Building Communities

2013-03-03T00:00:00Z Building Communitiesby Michelle Krueger Times Homes Columnist nwitimes.com
March 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The son of Robert B. and Florence Coolman, Robert V. Coolman got his start in the residential land development and homebuilding business growing up in Valparaiso.

“My dad first developed some land in 1948,” Bob Coolman of Coolman Communities said. “From then on, I was involved in one form or another of this business.”

Since building his first home in 1972, Coolman has developed a number of well-known neighborhoods in our area, building over 1,500 single-family and multi-family homes for local families. While he admits that he is now “well past the age of retirement,” Coolman still enjoys coming to work.

“So many people ask me why I haven’t retired,” he explained. “Quite honestly, one of the most significant reasons is that I love to go to closings. Of course I get paid at closings and that’s nice, but over and over I hear the same thing, ‘Mr. Coolman, where do you find the kind of people you have working for you? You have extraordinary people.’”

Reflecting on how much it means to him to hear that very same sentiment repeated time and again over all these years, Coolman started thinking about all the people who come together and actually do the work building the homes his company crafts for people.

“Every one of them is a true professional, and thanks to each and every one of them, I take great pride in the fact that my name is listed in the phone book to this day,” he said. “It all starts with the team that’s running the business – director Carol Carden has been with us for 28 years, our production manager Kelly Kaminski for 18 years and superintendent Eric Veldman has been with us since he graduated high school 19 years ago.”

Former superintendent Ronald Fisher, who got his start in the building trades in the late 1950s and joined Coolman Communities in 1975, shows up a little less frequently since his retirement in 2007 – only about three days a week, according to Coolman.

“We still continue our longstanding tradition of meeting for breakfast every Friday morning,” he said. “Ron’s an amazing problem-solver and a great people person. Relationships and continuity are very important to him. I learned so much about people management from Ron.”

“We have a great group of really good people – not just tremendous workers but fine people to start with, family people,” Coolman added. “None of these guys require someone looking over their shoulder. We built 30 houses last year with one supervisor. That’s when I started thinking about the fact that we touch lives in a lot of different ways. Our electrical contractor is now a third generation family business, our framer has been with us for 28 years, our heating contractor for 35-36 years, excavator Jack Lindy, who is an absolute artist with heavy equipment digging as many as 1,600 foundations just for us in the last 38 years. I would say our average tradesman has been with us for at least 15 years.”

Last week, about 60 tradesmen - people out working on the jobsite everyday - were recognized as Coolman Communities Master Craftsman for their significant contributions.

“These are people who demonstrated over time not only the skill set and knowledge we were looking for, but also people of character,” Coolman said. “Two-thirds of our sales come from referrals, and that’s a strong endorsement for the Coolman product. But, it’s not just Coolman delivering a great experience and a great home - it’s also our tradesmen. We want them to know that we really appreciate who they are and what they do. That they take great pride in their work, work well together and treat our customers right.”

Each Coolman Communities Master Craftsman was personally acknowledged during the appreciation ceremony and received a formal certificate plus honorary jacket.

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