About Cramer & Associates
Cramer and Associates, Inc. (formerly Cramer Brothers, Inc.) has been building/repairing bridges, culverts and dams for over 50 years. The story begins when Del Cramer, of Neosho, MO, graduated from high school and moved to Storm Lake, IA to live with his brother-in-law, Howard Bayse, and to attend Buena Vista College. Del later transferred to Iowa State where he received a B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1950.
During the summers and after college, Del worked for the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) as an inspector. He and another inspector, Harold Oliphant, decided construction didn’t look too difficult and started their own company. They built some culverts and very small bridges. They needed some money and Harold’s brother, Sock, joined them forming Oliphant, Oliphant and Cramer.
One of their earliest jobs was a subcontract from Schmidt Construction to build three cattle passes. Another early job was a triple box culvert in Buena Vista County. Later, Del recalled, Sock Oliphant turned in bids on thirteen small bridges in Linn County, near Cedar Rapids. They were read low on all thirteen and knew they were really in the bridge business. They bought a new Lorrain TL25LC crane and a concrete production plant to mix concrete on site.
In 1953, one of the Oliphant brothers passed away and Del joined a new partner, Russell Bayse. Russell was a brother to Howard Bayse and had some business experience owning a store in Newell, IA. Howard borrowed $10,000 from a banker in Newell foolish enough to loan it to him and they formed Cramer-Bayse Construction.
In 1956-57 Cramer-Bayse built three overpasses along I-35 south of Des Moines. Starting in 1960, they built eleven bridges in Kansas City, MO. They bought several cranes beginning with two American 399’s and moving up to an American 599 in 1960 which cost $38,000.
By the early 60’s, Del’s father, who everyone called Pop, and three of Del’s brothers worked for the company. There was Dale, George and Don. The fifth brother, Dallas, became a Vet and opened up shop in Stockton, MO where he still resides. By then they had bought a few 50-Ton, American 5299’s and thought they were ready to build anything. A new freeway was being built in Des Moines called I-235 or The MacVicar Freeway. The Cramers built several of the overpasses including 6 th Avenue, 19 th Street, Cottage Grove and Harding Road.
Also in the early sixties, a young engineer from Iowa State named Harold Tompkins went to work for the company and built several large projects beginning with the 1 st Avenue bridge in Cedar Rapids.
Cramer-Bayse Construction dissolved in 1963 and, at age 53, Russell retired to Florida where he still resides today (2007). Del and his brothers began a partnership called Des Moines Bridge. They operated that way for a short time and then incorporated in 1965 under the name Cramer Brothers, Inc.
The company expanded across the state of Iowa. They built several bridges in Council Bluffs including putting the decks on three river bridges…I-80, I-480, and I-680. Cramer Brothers also did quite a bit of work in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. In the mid-to-late ‘70s, they joint ventured with Jensen Construction to build the “5-in-1”. George Cramer led the way in building this project consisting of double-decker, twin bridges and a dam on the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids.
Times were pretty good for the Brothers and they were looking for investment opportunities. They bought airplanes and farms. Outside of work those were the closest things to hobbies the Brothers had. Del enjoyed farming and they all liked to fly.
Also in the early ‘70s, a new repair process for bridges was developed. It’s called a high-density, low-slump bridge deck overlay and is also known as “The Iowa Method”. We just call it “overlay”. The process involves grinding ¼” or more off the surface of the bridge deck, jack-hammering all the delaminated concrete off the surface and around the rebars, and then installing a 1.5” to 2” layer of new concrete. A special, mobile concrete mixer is used to mix the concrete on-site. Also, a unique paver is required which uses a lot of vibration to finish the concrete that has a very low slump of 0 to 1”. This method can add 25 years or more of life to a bridge deck. Iowa and Kansas have used it extensively and several other states have done it quite a bit. It’s especially useful in states where a lot of salt is used in the winter time. The dense overlay helps keep the salts from getting to the rebars where corrosion will deteriorate the deck.
Cramer has overlayed more bridges in the Midwest than anyone else. Overlay has taken Cramer to Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. (In 2006, Cramer placed low slump, silica fume, and high performance overlays totaling 57,000 sy.)
In 1978, the Cramers incorporated another company called Cramer and Associates, Inc. It has an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and is merit shop. Cramer Brothers, Inc. did work for another few years and then dissolved. Cramer and Associates, Inc. has continued to grow to this day.
The ESOP is a retirement benefit for all employees that work at least 1000 hours during the year. A contribution is made by the Company to the employees at the end of the year. The amount can vary but is usually equal to 5% of the employee’s wages. The big benefit, however, is that the ESOP grows as the Company profits. Currently, 40% of the profit is going to the ESOP each year. Many of the employees have very large nest eggs waiting for them at retirement.
Tragedy struck in 1981, when Dale Cramer was killed in a car accident. Although the company shuffled the work load around and worked through it, the real loss was felt on the personal level of losing a loved one and the impact that loss had on Dale’s wife and three boys. God doesn’t promise to keep us from all trials in life, but He does promise to go through them with us.
The building of new structures slowed down in the 1980s. However, the overlay market was doing better. So, Cramer transitioned away from new construction and towards rehabilitating and overlaying bridges. It was, and still is, very tough work, but at least there weren’t seven to ten bidders on every job.
Don Cramer would take a “pour crew” from the shop as well as gathering some help from other jobs to make the overlay pours. He made virtually every pour. In the thick of the season, pours could be happening in every corner of the state on four or five days of the week. They would leave at three or four a.m. to be able to start pouring at seven and turn around and do it somewhere else the next day.
The exceptional planning and coordinating of the overlay work along with motivated employees made Cramer a leader in the overlay market. The company could, and still does, compete for every overlay in Iowa from tiny bridges in the country to mammoth overlays like the I-74 Bridge over the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities.
In 1989, Cramer and Associates, Inc. made another shift by moving half the company to Topeka, Kansas for a two-year job of widening and overlaying bridges on I-70. Koss Construction, a concrete paving company, felt they were being locked out of getting major paving jobs in Kansas because they weren’t getting the best bridge quotes. George Cramer tells how Koss snuck him down to Topeka in their plane the night before the letting so the competition wouldn’t know he was there. Koss was the low bidder and George led the bridge work for the next two years.
The Kansas work also introduced the Company to hydrodemolition. Cramer worked closely with subcontractors who would use water blasting robots to remove the deteriorated concrete on the bridge deck. Hydrodemolition is still used today, but limitedly. Hydro has some benefits but also creates quite a mess of cement-water to deal with.
The Topeka job was followed by a two year job in Wichita with Koss and then a few smaller projects. Richard Schoene, an engineer Cramer hired from Iowa State, and Dan Cramer, George’s son, were emerging as gifted job superintendents during the Kansas work. They would play a key role in the company’s future.
Also in the early 1990s, Cramer and Associates, Inc. widened and overlayed several bridges on I-80 in Des Moines. At that time, Del Cramer’s son, Robert began working full time after graduating from Iowa State in Construction Engineering.
As Del looked to the future, he wanted to transition to the next generation. Richard Schoene, Dan Cramer, Robert Cramer and Jerry Marker (the Company Controller since 1964) were all added to the Cramer and Associates, Inc. Board of Directors in 1991 and the four of them became the Management Team. Towards the end of the 1990s, the company needed a plan for the founding Cramer brothers to retire and to empower the Management Team. Several transition plans were proposed and rejected until, in November, 1999, Dan and Robert hired RSM McGladrey, Inc. to facilitate the making of a transition plan. Within 24 hours, the Board had an agreement whereby Del, George and Don would retire from day-to-day duties and then from the Board over the next six years. The Management Team would continue on the Board of Directors as well as adding Mike Cramer, Don’s son, who manages the Shop. Each of the three remaining founders’ families continue to own about 20% of the company stock and the ESOP owns the remaining 40%.
The transition has worked out very well for all parties which, unfortunately, can’t be said very often. Most of the time second-generation companies flounder, but Cramer and Associates, Inc. has flourished.
Though Cramer’s work in the 90s continued to be dominated by rehabilitations and overlays, the floods of ’93 in Des Moines meant many new flood walls, gates and pump stations needed to be built to protect the low parts of the city. Then, in the beginning of the 21 st Century, the work was dominated by the replacement of the MacVicar Freeway, I-235 in Des Moines. A total of 77 bridges were to be replaced or rehabilitated from the year 2000 to 2007. Cramer bought a traditional style 100-Ton American Crane and a new Terex-American 110 Crane as they transitioned back to building new bridges. But, more importantly, the workforce had to transition to new construction as well.
The Company had some superintendents with ‘new bridge’ experience but hired more engineers out of Iowa State as supervisors for expansion. Cramer also trained more carpenters and operators. The typical crew was no longer a supervisor with a bunch of laborers who could jackhammer. The ‘new bridge’ crews needed the same motivation as the ‘overlay crews’, but needed more skills to get the job built.
Some of the bridges Cramer and Associates, Inc. built on I-235 were of traditional construction and a normal schedule. However, many were fast paced, involved a lot of night work (due to lane closure restrictions), and/or had a unique design. For example, Cramer built two out of three of the blue, basket handled arched pedestrian bridges.
Cramer replaced the Harding Road and 19 th Street bridges that were originally built by the first generation. During the demolition of the 6 th Avenue overpass, a laborer brought Dan Cramer a tag he had found wrapped around a rebar and cast into the concrete bridge deck. It was a rebar tag stating the size and length of the rebar when it was purchased in 1964 and was made out to Cramer & Bayse Construction!
Cramer and Associates, Inc. will have completed about a third of the structures work on I-235 when the work winds down in 2007. Cramer also learned to manage large, complex projects. Cramer was the lead manager of MEGA3, the $43 million project at I-235 and E. University Ave in 2005. Similarly, Cramer led the MEGA1 Downtown project, a $93 million freeway replacement including grading, pcc paving, bridges, MSE walls, storm sewers and other utilities, lighting, and signing.
Now, Cramer and Associates, Inc. is ready for the future whether it entails a lot of rehab work, overlay, new structures, or all three.
Working in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas, the Management Team has grown Cramer and Associates, Inc. into a medium sized company employing over 130 people. It has grown from $6.7 million in self-performed work in 1994 to $27.5 million in 2005. When you add in the subcontracted work, Cramer and Associates, Inc.’s volume topped $52 million in 2005 and $82 million in 2006.
Cramer and Associates, Inc. has a reputation of building the messier, tougher, more complicated projects in the area. This is a result of Management being intimately involved in the work and of hiring motivated, skilled Superintendents to run the jobs. Although some of our strong Superintendents have risen up through the ranks, we have had a lot of success in hiring Construction Engineers as Superintendents. But Management doesn’t just send Superintendents off to do the job. Co-President Dan Cramer, Richard Schoene, P.E., and newly promoted engineers Marty Jorgensen and Mark Leusink each oversee four or five crews. Therefore, whether the job requires extra engineering or extra planning to meet an accelerated schedule, Cramer and Associates, Inc. enjoys the challenge.
Dan Cramer, President/Chief Operating Officer
Besides overseeing five or six Superintendents himself, Dan is responsible for making sure all the work gets done. Dan has over thirty years experience building and rehabilitating bridges of all types.
Robert Cramer, P.E., President/Chief Administrative Officer
Robert is a 1990 Construction Engineering graduate from Iowa State and has his professional license in Civil Engineering. Robert is responsible for the estimating, engineering, and management of the office.
Steve Tuttle, CPA, Controller
Steve has been with the company over 20 years and had a lot of experience as an auditor before that. Steve oversees the accounting functions and serves as the Board’s Secretary/Treasurer.
Marty Jorgensen, General Superintendent
Marty oversees about five or six Superintendents. He is a Civil Engineer from Iowa State. Marty spent the year 1996 working for Kiewit in Albuquerque, NM after college and has spent the rest of his career at Cramer and Associates, Inc. After working several years and building several bridges, Marty was promoted to General Superintendent in 2005. Marty built the first arched pedestrian bridge over I-235 in Des Moines and oversaw the second one. Marty joined the board in 2015.
Mark Leusink, General Superintendent
Mark is a 2000 graduate of Construction Engineering at Iowa State. After working six years as a Job Superintendent building many of the bridges on I-235 in Des Moines including the 3 rd St, MLK, 19 th St, 31 st St overpasses and I-235 over the Des Moines River, Mark was promoted to General Superintendent and will oversee five or six other crews. Mark also joined the board in 2015.
Chad Coalbank, General Superintendent
After working for the Company for three summers, Chad graduated from Iowa State in December of 2003 and joined us full time. He quickly became a Superintendent and built significant structures like the white, arched pedestrian bridge over the Des Moines River downtown. At the end of 2016, Chad was promoted to General Superintendent and he oversees 4 to 6 crews at a time.