“We’re a top 20 construction firm in Milwaukee — competing with companies that have been in business for over 100 years,” says Kip Ritchie, President, Greenfire Management Services. (Courtesy Greenfire)
Greenfire Management Services recently received the 2019 Wisconsin Minority Business Enterprise Award for Outstanding Large Business. The construction management company was recognized for establishing a business that demonstrated the capacity to grow and has plans for continued expansion.
“We are very proud to be selected for this award and are grateful for everyone who contributes to our success across the state of Wisconsin,” says Kip Ritchie, President, Greenfire Management Services. “As a minority-owned business, we work hard to not only establish ourselves in a competitive marketplace, but we are committed to hiring and working with other minority-owned businesses through our expansive network of subcontractors. Together we are builders of the future and it’s great to be surrounded by so many exceptional companies.”
Greenfire, a certified minority-owned business enterprise, accepted the award at a ceremony at the Governor’s Award Breakfast during the 38th Annual Marketplace Conference, held at the Potawatomi Conference Center.
Forming Greenfire Management Services
Native Business recently spoke with Ritchie about the formation of Greenfire and its ascent to become one of the fastest-growing and most reputable construction management firms in Milwaukee.
The Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, the investment division of the Forest County Potawatomi, launched Greenfire Management Services in 2010, in the middle of the recession. “It was a huge learning curve,” Ritchie says.
The Tribe was approached by a retired construction professional about starting a minority-owned construction management firm in Milwaukee with financial capabilities and bonding capacity. “That’s part of our corporate goal — to build capacity, infrastructure and business acumen,” says Ritchie.
Fortunately, Greenfire was able to draw from an already established team — some counting 20-plus years of experience in construction. In addition to managing projects for the Tribe and across Wisconsin, Greenfire could compete commercially, leveraging its minority ownership.
“Like any startup business, it took a few years of fledgling, growing, learning and adjusting,” Ritchie says. “Right around 2014, things really started to take off in Milwaukee, and especially around multifamily housing. There was a huge demand, as we’ve seen nationally, for multifamily residential housing. These projects can be anywhere from $10 million to $40 million.”
Greenfire secured a contract with one of the largest real estate developers in Milwaukee, the Mandel Group, for multifamily housing, and similar opportunities manifested in its wake. Over nearly a decade, Greenfire has scaled from roughly $5 million in revenue to $80 million.
“We’re a top 20 construction firm in Milwaukee — competing with companies that have been in business for over 100 years,” says Ritchie of the award-winning Greenfire Management Services, which raked in 11 awards in 2018 alone.
Greenfire currently employs 45 people and counts two offices — one in Milwaukee and one in Wausau in northern Wisconsin.
“We started the company with about $600,000, and the Tribe invested about $5 million for our bonding package — held in a separate account to bond some of these large projects,” Ritchie shares, paying credit to the Tribe and Greenfire’s eight-member leadership team for the business’ formation and success. Ritchie added that, today, Greenfire boasts $75 million in bonding capacity.
The Tribe tapped Greenfire to manage construction of its new 19-story hotel at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino; Data Holdings, the Tribe’s $36 million Tier 3+ data center; and the expansion of the Tribe’s Wgema Campus, formerly Concordia College, in historic Milwaukee.