Expanding the Drawing Board

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

Husband and wife Charles and Kristine Naber, who own West Allis Blueprint & Supply Inc., are growing their company by providing their services to single-family homebuilders, large construction firms, architects and design firms.

In the third quarter of this year, the Nabers hired three employees for the company’s West Allis production, sales and service departments. The company will hire additional workers next year and will likely open a satellite location, Charles Naber said.

Those employees will work in production and sales, he said. The satellite location will likely be in the Oak Creek area, because West Allis Blueprint (WAB) is providing printing services to a large construction firm that is overseeing much of the work on the expansion of We Energies’ Oak Creek power plant.

The Nabers have already added significant horsepower to their company since purchasing it in 1996. Back then, the company had five employees. Today, West Allis Blueprint employs 15 workers, including two part-time employees.

Both Charles and Kristine said the company has been successful because of the leadership qualities of its employees.

The Nabers work at WAB full-time, as do two of their children, Kari, 29 and Mark, 26. Kari serves as WAB’s controller, while Mark handles technical support and some sales. Kristine’s brother, Paul Martin, joined the company in 1998 and currently serves as its vice president of sales.

Their different skill sets and backgrounds have helped fuel growth at West Allis Blueprint, Kristine said. Before purchasing the company, she worked in the office supply industry. Charles worked as an engineer, while Mark’s background is in service, and Kari is an accountant.

"When we all came to the business, we had a background that meshed together," Kristine said. "We took our expertise and expanded it."

WAB claims that 51 percent of the new homes in the area are built with its plans, that 43 percent of the area’s largest construction firms use its plans and that 25 percent of the largest architects in southeastern Wisconsin use its services.

WAB supplied plan printing, engineering consultant work and assistance with computer-assisted drafting (CAD) for the redevelopment of the Teweles Seed Co. building in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward. The $18.5 million project, which converted the storage facility into 115 apartments, was completed earlier this year.

The firm has also been contracted to supply plans and do CAD work on the River Renaissance project, a condo development in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward along the Milwaukee River. The seven-story building will have 72 condos and about 19,000 square feet of retail space.

The company has three other large deals pending in the Milwaukee area, Charles said, but he declined to discuss them in detail.

The first large project the Nabers worked on was Miller Park, shortly after they purchased the business. Charles said the company was able to develop a long list of clients while working on that project, in which it produced thousands of printed blueprints and detailed schematics for hundreds of different contractors working there. Both Charles and Kristine said those contacts have fueled the company’s steady growth.

"Miller Park was really our first major project," Kristine said. "That really opened the roof for us. A project like that really got us on our feet."

Since then, they’ve diversified. In 1997, WAB added an engineering division, which offers design consultation and drafting. It now also helps clients design their own online systems to purchase and track orders. The firm recently started offering design assistance for clients as well.

The firm recently established its own information technology department, said Mark Naber.

"We can now do an on-line portal for our prints for customers so they can track their orders," Mark Naber said. "Our competitors are using a third party for that. We can write software from scratch – anything is possible."

Charles heads up WAB’s engineering division. He and other engineers will routinely travel to southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim area and Europe, where they assist in product development and troubleshooting.

"When a customer hires us, they hire our expertise," Charles said. "We can resolve almost any issue because we’ve seen it before."

 

West Allis Blueprint & Supply, Inc.

Address: 6301 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis
Web site: www.westallisblueprint.com
Employees: 15
Key projects: Miller Park; We Energies Oak Creek power plant; Teweles Seed Co. condominium complex in Walker’s Point; and the River Renaissance condos in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.
Sales increase: 20 percent for 2005

Get our email updates