Rogers Group at 100
Family-owned business marks a century of industry entrepreneurship and leadership.
In 1908, Ralph Rogers went into business for himself, crushing rocks on the side of the road in then-rural Bloomington, Ind. From a humble beginning, his business evolved into a major force in creating Eisenhower’s “ribbons” across the nation, a solid place of employment for thousands throughout the years, and a living legacy for himself and his family.
Ralph Rogers built Rogers Group into one of the country’s most formidable builders during World War II, a company dedicated to getting the job done right. It served as a support to a military that was drawn into conflict virtually overnight. His company helped build, from the ground up, part of the Eisenhower Interstate System, the very fabric of America. It endured two of the most trying economic times in American history – the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recession of the late 1970s. Rogers Group has always been a company that thrives on partnerships and mutual success.
With strong planning and a willingness to adjust its business model to fit current market needs, Rogers Group Inc. continues to grow, producing a quality product, meeting a variety of challenges, and achieving high levels of customer satisfaction – all while maintaining high safety standards.
Despite the level of influence Rogers Group would have on the transportation industry, Rogers’ view of his place in life was simple. When meeting someone new, he would say, “My name is Ralph, and I’m a rock cracker.”
A grade-school dropout, Rogers learned the business while working with a local man, “Uncle John” Rogers (no relation), who knew rocks – where to find them, how to crush them, transport them, and turn them into roads. Rogers carefully observed his mentor and partners, and learned the craft that would become his legacy.
“I would drive their buggies, hold their horses, and lug in their samples,” Rogers recounted. “Every time they looked at a rock, I looked to see what they saw in it. When they were drilling, I looked at the cores and studied the land formations. I wanted to learn to evaluate stone: some too soft, some too hard.”
He was an apt student and developed his instincts for the business. One of Rogers’ uncanny abilities was to spot good locations for new quarries. Before the advent of modern technologies, Rogers could survey an area and determine the best place to drill. Another of Rogers’ abilities was to accurately estimate the cost of a road project. Before the company grew to include a team of estimators, Rogers prepared its bids. According to Rick Rechter – Rogers’ grandson, a former RGI president, and current chairman of the board of directors – Rogers would study the plans, walk the job site, and say, “This looks like a $3.2 million job.” Rechter recalls, “When it came in, it was $3.24 or $2.9 or something. How he did it, nobody knew.”
Rogers also knew the value of having a team of good men working with him. Although he had little formal education, he hired educated men that he could trust. Some would say he was a difficult man to work for; however, he was said to respect the common man and to encourage workers to look for ways to improve themselves and their quality of work.
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