Rockford Homes

Rockford HomesRockford Homes’ subcontractor and client relationships play a large role in the company’s success.

By Jim Harris

Rockford Homes’ relationships with its subcontractors and suppliers are critical to its ability to build and develop homes and residential communities. “We have a loyal base of subcontractors who, because of our history of working together, was able to react to and handle changes we made to our products during the Great Recession,” says Donald Wick, president of the Columbus, Ohio-based company.

The company prides itself on paying subcontractors and suppliers on a weekly basis. “We’ve retained their loyalty by treating them in a manner where they know they can make money,” he adds. “There’s no arguments about it – they know what and when they’re getting paid.”

Founded in 1982, Rockford Homes concentrated on neighborhood development and production homebuilding for much of its history. Since its founding, the company has built more than 5,000 new homes. “When the recession knocked out the first-time homebuyer market, we aligned ourselves to be more of a company that, while still a production homebuilder, is able to customize plans and options to its customers’ desires,” Wick says. “We sell customized homes, but in a production manner.” Rockford Homes

The company today targets experienced homebuyers. The average selling price of one of its homes is $360,000, an increase over the $260,000 homes sold for just a few years ago. Rockford Homes currently has 300 lots under development in 30 communities in the five-county area surrounding Columbus. “In today’s world, without the first-time buyer, home prices have gone up considerably,” Wick says. “We’ve concentrated our land buying and development work to accommodate the trade-up and second or third-home market.” 

Rockford Homes lists homes at a standard base price, and then allows customers to make custom change requests to room configurations or other features. Rockford Homes staff meets with clients several times during the homebuying process, including during preconstruction, permitting and scheduling. “Meeting these requests requires having several touch points with the customer, as well as an organization that allows you to customize plans,” Wick says.

Increased Capabilities

In addition to building single-family homes on lots it owns and develops, Rockford Homes also completes projects for third-party developers. The company in 2009 established a subsidiary company, Rockford Construction, to increase its bonding capacity for third-party projects. These projects help offset housing market downturns as well as give the company’s subcontractors additional work. “We had no layoffs during the recession because we doing third-party work instead,” Wick notes.

Rockford Homes has completed more than 60 multifamily residential projects comprised of more than 4,500 units. These have ranged from new apartments and condominiums for other developers to commercial construction, tenant improvements and conversion projects.

Affordable housing projects make up a large portion of Rockford Construction’s work for third parties. The company works for nonprofit organizations and developers including Homeport, formerly the Columbus Housing Partnership; and the Community Housing Network. Both groups build affordable and low-income housing subsidized by state and federal tax credits. Rockford Homes also supports these organizations through fundraising efforts as well as through reducing its fees for building such projects, Wick notes.

All Rockford Construction clients benefit from its parent company’s more than 30 years of experience. “We assist our development partners in value-engineering each project to deliver a lower-cost product with attention being paid to the long-term maintenance and operating cost for owners,” the company says.  

Filling a Need

Rockford Construction’s projects include two large affordable/low-income housing developments. The company in July will finish work on Hilltop Homes, which consists of 39 single-family homes in Columbus’ Hilltop area. Work began in August 2015. The homes will replace vacant lots as well as neglected and shuttered housing. Homeport is developing the project in cooperation with nonprofit organization Homes on the Hill.

The Hilltop area has a history extending back to the late 1700s, when it was deeded to local pioneer Lucas Sullivant. Home construction dates back to the 1830s. “This is a former working-class neighborhood on the west side of the city that the city government and nonprofits are looking to turn around,” Wick says.

The company in October will complete work on Terrace Place, a four-story, 56,775-square-foot supportive housing development near the Ohio State University campus. Work began in September 2015 on the building developed and owned by Community Housing Network. Terrace Place will create homes for 60 formerly homeless individuals as well as people at risk of becoming homeless because of mental health or physical disabilities, Community Housing Network says. The building will also provide space to the OSU Extension office.

Rockford Construction’s other ongoing third-party work includes Snouffer Road Apartments, a two-story, 69,612-square-foot independent living complex in Columbus, Ohio. The developer and owner is Lemmon and Lemmon of Canton, Ohio.

An Empowered Staff

Most of Rockford Homes’ employees have been with the company for more than 10 years, which Wick attributes to the company’s flat management structure and open-door policy. “There is no middle management here,” he says. “We empower all of our employees to do what they need to.”

Wick, a licensed civil engineer who has been with Rockford Homes since its inception, became the company’s president in 2015, succeeding Robert E. Yoakam Jr., the son of company founder Robert E. Yoakam Sr. Wick leads all of the company’s land development and multifamily construction projects.

Rockford Homes’ senior staff also includes Vice President of Construction Dennis Sweeney, who has been with the company for 20 years and worked in the construction industry for 29 years. He is responsible for all field construction.

Paul Young, the company’s purchasing manager, has been with Rockford Homes for 15 years and has worked in construction for 26 years. His responsibilities include estimating, contracting and project management. Those duties are also overseen by Development Manager Corey Theuerkauf, a 10-year Rockford Homes staff member who has worked in development for 12 years.

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