World Class Development Services, Locally Scaled to our Community
When Aaron and Kelsy Ausland, owners of their Grants Pass based commercial construction company Ausland Group, are asked what keeps them excited to build in Oregon, their answer is simple, “we are passionate about helping our clients grow and succeed.” For them, each project is so much more than the bricks and mortar, it’s about understanding each client’s goals and their vision. “The best measure of our success is the success of our clients. For most of them, the project we build is a huge step in their business and a huge expense. We are honored to be that trusted partner for so many important businesses and institutions,” said Aaron.
More than just a builder
Ausland Group is not your traditional construction company, which quickly becomes clear when you walk through the front doors of their headquarters on Highland Avenue in Grants Pass. Their main office building is designed in a pacific northwest modern style, suggestive of what one would find in an urban center like Portland or Seattle but is strategically tucked away in the northwest corner of Grants Pass. Kelsy explains this is by design, “we want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable walking through our doors, whether it’s a CEO or our trade staff. Our office is designed to inspire collaboration and innovation between our diverse group of design professionals and tradespeople.”
The group of professionals at Ausland is surprising to find in a construction company. Architects, structural engineers, and civil engineers, all work together alongside the construction team at Ausland. Aaron explains that it takes more than just a great builder to make a great project, “every project takes an entire team – architects, engineers, project managers, tradespeople. Ausland brings together all of the necessary disciplines under one roof. Ausland is the only firm south of Portland, and one of only a handful in Oregon, that includes this breadth of design talent within a construction company.”
Celebrating 75 years of business heritage
It is not by accident that such a robust development firm is located in Grants Pass. This year, the Ausland’s celebrate their 75-year anniversary of building in Southern Oregon.
The Ausland family has been a staple in the Southern Oregon business world since 1947 when Bill Ausland returned from the second World War and founded what soon became known as Ausland Construction.
In those early years, Bill along with dozens of employees from Josephine County built bridges, schools, hospitals, and churches from Ashland to Roseburg. During the 1980s, John “Mike” Ausland took the reins of the company where he directed resources at his passion; building bridges and roads. These large projects allowed him to spend his weekends doing what he loved – fishing and hunting with his sons and grandchildren.
Today, the company has evolved into Ausland Group, led by Aaron and Kelsy Ausland who have taken the roots of the family business and modernized it to an award-winning firm offering clients state-of-the-art construction and design services in the greater Pacific Northwest Region. Aaron describes it best, “We have built a platform to help clients in profound ways. Each project is unique and requires a complete team to deliver world-class yet locally scaled solutions.”
Aaron Ausland, CCM, Leading with a Vision of World-Class Development, Locally-Scaled
Aaron Ausland was born and raised in Grants Pass, a 1995 graduate of Grants Pass High School. He worked long hot days in the summer as a concrete foreman building bridges to pay for college tuition. Aaron attended Oregon State University, where he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, earning a degree in Construction Engineering Management. For several years after college, he worked for his father’s construction company. Then in 2002, he began Ausland Group with his wife Kelsy, with a focus on commercial building design.
Aaron knew he wanted to do construction differently. He’d seen the ‘silos’ created in the industry that too often pitted architects, engineers, and builders against one another rather than creating collaborations. He knew that to bring extraordinary results to clients, it required breaking down those silos and developing a truly integrated team of professionals.
Fast forward 20 years later and that company Aaron envisioned has become Ausland Group where all these disciplines sit around one table solving problems together. “If a client hires each part of the team separately there is a good chance each person hears something a bit different or understands the clients’ goals differently. At Ausland Group there is one unified team from the first conversation to the last, from start to finish.
Kelsy Ausland, P.E., Always an Engineer
Kelsy Ausland was raised in Portland, OR with an extended family that included a math teacher, realtor, engineer, and architects. She explains how the values of hard work, innovation, and creativity, the attributes that make good engineers, were key family values. “Instead of buying me the doll house or the car for my Barbies, my parents expected me to build them. And I did. I’ve always loved creating and building. Then by the time I was a teenager, when I wanted a phone to my room, I had to wire it myself. I never was raised with any notion that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.”
Kelsy began her career in high school where she was selected for an internship at the Oregon Graduate Institute working in an environmental engineering laboratory. “I had the opportunity to contribute to research focused on remediating pollutants in groundwater, and I was captivated ever since. Applying science to solve real world problems ignited my passion for engineering.” Kelsy went on to attend Oregon State University and majored in Civil Engineering, which is where she met Aaron. After graduating, she and Aaron married and moved to Grants Pass. Kelsy worked for several years as an engineer for both the Bureau of Land Management and private consultant, Rob Wiegand, before taking the reigns full-time leading the design group and office operations at Ausland.
Recognized for “Family Harmony” by the Oregon State Center for Business Enterprise
As husband and wife, Aaron and Kelsy make an impressive team building their company and supporting their community. As President of Ausland Group, Kelsy manages the day-to-day functions of the team while driving her enthusiasm to lead some of Ausland’s most technically challenging projects. The Oregon State Center for Business Enterprise recognized the accomplishments of the dynamic duo of Aaron and Kelsy, awarding them with the 2021 Family Harmony Award.
Building Community in Southern Oregon
The pride in being part of a great construction team lasts long after the grand opening of a completed project. The team members at Ausland have the pride of seeing people enjoy their projects for years to come. The places Ausland Group builds create the great places everyone visits – for example they relish a craft beer after work at Weekend Beer Company while rocking out to local bands, families can share their experience during dinner at Hellgate Jetboat Excursions’ OK Corral after an exhilarating jetboat trip down the river, colleagues can sip signature cocktails outside at The Haul in downtown Grants Pass, music lovers relaxing under the stars listening to their favorite artists at the improvements Ausland Group made to the Britt Festivals or Pinot fans can savor a glass of wine at Simple Machine Winery.
Being able to help create iconic places is part of what drives Aaron and Kelsy. It is wonderful to drive around town and see projects that they have been able to work on such as the AllCare headquarters building, the Boys & Girls Club, the Gospel Rescue Mission, or the historic United Methodist Church. Traveling around Southern Oregon, it’s hard to find a place that has not been shaped and touched by the team of professionals and tradespersons at Ausland Group.
Growing Regional Relevance
The capabilities of Ausland Group have created a demand for their services well beyond Josephine County. The team opened a Eugene Office in 2016 to better serve the greater Willamette Valley area. Ausland’s team members can be seen working on the college campuses of Southern Oregon University, Oregon State University, and University of Oregon. They have been the builder for the upscale grocer Market of Choice in Medford and the flagship event center for the brand, Venue 252 in Eugene.
The design-build capabilities of Ausland take them all over Oregon for seismic and historic renovations, such as Eugene’s historic Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, known as the “Castle on the Hill” to the stunning Wallowa County Courthouse in Enterprise. Recently, the Ausland team completed a $4 Million design-build renovation to the Grants Pass Armory and were subsequently hired for a $20 million design-build work for the Salem Armory facilities. “Repeat clients are the best metric of our success”, explains Aaron. “When someone finds us locally then asks for our team to continue working with them, we know we’ve accomplished our goals as a company.”
The Secret to Staying Cost-Competitive
A key component of success for Ausland is their ability to assemble a world-class team while staying cost-competitive in the marketplace. When Ausland is hired by a client, they are being trusted to assemble the best team, design an outcome to deliver on their goals, and perform on-time and on-budget. They take that mission very seriously.
One way of ensuring competitiveness in the market, is to maintain a portion of their portfolio in the “hard bid” marketplace. When a public agency puts a call out for “competitive bids”, Ausland often responds. In 2022, Ausland has won bids against other general contractors. “For most companies, a 30% bid to hit ratio is really strong. Our team works exceptionally hard to plan projects in a way that delivers value,” explains Aaron. Beating out other regional construction companies for work has earned Ausland the position to build a new $8 million addition at the Oregon Youth Authority and a new $5 million cafeteria at Coffenberry Middle School in Myrle Creek. Another key element to the Ausland model is strong relationships with local sub-contractors. These relationships secure better pricing and commitments leading to the best and most effective outcomes.
Stability during the ups and downs of the economy
The ability to work regionally as a construction company, deliver excellent services, and be cost-competitive is a valuable combination to maintain stability regardless of the economy. “Construction rides the ups and downs with the economy. We do our best to position ourselves to be prepared for all economic cycles,” explains Aaron Ausland. This means that Ausland strives to maintain a portfolio balanced between private and public clients by working in a larger geographic region. During the recession of 2008, Ausland was able to earn large contracts for the Veterans Administration and Bonneville Power Administration. While the economy was sour for most of construction, Ausland team members enhanced their careers building public infrastructure projects including a VA Health Clinic, Dormitories, as well as Substations and Control Houses for the power grid. Managing the flow of works keeps local tradespeople employed and gives them opportunities to grow and expand their careers. Taking care of their people and low turnover is an obvious key to their continued success.
Building a world-class team with local roots
The Ausland’s attribute their focus on culture and employee growth as a reason for their repeat recognition as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon.
Katie Johnson joined the team in 2016, relocating from California with her daughter. Her goal was to find a thriving community to raise her daughter and a company to help her take the next step in her career. In her 6 years at Ausland she has been promoted into a management position and become a beloved colleague. She describes her experience as, “the best thing about working for Ausland Group is collaborating with people I trust and care about. My work team has made me feel like one of the family.”
Team member Bryce Ausland, nephew of Aaron and Kelsy, represents the fourth generation to be part of the family business. Bryce is a skilled laborer who specializes in underground work. He has been a key asset to historic projects including the Newman Church in Grants Pass and the significant legacy project of renovating Steel Visitor Center at Crater Lake National Park. His tremendous professional growth within his almost decade long run at the company is one of great pride for the Ausland family.
Newly promoted Project Engineer Tevah Jones is just one of the incredible success stories among the staff. Starting as a laborer in 2018, Tevah exemplified not only the skill set for which he was hired but proved to be a natural leader. His drive to learn, to evolve along with his positivity led to leadership investing in his future and his advancement into the management level. Tevah describes his experience, “the array of expertise that makes up Ausland Group affords us the ability to take on unique challenges and with that comes the opportunity to work on landmark projects.”
Top projects in our backyard
Nearly 30 of Ausland’s crews are working in the snowy backdrop of Crater Lake, structuring retrofitting the historic Steel Visitor Center. Kelsy explains the original structure was built in 1932 and it’s amazing it is done so well after ninety winters with an average snowfall of 51 feet. “We have built an entirely new foundation under the exterior stone walls. We core drilled through that stone to insert reinforcing rods, tying together the structure from the roof to the foundation. Then we are installing thousands of pounds of framing materials to strengthen the 5,000 square foot building for future show, wind, and seismic loads.” She explains that the Visitor’s Center is set to pen for the summer of 2023.
Another project for the National Park Service, the Chateau at the Oregon Caves National Monument, was awarded to Ausland in 2020 then was put on hold while additional structural improvements were designed by the government. The team at Ausland is expected to receive instruction to re-mobilize this spring to finish the Chateau and open the popular tourist attraction as soon as possible. The Chateau is a six-story timber framed hotel, built over a creek directly across from the famous cave tours. The work requires construction of new foundation under the six-story building and a new steel frame inside the building, all of which will be concealed inside the historic log timbers to preserve the historic fabric of the building.
Locally scaled projects thrive during the pandemic
Projects large or small receive the best of what Ausland offers. Aaron often talks about the fact that some of the smallest projects is where a combined team can find creative ways to save the client money. “Building is so much more than constructing a building. It’s designing a space for people to connect. Creating a solution to a need. Remodeling a space to improve business operations and efficiency. We love using our expertise on small projects that really impact business owners and help them succeed. That is why our vision is to bring world class development, locally scaled to our communities. Our professionals are in touch with the needs of small business owners.” That statement is ever present in three recent projects completed by the Ausland team.
The pandemic spurred a need for small business projects throughout Southern Oregon. Popularity for Weekend Beer Company’s taps created a demand that exceeded their capacity of their leased building space. The owners desired to create a new location to fit their visions of growth and allow them to thrive within the handcuffs put on restaurants and indoor gathering spaces. Architect Kate Miller and Project Manager Brian Gray expertly guided the project from start to finish. Now this gem of Grants Pass is helping a previously dormant neighborhood find its stride. The structure highlights Weekend Beer Company’s business philosophy of living your weekend by doing something you love every day of the week.
While Ausland was constructing Weekend Beer Company, at the other end of the Rogue Valley, Simple Machine Winery was completely wiped out by the 2020 Almeda fire. Ausland was able to deliver on a tight budget and an even tighter schedule to get the winery functional for the fall 2021 grape crush season. The first building to be rebuilt after the fire, Simple Machine serves as a beacon of hope for the community as it continues to restore what was lost.
Many business owners found a need to create more boutique custom space during the pandemic for redundancy of operations. President of Rogue Creamery, David Gremmels, set out to build a specialty space at this home. Ausland masterfully interpreted that vision by designing an experimental kitchen to craft cheese and ice cream, along with a creative workspace to inspire innovation and community.
Building the future of Grants Pass
Talking with Aaron and Kelsy Ausland, it’s easy to glean their excitement and commitment to the Grants Pass community. “We tell our friends that we get to live where others vacation,” says Aaron Ausland. He enjoys fishing the same holes on the Rogue River that have been enjoyed by his family for generations and sharing that passion with son, Will Ausland. Kelsy is passionate about redevelopment of Grants Pass and the Riverfront. “Our community has so much to offer – arts, food, wine, and so much more. We love taking out-of-town guests to our grower’s market, local restaurants, and parks along the river to see how great we have it.”
Aaron and Kelsy have personally committed to seeing that growth in Grants Pass continue. In 2021, they acquired the old Bank of America property and are transforming it into a new development called The Riverway. The newest Human Bean opened for business earlier this year to launch business activity at The Riverway. As construction wraps up in the main building, The Riverway provides optimal office space ideal for any small business to operate and a gorgeous, vaulted window store front space perfect for any restaurant wanting to make a splash among the vibrant food scene in Grants Pass.
As the company moves forward, Ausland will continue to diversify how they serve clients, engage in their community, and recruit and retain talent which will result in strengthening the core of the company. Aaron Ausland states the goal for the next 25 years as, “continuing to add resources, depth and capacity towards our vision in order to broaden of our abilities to serve our clients as we reach the 100-year milestone.” Whether you are starting in the planning phases or ready for construction, the trusted team a Ausland is ready to help you. It is what makes the Ausland team world class and locally scaled.
Sarahanne Driggs | December 7, 2022