It takes incredible ingenuity to build a robust, agile business capable of not just enduring, but prospering, for a century. Such is the case with C.W. Driver Companies, an award-winning builder in Southern California celebrating its centennial anniversary this year.
Founded in 1919 by Clarence Wike Driver, this Pasadena-based firm is one of the oldest and most respected general contractors on the West Coast. Under the leadership of the Driver family until the late 1980s, the stalwart organization persevered through calamitous historic events that tanked many other businesses. It rose above economic downturns and market uncertainties by focusing on ideals such as quality workmanship and maintaining client satisfaction.
Though relatively small in its early years, C.W Driver Companies made a name for itself by spearheading iconic projects such as the Wilshire United Methodist Church (formerly the Wilshire Congregational Church) in 1926, the Warner Bros. Theater in 1929, Loyola Marymount University’s St. Robert’s Hall in 1935, and the Los Angeles Theater in 1939. Between the 1950s and 1990s, staff members focused on landing jobs in what has now become one of the firm’s primary markets: education. During this timeframe, the leadership worked to develop long-lasting relationships with California State University, the University of California and other higher education institutions as well as K-12 public and private schools. In the last two decades, the firm has experienced tremendous growth by delivering projects utilizing the construction manager multi-prime and construction manager at-risk delivery methods.
“This catapulted us to our current position of being ranked by ENR California as the No. 2 education builder in California,” says Karl Kreutziger, who has served as President of C.W Driver Companies since 2015. Possessing over 30 years of construction industry experience, he transitioned into this role after successfully starting Driver SPG (Special Project Group) and his predecessor, Dana Roberts, remained named CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Roberts got his start at the company in 1970 as an apprentice carpenter. He worked alongside his father, a construction superintendent, for many years – one of many instances in which multiple generations of families have chosen to make their careers at C.W. Driver Companies. In his present-day role, Roberts remains committed to building the capabilities of the company he has called home for over 48 years.
Today, C.W. Driver Companies employs a staff of around 360 and maintains branch offices in Anaheim, Carlsbad, Irvine, Rancho Cucamonga, San Diego, and San Jose. From preconstruction to construction to project close-out, the team takes pride in providing top-notch customer experiences to both private and public-sector clients.
Specializing in general contracting, construction management and design-build services, C.W. Driver Companies has a foothold in a diverse array of markets, including education, commercial/office, tenant improvement, hospitality, entertainment, retail, senior living, and civic/cultural. “A majority of our work is repeat business,” Kreutziger says. “Many of our clients today have been our clients in the past; it’s just a perpetual process that allows us to continue great relationships.”
How exactly does the company gain such trust? “I think it’s just being truthful and holding ourselves accountable,” Kreutziger responds, “which helps clients see us as a trusted adviser.” To date, the firm has constructed over 4. 7 million square feet of commercial office space and completed more than 450 tenant improvement, renovation or addition projects. Over the last decade, it has built $2.2 billion in education facilities and over 100 projects. A sampling of recently completed signature projects include a new casino and resort hotel project in San Jacinto for the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, an architecturally stunning new Student Services Building for California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, and a state-of-the-art broadcast facility for NBC Universal in Los Angeles. Currently, the construction team is working on over 50 projects, including the reconfiguration of over 12 acres of retail space at the Hillsdale Shopping Center, one of the largest enclosed shopping centers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A distinguished past is building up to an even more dynamic future. As such, company leaders focus on appreciating the in-house talent that opens doors to bigger and better prospects.
“We have been successful for over 100 years because of our people. They are our most valuable asset, and without them, we would not have succeeded,” Kreutziger says. To demonstrate its immense value for employees, the construction firm offers a comprehensive benefits program that includes competitive pay, full medical benefits for employees and their immediate family members, a 401(k) profit-sharing plan, paid vacation/sick leave, tuition reimbursement, professional development opportunities, and other perks. The family-oriented organization also sponsors exciting events throughout the year for staff and their loved ones to enjoy, as well as annual holiday celebrations. The company has built and sustained an incredible workplace culture of teamwork, respect, integrity, commitment, loyalty and excellence. Promoting workplace diversity is also important. Currently, C.W Driver Companies employs around 20 military veterans whose discipline and leadership abilities are beneficial to managing projects safely and successfully. “We also have quite a few women working for us; several of them serve in some of our organization’s highest positions,” Kreutziger notes. Another prime focus is attracting younger generations into the construction workforce. “Millennials represent 54 percent of our industry’s current workforce,” Kreutziger says. “If you are going to be around in the future, you have to recruit the brightest and best talent from this and other younger generations.” He explains that companies must be conscientious of what resonates with these groups of individuals, which are often tech savvy and appreciate being recognized for their accomplishments. “If you are sitting back and looking at the old ways of managing, communicating and treating your up-and-coming employees, you will likely have trouble keeping them engaged and feeling fulfilled,” he adds.
To further enrich people’s lives, C.W Driver Companies has a program called REACH! that provides opportunities for employees to give back to their communities. Last year, over 2,400 volunteer hours and 32 events were attributed to the program, with $147,000 donated to local charitable organizations.
REACH! has supported organizations such as HomeAid in Orange County and the Inland Empire, Solutions for Change, Hillsides, Discovery Science Foundation, Huntington Hospital, Foothill Family Shelter, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Boys & Girls Clubs, and CHOC Children’s Hospital.
“Our company’s purpose is ‘Building Better Communities and Lives Together.’ We don’t just say it, we live it,” Kreutziger affirms. “We want our employees to be fulfilled in every way possible, and giving back to our communities, listening, and taking action on what is important is how we remind our staff they are important to us.” The goal this year is to reach 10,000 hours of volunteer service, which is being tracked on a website so employees can see all the ways they are making a difference – whether it’s coaching Little League, or volunteering at a shelter, or helping out at a local church, or something else with community impact.
While the leadership is proud of the countless awards and accolades earned through industry performance and charitable work, such “trophies” pale in comparison to the intrinsic reward of making a difference in people’s lives. Ultimately, championing workplace diversity will remain a key factor in achieving this goal.
“The more diverse we are as a company, the better equipped we are to look at challenges from different points of view, grow in our views and ensure we are constantly moving forward,” Kreutziger says. “In valuing our people and their diversity, the whole of each of us working together as a team is greater than the sum of our individual parts.”
While longevity in the industry provides C.W Driver Companies with a competitive edge, this accomplishment is not the end all, be all to securing future projects. “We can’t rest on our hundred-year reputation alone. We need to go out every day and earn our way. That’s the competitive nature of our market. That’s what we must do to differentiate ourselves – and that will keep clients coming back to us,” Kreutziger says.
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