Photos by Jim West

Detroit-area demolition and recycling firm Homrich has undergone some changes in leadership over the past year. It’s longtime president, Roger Homrich retired at the end of 2015 after more than 40 years with the company.

Roger didn’t have to look very far for his successors. His sons Scott and Tim had both been working for the company since the 1990s and were ready to take on the responsibilities of CEO and president, respectively.

Roger taught Scott and Tim the ropes of the demolition industry. Scott Homrich says he and his father think about demolition a little differently from each other. Scott calls himself “an extreme planner,” while his father was more of a “seat-of-the-pants type of guy.”

“The older generation had a tendency to just do,” Scott explains. “Although we end up at the same end result, we have two totally different ways of getting there.”

Scott couldn’t take his father’s approach when he started with the company because he still had a lot to learn, he says. While learning the business, Scott also was earning a degree in accounting at Eastern Michigan University, about 20 minutes from the Homrich office.

In March 2016, Roger accepted the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Demolition Association (NDA), Washington. From then forward, the change in leadership became official.

passing the torch

Scott and Tim may be brothers, but the similarities may stop there. Just like with his father, Scott says, “We have different personalities and different ways of getting to the end result, but there are very few times when we disagree on something.”

Working with family means there is never a break from one another. The brothers don’t seem to mind too much. They see each other at the office, at family get-togethers and what’s more, Scott says their wives are best friends.

Homrich was started by Scott and Tim’s grandparents, Ivan and Loretta in 1964. At that time the company was mainly into farming. Their father Roger and their uncle Randal expanded the business in the 1980s. Scott and Tim began getting involved in the 1990s. While the company continued to grow, the family involvement did not dwindle.

“I think we are the big company that still has an extremely hands-on ownership,” Scott describes. Though it is not the largest firm out there, he says, “We have the ability to do some of the largest projects ever done.”

Scott is involved in demolition projects at the beginning from estimating up to execution. “I handle our estimating department and our ‘go get work’ side of the business. In the process, I hand the project over to Tim, and he handles all the field operations.”

Scott continues, “From project start to project finish, we have our hands in both sides of it, so you have the owners smack in the middle of every detail.”

Homrich has between 150 and 200 employees depending on how many active projects it has. Many of the employees have been with the company for several years. Relatives of the Homriches and children of past employees also make up the staff.

Homrich has its main office is in Carleton, Michigan, and two facilities in Detroit. The company also owns and operates a landfill and recycling operation in Carleton.

It recycles C&D materials, including concrete and steel and has a composting operation for green waste, such as leaves and branches. The materials that enter the yard are entirely from the work Homrich performs. The company does not take in materials from outside haulers.

Homrich focuses mainly on steel and concrete recycling, which allow it to achieve recycling rates on most projects in the 90-plus percent range. The company recycles some 25,000 tons metals, 450,000 tons concrete and produces 30,000 tons of compost per year. Wood is not as recyclable in the Detroit market.

TOTAL DEMOLITION

When asked what types of projects Homrich specializes in, Scott answered, “Large, complicated and with an aggressive schedule. Our focus is on total demolition.”

Projects range from hospital and institutional demolitions to commercial and industrial properties. Power plant demolitions are expected to pick-up for Homrich in the coming years as newer regulations put older plants out of commission.

One of the biggest projects Homrich ever undertook was the 2.5 million-square-foot J.L. Hudson building in downtown Detroit in the late 1990s. At the time, Scott says it held the record for being the tallest demolition project ever imploded.

“Every year, we’re doing other projects just as large and complicated,” says Scott. “They are big environmental projects.”

The company has helped rid downtown Detroit of deteriorating buildings, including the 18-story Statler Hilton Hotel in 2011—a property that stood vacant for some 30 years. It also performed work on the downtown Detroit Cobo Arena.

The project, completed in 2015, required creative engineering on the part of Homrich to allow the exterior of the building to remain while the inside was being demoed. The project won Homrich an Honorable Mention Award from the World Demolition Awards that year.

White Hall, an abandoned Air Force base in Illinois, was another recent project. Homrich removed all of the asbestos from the site prior to demolition. It took all of the concrete from the demolition to a local crushing operation where it was crushed and used for backfill at the site.

Despite all of the aforementioned projects and their challenges, nothing has been more complicated than the Detroit housing demolition program, according to Scott. “Yes, they are only houses, but it is 1,000 of them,” he explains. “The project might not be as flashy, but it is more complicated than any power plant project I’ve bid on.”

For the last few years, Homrich has demolished thousands of houses as part of the program. It can take mere minutes to tear a house down, but each one has about 30 environmental and safety check points that need to be verified. “That means marking off more than 115 items on our checklists every day to keep the project safe and efficient,” says Scott.

The company even expanded its fleet of semi-tractors to 20 in order to accommodate all of the extra material it was removing from the house demolitions.

MEANING BUSINESS

Homrich keeps detailed records on commodities and other historical production data. This helps the firm determine the costs when bidding a project.

Accurate estimating is difficult in the demolition business and is an industry-wide issue that the NDA has started to address much as a result of Scott’s persistence.

Scott is a member of the NDA executive board and currently serves as treasurer. He becomes secretary at the end of January during the association’s national convention in Las Vegas.

When he was younger, Scott attended board meetings with his father who served as president from 1993 to 1995. Scott is in now his third term with the board. In about six years it will be Scott’s turn to be president.

Scott says the family’s involvement with the NDA has been rewarding not only by the friendships they have gained, but also in building business relationships with vendors.

Scott says Homrich tends to “not get caught up in the corporate desire to have to grow, grow, grow exponentially and then you outgrow your talent pool, which is very critical in this industry.”

“It is different from the Wall Street model, but we’ve done well for the last 52 years. Let’s hope we can we keep that model going for another 52.”

The author is editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at ksmith@gie.net.