BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week

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David C. Miller, president of Anderson Ashton Design/Build in New Berlin

Company Address: 2746 S. 166th St., New Berlin
Industry: Architecture and construction
Number of employees: 18
Family: “Married to wife, Kathy, for 37 years; four beautiful grown daughters; three handsome grandsons.”

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year? 
“We continued to invest in adopting the latest in building design technologies to better help clients envision and understand the solutions available for their building space needs. We continued to offer many of the services that have made us successful for the past 50 years. We’ve always provided free services such as pre-construction design services, including master site planning, floor plans and appearance elevations. Yet some of our competitors just started offering these services as the result of the recession.”
What’s new at your company?
“Our business has already increased more than 35 percent this year as compared to all of 2011. We’ve seen a large upswing in the industrial sector, in particular those manufacturers who use sophisticated machining centers. The majority of our new work is additions to existing buildings. We have completed or are in the process of designing and building more than 100,000 square feet of new space, mostly to accommodate growing commercial, industrial and institutional clients. We’ve also seen a large increase in business designing and constructing separate foundations in existing buildings for printing presses, machine bases and the like.”

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Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“Providing that business remains strong, we hope to add an additional project manager and structural engineer.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?
“We will continue to operate in an environment marred by the uncertainty we and our customers feel due to the anemic economy and changing political situation. But with the Wisconsin recall elections over, we expect a boost in Wisconsin growth. Besides uncertainty, another challenge is the growing number of restrictions, codes and other obstructions to development that many municipalities and other governmental agencies have adopted. But we pride ourselves on our ability to negotiate our client’s project through these challenges and to truly be a client advocate.” 

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?
“While green building is important to our clients, what matters most to them is a functional, practical and economical space. Usually that’s inherently a sustainable space. We work hard to educate clients that the two interests are not mutually exclusive. Now, more than ever, clients are focused on energy conservation. The use of day lighting for office, manufacturing and retail spaces will be the next big trend as electricity costs continue to climb. We start construction this summer on Delavan’s Green Leaf Inn, a hotel that will be a “net zero” energy consumer through the use of a wind turbine, solar panels and geo-thermal generated power.” 

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Do you have a business mantra? “Go green without wasting green.”
From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“Lee Iacocca. He was the chief designer of the original Ford Mustang. Ford ultimately fired him but then he led the comeback of the Chrysler Corp. in the 1980s as their CEO. His career taught me about the power of resiliency, about picking yourself up after you’ve been knocked down, and about believing in yourself.”

What was the best advice you ever received?
“Hire the best people you can that fit your business, train them in the way that you do things, and then get out of their way.” 

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“We had an auto salvage dealer client who insisted we come personally to pick up payment. He was a grizzly old guy with a heavy German accent. We’re standing next to a junk vehicle when he asks, ‘Do you know what vimen (women) love? Money! And vimen love me.’ He then opens the trunk of that old car where there was a suitcase full of $100 bills. He proceeded to count out 250 of those bills to pay his invoice. We laughed about that all the way back to the office.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I love walleye fishing, golf and the Green Bay Packers. I also like trap shooting.”

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