Member News: Making the move
After 57 years of moving earth, George C. Hall & Sons moves its operations to new headquarters in Rockland
By Kathryn Buxton
Things had been gettingcramped at George C. Hall &Sons’ headquarters on New County Road in Rocklandfor some time. President TimHall’s office wasn’t the typical corporate corner office, but a windowless room, little more than a closet, that doubled as a passagewayconnecting the maintenance garage and the other “executive suites” occupied by the company’s leadership.
Still the two generations of founder George Hall’s descendants who run the business weren’t in any hurry to move — until an opportunity came along. That opportunity was the closing and auction of the old Interstate Baking distribution facility just across the way on Pleasant Street. The company bought the building at auction and in January 2006, they gutted the structure that was filled with years of accumulated bread crumbs and other not-so-pleasant reminders of its former life. A contractor completed the renovation and the company officially opened the doors to its spacious new 5,000-square-foot offices in May of this year. Giving a tour of the new headquarters, Jim Hall shows off the trimly outfitted building with spacious offices for Tim, Jim, his twin sons Jamie (treasurer) and Sam (operations manager) and longtime employees Finance Director Jim Frankowski and V.P. of Operations Bill Reinhardt. There is his brother’s collection of Celtics, Red Sox and “Seinfeld” memorabilia (most of them gifts from Tim’s daughter Tori who lives in Boston), a roomy conference room and store room.
“The store room’s bigger than all of our offices put together use to be!” said Hall in a rare expression of pride. Everywhere there are red-painted walls (the official George C. Hall & Sons red), grainy black-and-white photos of the company during its early days and beautiful landscape paintings by family matriarch Marion Hall. Tim and Jim’s mother will turn 90 this autumn and still comes by the office every day to check on things.
After meeting the hardworking, unassuming Hall family, it is easy to understand how they could put off moving from their old and outdated offices for more than 40 years. Personal comfort isn’t as important as getting the job done well.
That ethos has served the firm well since Tim and Jim’s father George C. Hall founded the company in 1949 working out of the family home on Old County Road in Rockland. George began with a single dump truck, a backhoe and one employee. At first he worked a second job on weekends bussing tables at the Samoset.
The early jobs were small residential and commercial projects. Then the jobs got bigger. For almost two decades, the firm did all the stripping at the Dragon Cement Plant. In the 1950s, there were jobs for the Maine Department of Transportation in Biddeford and Bristol; then site work for Medomak Valley High School and Rockland District High School in the 1960s. The company also was contracted to work on high profile jobs such as Samoset Resort and Penobscot Bay Medical Center (1970s); the Route 1 bridge in Thomaston and Rockland and Harbor plazas (1980s); the new Supermax prison, several school projects and the MBNA offices (1990s).
Today the company employs more than 70 year round staff and has a fleet of more than 100 trucks and equipment. The firm also has active pits and has a crushing operation on the site of its 80 plus-acre pit on Beechwood Street in Thomaston (between 25 and 30 percent of Hall’s business is in sales of materials). George worked tirelessly at building the business and rarely took a day off. When he did take time, it usually was to try out a new restaurant or visit an old favorite with his wife Marion.
“My dad’s hobby was this place, and back then there wasn’t UPS and FedEx. So four times or so a week, he’d have to go to Bangor or Portland for parts for the trucks. Mom would go along and they’d have dinner along the way,” remembered Jim. “When UPS came on, it took a long time for him to trust it.”
Knack for real estate
Over the years, George acquired many properties, including several pits. He moved the company headquarters a couple of times, first in 1953 to Water Street, then to 26 New County Road in 1961, then up the street to number 60 in 1964. (The company’s former location on Water Street eventually became offices for banking giant MBNA.) “My dad bought a lot of property back then. He even bought a piece of a mountain,” said Jim Hall, who is the firm’s vice president for maintenance and safety. His father’s knack for spotting valuable property has been realized many times over the years as the company has expanded and added capacity.
George Hall never had the chance to retire and enjoy his investments in real estate and his business. He worked almost up to the day he died, rather suddenly of cancer, in June 1993 at the age of 76. He left behind him a strong business and a legacy for hard work, good business and dedication to family that his children and their children cherish.
“There were some lean years in the 50s and 60s. There were sacrifices made by my parents for their children, but they never said a word,” remembers Tim Hall. “To see this place now with his grandsons working here, Dad would have been ecstatic. He was so family-oriented.”
Today, two generations of Halls run the company. Jim and Tim, who started with the company, helping out when they were still just young boys, remain closely involved with the company’s day-to-day operations. Jim’s twin sons Sam and Jamie work alongside them. Like their father, they grew up in the business working summers in the field learning the trade. They officially joined the company in the early 1990s after graduating college, taking charge of their own jobs and getting to know the business firsthand. Today Sam and Jamie have moved up to management. Jamie is the company treasurer and works with Bill Reinhardt to estimate and prepare bids. On most days, the two still spend a good deal of their time out on jobs, meeting with clients and overseeing jobs. Jamie, who studied business and accounting at the University of Maine, took time off from the family business in his early 20s. He spent some time in Florida, considered graduate school, substitute taught, but came back to help the family business grow and prosper. One of his biggest contributions has been establishing a dynamic job-cost system that tracks and manages expenditures for jobs from start to finish. Since he and his brother have joined George C. Hall & Sons, the business has doubled its volume of work.
“I definitely take pride in carrying on my grandfather’s good name,” said Jamie. Like the two generations of Halls before them, Jamie and Sam work long hours following up on the details and communicating with customers.
High tech tools
Sam Hall also attended UMaine and focused his studies in business. But he chose to study management. He was married and a father when he graduated in 1993, so he opted to join the family business right away working in the field as a foreman. One of his first jobs was overseeing site work for the ferry crew quarters on North Haven.
His management expertise has served the company well since he became Hall & Sons’ manager of operations in 2001. Sam’s responsibilities include the hiring of workers and dispatching equipment and crews to the company’s work sites. That has been challenging this year, as a slow midcoast economy has meant the company has had a higher volume of smaller jobs. Sam recently oversaw the installation of a GPS tracking system on part of the company’s fleet to help manage the flow of trucks and equipment from job site to job site — all from his desktop. This has been a great tool as the company has worked to increase efficiency and guarantee the timely completion of jobs.
“If anything, I like to have the equipment there before the crew arrives. That means less time sitting around waiting to get started,” said Sam. He says one of the most difficult tasks he has is hiring good, qualified workers, although this year he’s seen “a few more resumés come across my desk.” Currently, the majority of George C. Hall & Sons’ work is for commercial and residential developers and municipalities. They just completed work on the roads and underground utilities for a residential development in Wiscasset and site work for the Grace Institute in Tenants Harbor. In early September they began work on the new Medomak Valley Middle School in Waldoboro. In recent years, Hall & Sons did earthwork for Maine Eastern Railroad and MaineDOT, rehabilitating track between Brunswick, Rockland and Augusta and site work for improvements at the Knox County Airport.
Jamie said there is little secret to the company’s success. Year in and year out, the company has earned the reputation for delivering quality work. “With my grandfather, quality was always the number one thing, and that’s something we work to live up to every day.”