Raising the roof: C.L. Linfoot celebrates 125 years of service to Grand Forks area
Few things in life last 125 years, but C.L. Linfoot has stood the test of time because of hard work, integrity and dedicated employees, former owner Bill Widman said.
"There are not a lot of businesses that can say that," he said of C.L. Linfoot's age. "You get to have 125 years under your belt not by taking advantage of people. You stand behind what you do. Honesty, that is the bottom line."
The mechanical contracting company celebrated its 125th year in operation with an event Wednesday that attracted hundreds of attendees, including company employees, local business leaders, government officials and even UND football head coach Bubba Schweigert. He noted C.L. Linfoot is one year older than the UND football program, which started in 1894.
"Can you imagine starting in 1893 and going through the First World War, the Depression, the Second World War and all kinds of other things and somehow you're still here?" Schweigert asked. "That's awesome."
C.L. Linfoot was founded in 1893 as a small roofing company and was located in downtown East Grand Forks for 90 years, according to a news release. Over the years, it evolved into a mechanical contractor before it relocated in 1973 to its industrial park location in west Grand Forks at 4805 DeMers Ave.
Widman retired two years ago, and Dan Mulroy took over. Friends and colleagues came up constantly to greet the two men with smiles as they gave an interview to the Herald during the event.
The two attributed the longevity of the company to longtime and dedicated employees.
Schweigert compared the local companies like C.L. Linfoot to an offensive line, saying they are easy to take for granted.
"We really shouldn't, because companies like this in our community mean so much," he said.
The Fighting Hawks play at the Alerus Center, under the very roof that C.L. Linfoot built roughly two decades ago. Working on the venue was one of Widman's proudest achievements.
"They knew that the small-town Linfoot company could take on a mountain," he said.
The company had a hand in multiple high-profile projects in the region, most notably Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Grand Forks County Office Building, according to a news release. It continues to do work for UND, Grand Forks Air Force Base and Altru Health System.
The company has worked around the country, Widman said, noting projects in Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico and Florida. The company even worked on a project in Iceland.
Some challenges included a drop in workload during the 1980s when construction work was low, Widman said. Despite that, the company never laid off employees, he said. Instead, it found ways to prevent it.
"It goes back to that we care about our employees," he said.
Now the company employees more than 50 workers, and its toughest challenge these days is finding the right candidates to fill their positions, Mulroy said.
Being trusted by local companies and governments is an honor, Mulroy said. C.L. Linfoot has a lot of repeat business, Widman said.
"You don't get that because of a bad reputation," Widman said, adding you have to treat people right.
Linfoot family members also were there to celebrate, including Laurie Linfoot Brown, the daughter of C.L. "Bud" Linfoot and great-granddaughter of the founder, C.L. Linfoot. She and others recalled memories of years past and how their family made the company what it is today.
"It's amazing," Brown said in reaction to everyone who attended the event.
City Council President Dana Sande called companies like C.L. Linfoot the backbone of Grand Forks.
"C.L. Linfoot epitomizes hard work and epitomizes dedication," Sande said. "This is what makes Grand Forks great."