The company named Gundlach Champion (GCI) is the marriage of two of the nation’s most storied and inventive firms: Herman Gundlach, Inc. founded in 1898, and Champion, Inc. founded in 1921-the latter company with corporate roots that stretch back to 1909.
Herman Gundlach, Sr., an immigrant from Germany, founded Herman Gundlach, Inc. as a partnership with F.P. Meuller in 1898 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but soon became sole owner. Rather than seeking fame and traveling with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915 to build his famous Tokyo Hotel, Gundlach continued to perform his craft where he was raising his family: Northern Michigan. In 1945, after the death of his father, Herman “Winks” Gundlach, who served on the board of director until his death at age 92, followed in his father’s footsteps to assume leadership of the company.
Gundlach built its reputation constructing scores of courthouses, municipal facilities, university buildings, mining structures. Many of those early structures, often built with native Upper Michigan sandstone, still stand as a legacy to quality workmanship from an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity in the 20th Century.
The roots of Champion, Inc. are traced to 1909 when the M. J. Bacco Construction Company of Iron Mountain, Michigan began building roads in the Upper Midwest of the United States. An industrialized and growing nation needed roads and, under the tutelage of Medio J. Bacco son of Italian immigrant Angelo Bacco, the company flourished.
As a result of increased need for aggregate to build roads, Bacco formed Champion Gravel Company in partnership with the Spear family of Marquette, Michigan on October 20, 1921. This partnership set the stage for mergers, acquisitions, and cooperative partnerships for decades to come.
A young Louie Verrette, nephew of Medio Bacco and only 14 years old, began his career with the Champion Gravel Company as the new assistant timekeeper. Louie later attended Michigan Tech University in Houghton, Michigan where he received his Civil Engineering degree in 1934. But even during summer breaks he continued to work for his uncle at Bacco Construction.
Current owner, Bill Verrette, son of Louie, also started in the company young — at the age of 13 he began his career with Champion, Inc. Like his father, he attended Michigan Technological University and worked his way through the ranks, being named president on April 5, 1971. The ensuing decades saw continued construction around the U.S.: in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi and the Upper Midwest.
In 1989, Champion, Inc. acquired Herman Gundlach, Inc. a longtime competitor and corporate friend with a similar work ethic and high standards of performance.
This marriage of two storied and inventive companies resulted in Gundlach Champion, Inc. (GCI) a firm with unprecedented expertise in the construction of commercial, industrial, tribal, educational, healthcare, and municipal structures, including wastewater treatment facilities.
Under the guidance of Owner Bill Verrette and President Jim Ebli, current personnel of GCI perpetuate a culture of continuous improvement; consequently, since the marriage of Champion and Gundlach in 1989, we have expanded our offerings to include a suite of professional services industry including planning, financial sourcing, design, management, and construction of almost any structure imaginable.