily involved in the community, providing job-shadowing for local high school students through the Holland Area Chamber, supporting a local group’s Adopt-A-Stream program, and serving on both the Ottawa County and Park Township planning commissions.
The community service, combined with success in business, made Driesenga stand out, Temkin said.
“Starting out a new business the way he did and making it the success over time that it has become — it’s pretty impressive,” he said.
Driesenga started the company after seeing the growth of the Holland area and a niche market for materials testing and geotechnical services to support the local construction industry. Previously that industry needed to retain those services from firms in Grand Rapids or Muskegon.
The company has grown through the years by branching into new services and making key acquisitions. Land surveying and civil engineering now account for 75 percent of the company’s revenues.
Driesenga credits his success to an excellent group of co-workers and a flexibility and willingness to delve into new services and adapt to market and client demands.
“Being adaptable and recognizing change when change is needed, those are all keys to success,” Driesenga said. “You can keep so comfortable saying, ‘No, this is what we do.’ You keep letting the market blow right by you if you take that approach.”
Holland’s SBA Winners
HOLLAND — Dan Driesenga of Driesenga & Associates Inc. is the seventh Holland business owner in 18 years to win the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Michigan Small Business Person of the Year Award after winning similar honors from Holland Area Chamber of Commerce. Here are the other SBA winners:
1999: Jay Keuning, Lighthouse Keuning Insurance
1995: Tom Bos, A.D. Bos Vending Co.
1991: Boyd Berends, ProLight
1989: Don Heeringa, Trendway Corp.
1987: Gail Herring, API
1984: Pat Thompson, Trans-Matic Manufacturing Co.