80 Years of Customer Service

Lamp Inc. is one of the few companies that can claim it has been family-owned and -run for three generations. Based in Elgin, Illinois, the company has been offering a wide array of construction services for nearly 80 years. According to Ian Lamp, vice president of marketing and sales and a grandson of the founder, the company has continually reshaped itself to meet the demands of each new generation of customers. And indeed, Lamp Inc. was embracing the concepts of environmentally friendly and energy-efficient construction long before LEED became an industry buzzword. Beyond the workplace, the company supports community organizations and maintains active involvement in various industry groups; Ian says it’s all part of what it means to be a member of a family business. “I was brought up to think there’s no such thing as entitlement,” he says. “What I learned was that you have to work hard, and you’re responsible for your own future and your own destiny.” American Builders Quarterly looks back at how Lamp Inc. plotted its own course.

1932: Lamp Construction is founded

While Clifford Lamp is living on the family farm near Elgin, a neighbor’s barn is destroyed by a tornado. Clifford rebuilds it and decides to go into the construction business. After working for several contractors—and enduring several layoffs—Lamp borrows money from family members and opens a general-contracting business under the name Lamp Construction.


1942: First major project

During World War II, the Elgin Case Factory, which manufactured ladies’ compacts, is converted into a bomb-making factory for the war effort. Lamp Construction is tapped to take on the construction and expansion of the factory. In addition to giving the company greater recognition, this project also jump-starts growth. Following the war, Lamp Construction ramps up its services and begins building prefabricated homes and shipping them to England.

1972: a new service and a new name

After the founder’s sons, Earl and Eugene, assume ownership of the company in 1965, Lamp Construction starts to take on design-build projects. One of the first is for Car Mon Products in Elgin. On the heels of that successful project, an increasing number of customers come to Earl and Eugene with design-build requests. Tired of having their projects shelved or delayed and then bumped up in cost, they are looking for buildings that fit their budgets, and as a result the company decides to add design-build services to its offerings. It acquires an architectural firm in 1972 and changes its name to Lamp Inc.


1992: Adding construction management

Lamp Inc. finds that local municipal groups, including park and school districts, prefer to negotiate project services and fees with professional-services providers, such as construction managers. So, the company sets out to complete its first construction-management project, the Dundee Township Park District’s Dolphin Cove Aquatic Park. “When it comes to municipalities, it’s all about the network,” Ian says. “Every fire chief knows all the others. If you do a good job for one, they tell everyone else what a great job you did. And the work will follow.”

1999: A third generation of Lamps

A trio of the founder’s grandsons—brothers Steven and Ian and their cousin Craig Lamp—assume ownership of the company as secretary/treasurer, vice president of marketing and sales, and president, respectively. “Our people make this company stand out,” says Ian, who started with the company in 1983. “We truly understand that we’re a service organization and that what we do is a team effort—from the labor in the field to the executive office.”


2010: Project awarded LEED Silver certification

The Anne Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville, Illinois, is the first LEED Silver-certified public preschool building in the United States and is a finalist in the Chicago Building Congress’s Building of the Year competition. Construction services are managed by Lamp Inc. “We have always prided ourselves in being at the forefront of the construction industry in terms of delivery systems, construction methods, and technology,” Ian says. “Having seen the waste generated from construction sites, it doesn’t make sense not to be as green as we can.” Budgeted at $9.5 million, the project comes in on time and under budget. Indeed, since 1992, the company has managed around $800–$900 million in construction funding, and every single project has come in on time and on budget.

2011: A fourth generation

After some time in a series of dissatisfying jobs, Greg, Ian’s son, says he is looking for a creative and mental challenge and asks if he can join the family business. And just like that the legacy of Lamp Inc. continues on.