Capital Ideas: Kevin Shaw
Kevin Shaw is one of six partners and vice president of marketing for the Lansing-based Wieland-Davco construction company. Wieland-Davco is both a national and international leader in the building industry and has worked on the United Solar building in Greenville, Mich., as well as the recently completed 30,000 square foot LEED-certified Delta Township Library.
Shaw is a Cass City, Mich. native and worked for Michiganís (MSU) Athletic Department before becoming the director ofthe Wharton Center. In 2000, he joined Weiland-Davco in part to help the company diversify into international markets that include the Bahamas, Canada, Mexico and Germany.
Capital Gains sat down with Shaw to talk about market diversification, globalization and green building.
Capital Gains: How does a development company like Wieland-Davco diversify when the economy takes a dive?
Kevin Shaw: I would say in the first 30-35 years of the company, we really cut our teeth on Dart Container. Weíve built them 20 million square feet of factories all over the world.
In the late 90s, Dart slowed down, and this company was really built around Dart only. So when I came in 2000, we really needed to diversify.
We looked at a couple of different sectors. We really looked at churches. We had built a couple, but really started to market them. And now weíve built 20-30. We looked at automotive dealerships and have probably built a dozen since then, [though that's a] terrible market now.
Our answer to diversifying was "play to your strengths."
We had this template for traveling. Our guys travel really well, so a company in Canada finds out that Wieland-Davco in Michigan has licenses in 20 different states, they started calling us. We built for them in Baltimore, Mass.; we built for them in Louisiana; we built for them in Kentucky and in Mexico. Now they call us first because they know we travel.
CG: What international building components has Wieland-Davco borrowed from other countries?
KS: Weíve picked up quite a bit in Germany, seeing the way they build facilities there. Thereís a couple of things about their facilities. Theyíre highly efficient. They would rather spend the money up front on an efficient heating and cooling system and an efficient design, because they understand the capture backóthat maybe in five or six years those ideas would actually result in a net savings.
One other thing about them is that they really like the idea of available light. Most of the factories have lots of windows. You wouldnever see metal siding buildings in Germany like you would see here. Itís block, brick, glass and steel.
CG: Are we getting at a point where the moral and economic implications of green building are intersecting?
KS: Yeah, they really are. Every single meeting I go to these days, part of the agenda discussion is, "Can we build a green building?"
Not long ago, I was meeting with a fire authority that wants to build a new fire station and they brought up the idea, "Should we build a green-certified fire station?" Their next initial question was, "OK, but how much more is that going to cost?"
Their impression was that that was going to cost twice as much, and the reality is that it will probably cost five percent more.
Everybodyís asking about it: Churches are asking about it; Car dealers are asking about it.
The pendulum is swinging a little bit more. It went from nobodyís talking about it to everybody was talking about it, and now itís swinging back to the direction of, "We want a green facility, but we donít necessarily want a LEED certified facility." We can employ all the ideas that a LEED certified building would have, but without all the paperwork that goes along with it. "I wonít have a plaque on the wall, but Iíll have a green building." Weíre seeing more and more of that now.
The juryís still out on LEED, because we need about another five years of studying the results of those ideas. Do they increase efficiencies, or are they just politics?
CG: Whatís your favorite city nationally or internationally?
KS: I would probably say that Hong Kong was incredible. Itís so cosmopolitan and itís so safe. When we were in Hong Kong, my wife and I were with another couple our age, and they said, "Our kids want to take your kids out shopping in Hong Kong."
My wife and I were like, "Weíre not going to let them go," and they said, "No, itís safe." We went out to eat and our kids and seven or eight other teenagers were gone until about 1 a.m. I would never have done that in Detroit or New York, but it was so safe and the public transportation was incredible. They rode the bus, they rode the subway and they took a train home and that was just to go shopping in all these different shopping districts.
That blew my mind, how efficient Hong Kong was. I think itís like 10 square miles and itís mostly high rises, so theyíre surrounded by water and really have to think through planning. So their urban planning is pretty smart.
Their transportation is phenomenal. Thatís something Lansing could work on, maybe a metro that would do better loops. Something different than CATA. I would say I could live in Hong Kong because it was such a melting pot. It was kind of like New York.
CG: Why is it important for your children to travel internationally?
KS: I did not realize how big the world was until I got out of college. When I made my first couple of international trips, I thought, "Wow, it would be incredible for my kids to see this now, before they leave high school."
You donít know what you donít know, so if youíre 30 before you travel overseas like I was, thatís one perspective. If youíre 16 or 12, and youíve flown 24 hours on a plane, and youíve stopped in Tokyo, and have been to Hong Kong and youíve seen all thatóI just think it broadens your horizons.
Iím sure my kids still do not realize what an opportunity that was for them, but someday theyíre going to look back on that and theyíre going to say, "It was because of that experience that I felt enough courage to go do whatever."
CG: Is it important for a city like Lansing to foster international travel and international relations?
KS: I think itís really important.
One of the things that Iím really encouraged by is Michigan Stateís study abroad program. When Peter McPherson was president, he was a visionary and he said, "I want to do just a couple of things really, really well and be known for it." One of the things was to be the leaderin study abroad programs.
I was working at MSU at the time and I was doing central marketing and I can tell you: we spent days and weeks marketing the study abroad program.
Almost all the kids coming out of Michigan State now havea study abroad experience, and we hire them here. I just hired one who went to the Czech Republic on study abroad. I could go down the list: This kid went to Honduras; this kid spent a summer in France. Theyíre just so much more culturally sensitive.
Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and can be reached here.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Kevin Shaw in his Wieland-Davco offices
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie