Slowdown Hasnt Slowed Floor Firm

    GRAND RAPIDS — Great Lakes Floor Covering has been quietly building a reputation for itself, along with an elite client following.

    Todd Neason founded the commercial floor covering company in 1986.

    Partner and Vice President Mark Plachta Sr. joined the company in 1995, bringing with him 25 years of experience in commercial floor covering.  

    “It was a good market at the time. It was a good time to start a business,” Plachta recalled.

    GLFC markets and sells all types of floor coverings and bids on projects. It secures flooring contracts through local contractors, designers and architects.

    The company had annual revenues of $150,000 in 1995. Today annual revenues are in the $3 million to $4 million range.

    Plachta says he attributes the growth to the opportunities in the marketplace and customers’ confidence in GLFC.

    “We appreciate the opportunity our customers have given us to stay in business, to grow and to work with them,” Plachta  said. 

    The challenge, he said, is to put the bids together properly, be competitive in the marketplace and, of course, win the projects. GLFC deals primarily with businesses in Central and West Michigan.

    Besides Plachta and Neason, the company has five people on staff and employs some 40 to 60 subcontractors a week.

    Plachta said the company has used the same subcontractors for years and years because of their quality and ability to get the job done — and their willingness to put in extra hours, if necessary, to meet a project deadline.

    Generally, nothing is deadlier to a contractor’s existence than using subcontractors who fail to show up on time … or at all.

    Carpet and hard tile constitute the largest share of the company’s sales, Plachta observed, and he said the trend in the industry today is towards multiple colors.

    One of the company’s past projects, the Community Media Center in Grand Rapids, for instance, incorporates dark plum, deep red and intense midnight blue colored tiles into “rug” style floor designs.

    GLFC won national recognition from Interior Design magazine in July 1997 for its work on the 7,000-square-foot center. The project also was featured on the cover of Congoleum Corp.’s 1999 Sweets brochure.

    “Once we work with a contractor, they always want us to come back because of the quality of work that we do for them and our ability to get the job done on time,” Plachta remarked.

    He noted that more and more commercial projects are beginning to go “green” with environmentally friendly floor coverings, such as stain-resistant carpet made out of recycled plastic pop bottles. 

    Plachta stressed that the company attends the NeoCon World Trade Fair every year to keep up with floor covering trends and innovations.

    In a somewhat innovative project of its own, GLFC installed and repaired 11,700 square feet of gypcrete with Ardex GS-4 self-leveling repair underlay at Ferris/Kendall College of Art and Design this summer.

    It marked the first installation of the product in Michigan, he noted.

    One of the company’s largest projects to date was its flooring contract for the $41 million, 174,000-square-foot Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education (FLITE), which will be featured this fall in Ferris State University’s Crimson & Gold alumni magazine. The library opened last autumn.

    Another of the company’s projects, the YMCA Lodge at Camp Manitou-Lin, garnered a National Excellence in Construction award from the Associated Builders & Contractors Inc. (ABC), Western Michigan Chapter. 

    Last year, the chapter bestowed construction awards for four building projects for which GLFC completed the floor coverings: Hilltop Golf Center, Greystone International, Patrick A. Thompson M-Tec Center and the White Lake Community Library.

    Plachta said that even in these difficult economic times, the company has been faring pretty well because it had a tremendous backlog coming into 2002.

    He said GLFC has already completed several million dollars worth of work so far this year.

    Among the company’s current projects are: Calvin College Prince Conference Center in conjunction with Triangle Associates; Amazon Apartments with Gough & Gough of Valparaiso, Ind.; Big Rapids Public Safety Building with Lakewood Construction; Wyoming City Hall and Newaygo High School with Skillman Corp.; Hope College Peale Center with Granger Construction; and Community Church of Douglas with Erhardt Construction. 

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