Metal Builder: Veterans keep up with the times

Kessler Hines Designs in Troy, Ohio, opened in December 2004. Even though the company is relatively new, the owners bring a lot of experience to the table. Dave Kessler has been in the metal building business for 24 years and his partner, Rod Hines, worked with Kessler for 11 years.
For 21 years prior to starting his own company, Kessler worked as a draftsman for another company, eventually becoming a part owner with two other employees. “They were engineers. I was in architectural construction,” Kessler says. “The other two wanted to make the company strictly engineering.”
Kessler, however, wanted to stay in the construction side of the business, and this split led to the founding of his own business.
Along with partner Hines, Kessler also brought with him one of the vendors he worked with, Chief/Agri Buildings. Kessler Hines Designs focuses on metal buildings.
“When we first started, we had an industrial focus,” says Kessler. But Kessler’s business is in an area that depends on the auto industry, which has hit on hard times. Kessler and Hines realized they had to refocus the business outlook if they wanted to be successful. Metal buildings, they quickly realized, were the way to go.
The company had humble beginnings, starting in the back of a barn, but as things started to take off, Kessler Hines Designs relocated to Troy. Today, there are four employees along with the two partners: two CAD operators, a retiree who is the field service engineer, and Kessler’s wife, the company’s office support person.
“Everything we do is with metal buildings,” says Kessler. “We primarily do commercial and industrial buildings, with some agricultural buildings.” A project his company is currently working on is a garage for a house built in the 1700s. Hines designed the building and it has been changed and modified to blend in with the historic home.
Kessler and Hines have a talent for making an ordinary building become extraordinary. Last year, they designed a building that Kessler says was “just a garage, but it had all the bells and whistles on it.” Chief Buildings, however, thought it was more than “just a garage,” because it was chosen as Chief/Agri’s Building of the Year.
It is a recognition Kessler believes helps his upstart company’s reputation. “In our first year, we had five buildings,” he says. “Last year we had seven, and already this year we have seven buildings planned.” Last year, the company broke the $1 million mark for the first time.
Currently, Kessler Hines Design is pricing projects in Columbus and Cincinnati, as well as in Indiana. Kessler estimates as much 10-15 percent of the company’s work comes from outside his western Ohio area. He’s already provided buildings for locations in Wisconsin and New Mexico, for instance.
Fifty percent of the company’s work is design work. Kessler Hines takes care of permits and project management, but doesn’t physically erect the buildings. Subcontractors are used for the building process, such as concrete, interiors, and insulation. In fact, Kessler says he has worked with his former company for engineering needs.
Even though he doesn’t erect the buildings, Kessler understands the construction side of the business. Before he became a draftsman, he was a carpenter. “I know what it is like on both sides of the building process,” he says.
In addition to the award-winning garage, Kessler Hines Designs’ projects include a water treatment facility, a 6,000-square foot pet food drive-thru building, and a storage facility for the Dayton corrections facility. “The building is on a slope, which makes it unique, but it was also a challenge to design,” Kessler says.
Right now, he adds, they are pricing a 30,000-square foot gymnasium in southern Ohio.
Kessler enjoys working in the metal building industry. “I get to see a building from beginning to end,” he says. Sometimes all his company does is provide the materials, but his preference is facilities and project management.
Because the company is so small, Kessler and Hines are hands-on owners. “We go out to meet with clients, write quotes, make sketches for the CAD guys — if things need to be done, we’ll get our hands dirty,” he says, noting the duo has even taken their turn at delivering materials to building sites. “We found shipping to be very expensive,” he says, “so we bought a trailer and we take care of delivering materials ourselves.”
Kessler has high hopes for the future of his business, largely due to his affiliation with Chief. “Locally, the industry is mixed because of the political atmosphere,” he explains. “If the economy moves forward, I think we’ll do fine. And Chief has a good market share, so I think we’ll do OK.”
If the beginning of 2007 is any indication, Kessler Hines Designs is well on its way to a successful future.

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