News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Business

October 6, 2013

Developing a legacy: Garmong celebrating 90 years of success; fourth generation now running company

TERRE HAUTE — On the heels of its best year in history, Garmong Construction Services in 2013 is celebrating 90 years of success.

And the future beams bright for CEO/Chairman David Hannum, 54, a fourth-generation leader of the company.

The company last week was awarded a contract to construct an $8 million new maintenance facility for the Indiana Air National Guard at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

Last year was Garmong’s biggest to date, working on $200 million in construction projects, including the new Wayne Township Fire Department 82 and Government Center, Shelbyville Fire Station, WTHI-TV building and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology lakeside residential halls.

The company’s other accomplishments are numerous. It has served as the site contractor in Terre Haute for Union Hospital’s complex since the early 1970s. In a joint partnership with Pepper Construction Co. of Chicago, Garmong constructed the $185-million, four-story Union Hospital East building, which opened in 2010. Other Garmong projects at Union Hospital include the Hux Cancer Center and UAP office building.

Garmong has grown geographically, working with at least six other major hospitals statewide, as well as the hospital in Paris, Ill. While its headquarters are in Terre Haute, it also has an office in Indianapolis and is a site contractor in Evansville for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

As an employer, the company has grown from nine workers when Hannum took control in 1989 to 250 employees, whose numbers include engineers, workers and seasonal hires. The business has also seen structural changes, as Hannum and Ralph E. Wagle, president of Garmong, sold Hannum, Wagle & Cline Engineering to the company’s employees in July.

Claude H. Garmong, David’s great-grandfather, founded the company in 1923 as a residential framing contractor. He led the company until 1952.

“He was an entrepreneur and moved into being a house builder and before long he was a developer. He cut his teeth [as a developer] on Edgewood Grove [subdivision in Terre Haute]. He was one of the primary developers of that subdivision and built the apartments there on Wabash Avenue,” Hannum said.

In 1930, Claude sent his only child, K. Richard Garmong, to what is now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in architectural engineering. Richard moved the company toward the designing and building of houses, churches and light commercial buildings such as gasoline stations.

Among the churches designed by Richard Garmong stands Memorial United Methodist Church on Poplar Street, on Terre Haute’s east side, built in 1967. Continuing that legacy, Garmong Construction in 2010 served as the design/builder for a 2,0000-square-foot addition/remodel. The company also constructed the original Maryland Community Church on South Seventh Street as well as the current expansive 75,000-square-foot Maryland church along Indiana 46 in Vigo County.

Richard Garmong led the company until 1974. David Hannum’s mother is Richard Garmong’s oldest child. Seeking to retire, Richard Garmong turned the company over to David’s father, Kenneth O. Hannum, also a graduate of Rose-Hulman, with an electrical engineering degree.

He led the company into industrial projects, working for firms such as GTE and Eli Lilly. When Kenneth became ill, he turned over the company to David in 1989.

“I was working in the oil business. I got a phone call from my dad, who said, ‘I got cancer and have an offer from someone to buy the company. So unless you want to come back and take it over, I am going to sell it,’” David recalled. “I had about 30 minutes to make the decision. I had never lived in Terre Haute before, but I decided I wanted to set roots and not move around in the oil business.”

David was born in Cincinnati, and grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

“We have had fantastic success. The community has been really good to us. We started an engineering company under the leadership of Ralph Wagle, as a sister company to Garmong Construction, because we wanted building design capabilities with construction,” Hannum said of that company sold in July.

In the 1990s, Hannum moved into real estate development, leasing and property development. It started with building and leasing a new building for the Tribune-Star, at 222 South Seventh St., and later a new press/production facility on Margaret Avenue.

“Ray Meglio [of Thomson Newspapers Inc.] is the one who taught me how to do it,” Hannum said. That has led to several other projects, such as the 98,000-square-foot building Garmong leases to Magna Powertrain in Muncie as well as a 50,000-square-foot warehouse leased to Dixie Chopper in Greencastle.

Hannum keeps a wooden box in his conference room from “Hercules Powder.” That company later became AET and is now Taghleef Industries Inc. in Vigo County. The wooden box is a link to the company’s past.

In the early 1930s, when a depression impacted the company’s work as a housing contractor, Claude Garmong “took all his wood working tools, his shop and all his people and manufactured wooden boxes for Hercules to fill with bullets and ship them off in the war. That is how he made ends meet,” Hannum said.

“That is what you do when an entrepreneur, you see the opportunity,” Hannum said. “They moved back to building churches and gas stations after the war [World War II]. We keep these boxes around just as a reminder that you always have to be flexible and keep your eyes open for more opportunities.”

“That is one reason we got into the real estate,” Hannum said, as many companies sought to use capital for equipment and people, instead of brick, mortar and steel. “That is where the development side has really kicked in. We are the leader in recognized economic development partnerships statewide,” he said of the construction of speculative buildings that companies can move into immediately.

Hannum said Rose-Hulman has played a big roll in the company’s existence. David was the first third-generation graduate of the institute. He and Wagle both graduated from there in 1983. Two of Hannum’s children are Rose grads, a daughter being the first fourth-generation Rose-Hulman graduate. Wagle has a son who also earned a degree from Rose-Hulman.

Hannum’s son, Mitch, a graduate of DePauw University, is a project manager for the company, working in Evansville.

“The partnership with Rose-Hulman has enabled this company to both exist, maintain its presence and grow,” Hannum said. “This company would not be here if Rose-Hulman was not in Terre Haute.”

The company hires Rose-Hulman graduates and maintains a strong relationship with the institute.

For information on the company, visit www.garmong.net.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

Fast facts

• The company has grown from nine workers when CEO/Chairman David Hannum took control in 1989 to 250 employees.

• Claude H. Garmong, David’s great-grandfather, founded the company in 1923 as a residential framing contractor. He led the company until 1952.

• David’s grandfather, Richard Garmong, led the company until 1974.

• David’s father, Kenneth O. Hannum, took over from there, until turning the company over to David in 1989.

 

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