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Ramsons Inc.
Building 50 Years of Legacy

By Audrey Hanes, photography by Melissa Donner

The McDaniel family has been in construction since the early 1900s, and Ramsons Inc. has been a big part of that legacy since Rufus A. McDaniel founded the company in 1971. As the locally owned and operated family firm celebrates five decades of construction management, designing and building this year, the Ramson team continues to think outside the box in order to keep growing the company for decades to come.

More than five decades ago, Rufus A. McDaniel was running M & M Construction, where he had been a partner for 15 years. Still, he longed to own and start a legacy for his family, so he founded Ramsons – Rufus. A. McDaniel and sons – in 1971. From the first construction management contract in the 1990s to the recent Arkansas State University centennial expansion, the company has kept up with the times while still focusing on quality and timeliness.

Scott McDaniel, who joined the business in 2000 and is transitioning into management, says that he didn’t always want to work for Ramsons Construction for the long haul. He attended the University of Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. After graduating, he started working at Ramsons while he took a year off to prepare for graduate school. During that year, he fell in love with the business.

“If you’re happy at work, you’re going to be a happy person,” said Scott. “After that year, I dedicated myself to the business; I took engineering and business classes at ASU and learned on the job and learned the business. The best way to do it is to do it.

“I didn’t know I wanted to go into the family business until I stepped in and then fell in love with the pace and challenge of it. It’s driving past something and knowing you had a part in building that. Getting to know skilled craftsmen and knowing what they can do, it’s incredible.”

Scott says that Ramsons has continued to be successful by evolving as the market evolved. Traditionally, an owner would hire an architect, then get multiple bids, then whoever was cheapest would get the bid. About 15 years ago, the local construction company stopped competing on price and focused on value.

“There’s not one thing that you buy solely based on price; value is what’s important,” said Scott. “Building something is the most expensive thing you’ll ever do. And while price always matters, it’s never about what you pay, it’s about what you get for what you pay. We got on that trend really early, and that’s how we procure work. That has led to much longer sales cycles; we often get a job two years before we actually build it.

“We try to target the main business sectors, like healthcare, industrial, banks, medical clinics, offices, churches, schools, etc. Basically, we want to build clients. We don’t chase jobs, we chase clients. We want to build those relationships. My smallest job I ever did was a $100 job for Elephant Car Wash, and our biggest was $25 million.”

One of those $25 million jobs was the centennial expansion project for Arkansas State University. The project included a complete demolition of the existing press box, replacing it with a four-story (on four stories of stilts) club, luxury suite and a press box. It also included, on the concourse level, a complete commercial kitchen, restrooms and team store. McDaniel stated that the job, under normal conditions, would typically take 18 months to construct; A-State needed it done in nine, and Ramsons Construction made it happen.

“That project highlighted what we do best,” said Scott. “We are not a big contractor, but we compete against them. The difference is that we are very, very agile because of our size. It’s a testament to how we can do things. We were $2 million in before we even had a contract; we knew the university was good for it, so we just went ahead and started without waiting for all the formalities.

“Many said the project was impossible to do – we were the only mid-sized contractor competing for the job – but we didn’t look at it that way. Yes, it was an 18-month job, but if you have a day shift and a night shift, you can turn that into nine months. And we could fast track the steel – we had to retro fit it, fabricating some of the steel while it was already in place. It’s outside-the-box thinking. The architects were drawing on napkins and bringing it in the next day; every day was Apollo 13. You’re designing a plane mid-flight. Nothing else mattered; we had to get it done, so we did, both parts of it.”

He says that Ramsons was able to finish the project so efficiently and with a focus on quality because of the incredible people in the field and in the office, all of whom worked hand-in-hand with A-State’s team. They picked all of their own subcontractors – RGB Mechanical, R&G Masonry, Jonesboro Acoustical & Drywall and Midsouth Steel – which Scott says made all the difference.

“We picked folks who were local, and they were just incredible,” said Scott. “Teamwork and flexibility and dedication made that happen. We finished the Wednesday before kickoff. It was a fun one; it’s indicative of who we are.”

Scott says that the family aspect of Ramsons extends far beyond those who are actually related to the McDaniel family.

“Fifty years is so meaningful, and it’s a testament to our people; we have really, really good people,” said Scott. “We are a family business, but the business is a family, too. We have people who have been here since ‘71. We have people who are third generation in their family to work here. …

“It’s meaningful because it proves that our model of hiring good people and empowering them works. The team we have here is just incredible. It’s a very flat organization. People don’t have titles, they have roles, and there isn’t a lot of top-down micromanaging; what that does is allow people to thrive. If you’re a motivated self-starter that takes pride in what you do, you can do a lot in this company. It’s a new tech trend lately, but my granddad and dad (Danny) have been doing it since the ‘70s.”

In addition to that empowerment culture in the workplace, Danny is known for setting aggressive schedules for projects and for his business contributions in carrying on the family tradition.

“Being in business 50 years is phenomenal and is something we are very proud of,” said Danny, whose background is in business and engineering. “I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to take it over from my father and my son is taking it over from me and will continue the legacy we have been building and working on, always with an emphasis on quality construction and completing projects on time.”

The second-generation McDaniel says the satisfaction he and the Ramsons work family gets out of the business is the fact that they are building something that will be there for decades.

“I feel that pride every time I drive by something we built 10, 20, 30 years ago,” said Danny. “The pride of a successful project lasts for years.”

As Ramsons celebrates 50 years and more than 1,500 completed construction projects, the company decided it was time for a brand update that included a reworking of the original logo, which was designed by Scott’s grandmother and a friend, coupled with the hand-drawn arcs that Danny drew with a compass. Scott says the change was simply the addition of the tagline, “We build legacy.”

“On its most basic level, buildings will outlive us,” said Scott. “It’s a testament to the legacy of the client. It’s the third generation, and 50 years in the construction business is quite an achievement. The people we have working here, this is their legacy, too. And it’s a legacy for our family, starting with Henderson McDaniel in the late 1890s – he built some of the historic structures in Jonesboro.”

Scott says that Ramsons has produced a long legacy of builders, and they wanted to echo that in honor of 50 years as a growing and thriving construction company. It’s what he enjoys most about what he does, and it’s why he is so passionate about the family business.

“What I like the most is that every day is different,” said Scott. “It’s the challenge of creating something. It’s not easy to turn raw material into a building, to turn a client’s dreams into something that will work for them. It’s the challenge of making that happen. That’s fun. And the people – working with them – I’m blown away by how good they are. I learn from them every single day.”

Ramsons Inc., located at 3111 Dan Ave., is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (870) 935-1210, visit ramsonsinc.net or find Ramsons Inc. on Instagram or Facebook.