At a Glance
Grand Rapids, MI
More than 50,000
Retail construction for grocery and general merchandise
Estimated at $13.2 billion
When Mark Norton began working for Meijer more than three decades ago, the supermarket and retail giant was big, but it wasn’t as big as it is today. As of 2011, the business was ranked 13th on Forbes’s list of America’s Largest Private Companies, and it’s now spread out across five states, with 199 stores that run anywhere from 90,000 to 250,000 square feet in size. Norton himself grew with the company, joining in 1976 as an office utility worker while in college and moving up the ranks to his current role as director of construction. He and his department handle a high volume of work, and they’ve seen their share of changes over the years, but they continue to maintain the Meijer brand with confidence. “Although the construction industry has changed significantly over the years,” Norton says, “the core values here at Meijer have remained constant.”
Top 5 Keys to Managing a Construction Program of Meijer’s Size
1. Staying open. “Our stores are open 24/7 and are pretty busy most of the time,” Norton says, “so any remodel work requires just the right balance to maintain safe conditions and minimize disruption to the business.”
2. Maintaining consistency. “Our customers expect stores in Chicago to be similar to stores in, say, Cincinnati, but we are committed to providing construction opportunities to contractors located around the project.”
3. Tracking trends. “We strive to be as current and on trend as possible, which often translates into late-breaking changes at the end of the project.”
4. Looking past size. “Although the type and scale of our projects may be different, it’s important to practice the same fundamentals. Replacing a deli case is just as important as the grand opening of a four-acre supercenter.
5. Recognizing all parties. “No matter how big the program gets, we can’t afford to lose the focus on the people that make it happen. This includes everyone from the planning and design folks to the construction workers to the unit employees—and especially the customers who make it all possible.”
Originally founded by Hendrik Meijer in Greenville, Michigan, the company is often credited with having pioneered the modern supercenter concept in 1962. In Norton’s current role with Meijer, he’s responsible for all new construction, remodeling, and capital improvements in retail stores, gas stations, distribution centers, and office facilities. In 2012, he oversaw the builds for two new stores, which these days include more than 40 departments that collectively stock around 120,000 unique items in apparel, electronics, hardware, and more—though, at its core, Meijer remains a supermarket.
The biggest change Norton has seen through the years is a marked advance in building technologies. “From design practices to more precise and rapid installation tools to real-time communication and documentation,” he says, “[technology] has dramatically increased the pace and quality of project development.”
He has also watched sustainability become a greater consideration, and Meijer now builds to LEED standards. Its retrofit of an older store in Muskegon, Michigan, is even on record as being the first LEED-certified supercenter remodel in America. Meijer’s first LEED-certified new building was a 207,000-square-foot store constructed in 2007 in Allen Park, Michigan. The store has low-VOC finishes and low-energy mechanical systems, and Norton’s team managed to divert more than 85 percent of debris from going to landfills during the construction process.
“During the project, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the sustainable things we were already doing within our design and construction programs were eligible for LEED points, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to get certification,” Norton says. “From that point forward, all new stores have been built to LEED compliance, and we still certify at least one store a year to help keep current with LEED requirements.
In 2012, Meijer had six new locations under construction to open in 2013, and it will be expanding distribution facilities in Michigan and Wisconsin. Norton and his team will continue to improve old and new stores, and they will also begin work on a multiyear project to expand and upgrade the Meijer corporate campus in Walker, Michigan. “I’m told that many of the programs that we’ve developed since I’ve been here have been used as models for other companies, which is sort of flattering,” Norton says. “That’s never been a goal—more the result of trying to be the best construction organization that we could be within our retail company.” ABQ