In 2013, Carrington Group of Companies is celebrating its 40th anniversary, a milestone that says more about their commitment to their customers and respect for their craft than anything else. In 1973, Ken Ferchoff had a vision to build quality, affordable homes, and since then the Carrington Group of Companies has grown to become an industry-leading, award-winning residential builder in the Greater Edmonton Area.
“Our main focus is and always has been to provide homes that are affordable,” says Ferchoff. “When costs go up, owning a home gets more unattainable and we understand that. That’s why we try to give our customers great value and as much of a house as we can for the dollar. “Of course, that’s not easy, which is why we have a lot of people in our office who try to design homes that work efficiently and maximize what you get. Things like reducing maintenance costs by properly designing heating and cooling systems like triple glazing and gas-filled windows. You want to design for the future, for people to be able to afford to maintain their homes.”
Designing for the future also means Carrington homes need to be built to last, too. “We actually use some of the same suppliers we’ve used for 30 to 35 years, everything from concrete, windows, flooring and framers. The people on the construction sites are good people and are proud of the work they do. And because we know who’s working on our homes, we can work together to rectify any problems quickly, should anything come up.”
So while some of the faces and names Ferchoff works with haven’t changed, the needs of the community—and how we function and consume information—certainly have. “In terms of building, things are so dramatically different today with the speed of everything. Thanks to technology, you can talk to someone on the job site like he’s right next to you.”
Ferchoff says that in the past they’d tell the buyer that they could change a few things and that’s what they’d build. “Today, your world is your oyster. The designs are on the drawing board, and you can make modifications, go online and change things, and see what it’ll look like before you even build.”
And those younger generations are changing the way Carrington does business, not only in terms of how they build. “Today, now we have a marketing department that’s on FB and Twitter, because the company has to be there—it’s the way of the future. We have more stuff on the website; so much information because the consumer wants that.”
Ferchoff says it’s exciting today to see the young people getting involved, changing things and making things green. Carrington is very progressive in green initiatives in all aspects of land and building development including having Built Green certification on all Bedrock Homes. “As a business, it’s fascinating watching and learning what the younger generations want and what they see for the future.”
When Ferchoff was young and looking to the future, he was more concerned about making ends meet than anything else. “I was working as a janitor sweeping floors and selling furniture, and I qualified for a low income lot from the city. People were lining up for lots and sleeping on the City Hall steps for their chance to qualify. I was the sixth guy in line for a lot in Millwoods, and I decided instead of hiring a builder, I thought with some help and guidance, I could do it myself. I built my first home in Lee Ridge and it’s still there. I did ninety percent of the work, drew the plans, submitted them to the City and did my own excavation. It was lots of physical work to get it done, but it was very rewarding.”
After that first house, he realized that he could make more building and selling one house than he’d make sweeping floors and selling furniture for a whole year. “Of course, the first number of years I worked lots of hours.” And after working hard and expanding into commercial developments, and multi-family housing, golf courses, car dealerships and developing bare land, “Now, I don’t have to work as much,” laughs Ferchoff. “Looking back, it’s been quite the ride, but I’ve never really found it to be a job. It’s just been interesting and fulfilling. I think if you really like what you do it’s not really a job the way people think of a job.”
A lot of that attitude has to do with the people who make up the Carrington Group of Companies. “To be honest, no company is a good company with one person in the lead. Carrington has been successful simply because of our employees. We have 600 people who work here; good, caring people in every department. Everywhere throughout the company there are amazing people. Really, I have to give credit to the people around me; the employees make the big difference around this company.”
They also make a big difference in the community through their employee-led program called “Hope Builders”, where employees raise money and volunteer their time to give back and increase awareness about participation in community initiatives. Those people have also led Carrington to become a leading philanthropic homebuilder in the Greater Edmonton Area. “One charity that’s closest to our hearts today is Changing Futures Foundation whose goal it is to extend a helping hand by building housing and creating partnerships and opportunities to support underprivileged individuals and families as they work towards building brighter futures. Our first such project, Project Touchdown, is a four-plex that we’re donating to meet the needs of teen parents who deserve a second chance to create the future they deserve. This project is in partnership with Terra Centre, and is being built by our Bedrock division. Ground breaking took place in early August.
Along with taking care of the community, after 40 years in business, what’s one of the biggest lessons Ferchoff has learned? “Forty years in business has taught me to have a lot of respect for my competitors in Edmonton. As I travel to other cities, I realize how nice it is to do business here with competitors such as Qualico, Ace Lange and Christenson,” explains Ferchoff. “That also includes quality of tradespeople and suppliers. We generally have a quality building group here.”
Based on the past, what does Ferchoff see for the future of homebuilding business in Edmonton? “Generally, going forward, I see that people will be buying smaller properties, with more discerning finishes. We’ve gone from big and basic to smaller, functional, energy efficient homes. “We’re in a great city. When you look across Canada, Alberta is a shining light,” says Ferchoff, a light that’s keep Carrington’s birthday candles glowing for 40 years.