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Featured Contractor

Longtime signatory contractor marks 125th anniversary

Ryan Incorporated Central
views relationship with
Local 139 as a partnership

By Dave Backmann
Communications Director
JANESVILLE – As recently as 2006, residential construction was the bread-and-butter business for Ryan Incorporated Central in the Midwest with 80 percent of its contracts related to the building of homes.
In 2008, as the national recession gathered strength, that figure plummeted to about 6 percent.
Despite such a drastic decline in one area of business, the contractor, now in its 125th year, is positioned to weather the current economic storm in part because its workforce is flexible, company officials said. Having the ability to bid on diverse types of projects, with people who are trained and experienced in performing different kinds of work, is vital to survivability, they said.
“We’re looking at every type of work as the economy gets tough,” said Operations Manager Larry Hill. “There is more emphasis on traveling for work.”
Ryan Incorporated Central has been signatory to Local 139 since 1966. During the past five years, the company on average has employed 62 Operators annually.

Focus on golf course, landfills
Along with residential work, the company has developed a niche in building golf courses such as the Strawberry Creek course in Bristol. Constructing new landfill cells and capping completed cells, performing commercial site development including at the Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart Supercenter stores coming to Kenosha, and doing the dirt work at power plants are other areas on which the company has focused.
In recent years, Ryan Incorporated Central has targeted landfill work and power plant projects in Mid-Atlantic States and throughout the Midwest.
A particularly frustrating aspect about present business conditions is the fact that while many developers are ready to bid their projects, they are unable to secure the financing needed to move forward, said Adam Ryan, company president. He represents the fourth generation in his family to lead the company.

In the early days
Adam Ryan’s great-grandfather, P.W. Ryan founded the company in Janesville, in 1884, on the strength of two teams of horses. P.W.’s business focused on grading work, done mostly for railroads as well as for Rock and Green counties. William Ryan, Adam’s grandfather, did much of the same work while slowly acquiring expertise in other areas along with adding more equipment, such as tractors and scrapers.
Donald Ryan, Adam’s father, along with uncles Tom and Bill, started Ryan of Wisconsin in the 1950s, a company that generally resembles the business as it now exists.
A focus of that business in Wisconsin was highway work and development of large commercial sites including the former home of the Brewers, Milwaukee County Stadium.
Hill, a Local 139er for 25 years, remembers joining the company and being told to drive a scraper from the Janesville offices to a job in Brookfield.
The fourth generation of Ryan family members organized Ryan Incorporated Central in 1986. That includes Pat Ryan, as chief executive officer; Adam Ryan, president; their sister, Nancy, as treasurer; and cousins Matt Ryan, executive vice president; and Jim Ryan, secretary. A 15-member management committee which convenes monthly assists family members in directing the company.
The Ryan Incorporated Central core fleet of construction machines is one of the largest in the nation, numbering 578 pieces. Keeping the machines in action is critical because of the large, fixed-cost investment, Adam Ryan said.
Jeff Schultz, corporate safety officer and human resources manager, said his company has a solid working relationship with Local 139, especially with the union’s business agents.
“I feel like the business agents we work with are our advocates,” Schultz said. “I feel like it’s a partnership. My impression of Local 139 has been real good.”
Adam Ryan added, “Our 139 experience is really a partnership and it makes it a lot easier to be competitive.”

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