When Larry Bonife founded Cornerstone Masonry in 1983, he envisioned building a company that would be competitive in the commercial and retail masonry markets. What he did not expect was the number of lives his company would change.
Cornerstone Masonry contracts with major corporations like WinCo Foods, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Crunch Fitness to build shopping centers and individual stores throughout the Northwest. While Bonife feels strongly that the Vancouver-Portland area is home, his company is now large enough to work as far away as Medford, Ore. and the Canadian border – and the company keeps growing.
According to Bonife, his company doubled its revenue from 2008 to 2012 – a time while other companies in the construction industry were cutting back or folding altogether.
“We ended up growing,” he said, “and we went from 20 employees to, currently, 40 employees.”
Bonife believes the Christian values he uses to guide Cornerstone Masonry are integral to the company’s success. Cornerstone’s company motto is “We say what we do, we do what we say.” That commitment, he said, is what motivates customers to hire Cornerstone whenever they have projects in the region.
“Retail/commercial work is fast-paced because they (clients) have non-moving deadlines and our work generally is the structure of the project, so we get a lot of repeat business because we are able to honor [their] schedule,” Bonife explained.
Cornerstone Masonry now has “several millions of dollars” of work lined up for 2017, a first in the company’s 33-year history. The new challenge, Bonife said, is finding enough employees to get the work completed.
“I think everybody would say our biggest challenge right now is employees. Everybody from parents to federal government pushes young people to go to college, but when you have a society that pushes everybody toward college, young people aren’t driven to go into the trades and our industry is really suffering for that,” he said.
Bonife built an apprenticeship program and approached the vocational education departments at local high schools and at Clark College, but said he did not have a lot of success getting educators to pass along the opportunities he was offering students.
However, Bonife said he found at least part of the solution by hiring people who might otherwise struggle to find consistent employment.
“The word is out on our company that we’re kind of a second-chance company, so we’ll give people an opportunity coming out of prison or maybe a drug rehab program,” he said. “We have a few people from those kinds of institutions that we’ve brought in … we drug test and we try to keep a clean shop, so people will come here because they know that.”
Bonife said that business decision has paid off because he now has loyal and honest employees who have an appreciation for the opportunity to work hard.
“They’re motivated because they know it’s hard work, but once they commit they’re very loyal and that’s what we’re looking for – loyal employees, not just part-time craftsmen,” he said. “We’re willing to invest into them.”
Bonife estimated that approximately one-fourth of his long-term employees have been hired shortly after completing a drug rehab program or spending time in a correctional facility.
2856 N.E. 65th Ave. Vancouver Founded 1983 40 employees