The Century Club 2016
From linen services to packaging and construction companies, and from selling furs to machine bearings, DBusiness pays tribute to companies that are 100 years old or more.
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Arthur shmina, and his son, Andrew shmina, stand in front of a photograph of Achilles zissi shmina, arthur's father and the founder of of a.z. shmina, a contruction company in Detroit.
BUILDING FOR GENERATIONS
The university advisers had some discouraging, even bitterly ironic, news for Achilles Zissi Shmina. The immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, who had traveled from Turkey to the United States at age 15 and worked three jobs to pay for tuition at Carnegie Mellon’s engineering school, couldn’t graduate because he lacked credits in a foreign language.
“English is my foreign language,” a tearful Shmina, who actually spoke five languages, told the advisers. Whether it was his tears or a sudden logical illumination, the college eventually relented and granted him his hard-earned degree.
Shmina went on to work in Detroit with A.W. Kutsche & Co., a construction company that he eventually purchased and renamed A.Z. Shmina. Among the company’s marque projects are the Water Board Building on
Randolph in downtown Detroit, Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester Hills, Osborne High School on Detroit’s east side, the Michigan Science Center in Midtown (formerly the Detroit Science Center), and many other commercial and government projects.
To survive the Great Depression, Shmina and Arthur Kutsche whittled the company down to just themselves and their estimator. They kept the company going with government work, building post offices in Kentucky, Missouri and, finally, San Antonio, Texas. The job in Texas was so big that Shmina moved his family down there temporarily for two years.
“Our families lived that,” recalls Arthur Shmina, 87, Achilles Shmina’s son and current chairman of the company, of the hard times.
Arthur eventually took over the business, after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. During his service, he helped Uncle Sam build military bases in Japan. The subsequent decades from the early 1950s to the early 1990s were boom years: Shmina and his crews built schools, hospitals, university projects, offices, industrial parks, and wastewater facilities.
In 1993, Arthur turned over the leadership of the company to his son, Andrew Shmina, who serves as president. Even so, Arthur continues to come to work every day. “He’s always there, but he’s never meddling,” Andrew says. In fact, he says he feels fortunate to have his father nearby for advice and guidance.
Andrew — who, like his father and grandfather, has a degree in civil engineering — started working for the company at age 14. “I think I was born and bred to run a construction company,” he says. “We’re working people.”
The company built the Detroit water and sewage building along randolph street in downtown detroit.
Andrew projects the company will do $30 million in volume this year through construction management services, which comprise 40 percent of its business; general contracting (50 percent); and design-build (10 percent). He has 30 employees, and has transitioned from his grandfather’s self-performance model to construction project management. Andrew’s brother, Michael, works at the firm as a project manager.
Current and recently completed projects include major operating room renovations at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, and a bio-solids handling facility for Genoa and Osceola counties. The firm focuses on health care and institutional, infrastructure, and commercial projects.
Its geographic reach is southeast Michigan, roughly banded by Interstate 69 and I-80 on the north and south, respectively, and the state’s eastern and western shorelines.
“But if General Motors (a regular customer) were to say there’s a job beyond that and (they) wanted (us) to bid it, we would,” says Arthur Shmina, giving a glimpse of the flexibility and loyalty the company shows to its clients.