The history of Owen Ames Kimball will grace the region’s landscape for generations. Initially founded in Michigan in 1891, the construction company’s Florida division was established in 1982, and three decades later its legacy is evident by some of the area’s most iconic buildings.
The decision to migrate south was helped by the fact that former O-A-K President Cal Owen had a home in Sarasota. This coincided with a desire of company management to look beyond Michigan. With the completion of I-75 and the development of Southwest Florida International Airport, all economic indicators pointed to the Gulf Coast as a region ripe with untapped potential.
In the intervening 30 years, O-A-K has built some of Southwest Florida’s true landmarks, including projects at Florida Gulf Coast University and Page Field, and the Covenant Presbyterian Church on U.S. 41 in North Naples and Scanlon Lexus dealership in Fort Myers.
O-A-K has constructed several Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. Charlotte County’s Meadow Park Elementary School was the first gold-rated LEED elementary school in Florida. St. Leo the Great Catholic Church Parish Life and Education Center in Bonita Springs was silver LEED certified, and Archbold Biological Station in Fort Myers was platinum.
“We were established as a full-service, client-oriented company,” says David Dale, president of the Florida division of Owen-Ames Kimball located in Fort Myers. “And we have tried very hard to maintain that and to be self-sustaining into the future.”
What is remarkable about O-A-K’s resilience is that it has had to operate against the backdrop of the construction industry’s downturn, at a time when its overall project sizes and margins are down.
“We feel that, if you are not growing, you are going backwards,” says Dale. “We are still moving forward, and we have implemented a number of improvements in terms of quality control, cost management and safety—so hopefully our clients see that.”
Additionally, O-A-K has been helped by both its longevity and the historic diversity of its project types.
“One of the benefits of being a very old and established company is that closure is not on the cards,” explains Dale. “It’s about keeping the company’s capacity in such a state that we can handle whatever comes at us.”
This commitment to quality has extended to its 30th anniversary. Instead of a large celebration, O-A-K has chosen to give back to its community by donating blankets to the Salvation Army and providing scholarships for FGCU. It also plans to hold events with four other charities: the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee, the Heights Foundation (Harlem Heights Community Center), the Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.