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Pinner Employees Find Pride in Education-Focused Projects

It’s not hard for Pinner Construction employees to find their work rewarding.

We offer the opportunity to improve our community,” President of Business Development Justin Davis told the Business Journal. “The projects we specialize in provide high-quality facilities for educators, first responders and other civic-type projects, such as senior centers.”
The Anaheim-based general contractor across Southern California has built performing arts centers, elementary schools, fireboat stations and high school facilities that are designed to last more than 50 years.

The company is currently nearing completion on the Villa Park High School science building.
Recently delivered local projects by the company include the $50 million campus revitalization of Dale Jr. High School in Anaheim and a two-story science building for Orange High School.

“We’re modernizing existing schools that haven’t seen improvements for years and developing facilities that provide education to first-generation students,” Davis said. “The satisfaction we gain from that is off the charts.”

That, on top of Pinner’s commitment to internal promotions and a supportive work culture, has earned the construction company a spot in the Business Journal’s 2024 Best Places to Work list.

Pinner took the No. 10 spot in the midsize company category—which includes companies with over 50 but less than 250 U.S. employees (see list). The 105-year-old company’s total personnel number is 93.

Close Call

Pinner almost didn’t make it to its centennial.

The company in 2016 was forced to sell after it found itself facing several internal struggles, including a worsening situation with the company’s financial partners.

Chief Executive Dirk Griffin, then the chief financial officer of the longtime family-owned and operated business, was struggling to attract any interested buyers for the firm.

“We were in a terrible construction economy, and I couldn’t get a bank or any other financial institution to loan us money under the current ownership,” Griffin told the Business Journal during an interview in 2020.

Those creditors, however, suggested that Griffin take the reins instead. He emerged as the unlikely buyer of the firm, and today, the company appears to be on the other side of the struggle, with sales having more than tripled since its ownership change.

Griffin’s risky decision to acquire Pinner was honored at the Business Journal’s 2020 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards.

His move to take the plunge and buy Pinner followed a mix of personal and professional circumstances.

He had just lost his father—a former professional cowboy—and two best friends to cancer.

“I realized life is a short ride, and I wanted to challenge myself to turn the company around,” Griffin told the Business Journal in a 2020 interview.

He sold his house, liquidated his retirement account and borrowed money from friends and family, eventually raising north of $12 million.

As part of the transaction, he took on about $14 million in debt and shortly later discovered an additional $15 million in debt that had not been disclosed.

International Volunteering

Griffin has since rebuilt Pinner’s staff.

While the company was in recovery mode, he incentivized employees with competitive salaries, bonuses and strong benefits. In exchange, he kept his salary relatively low.

Griffin is currently volunteering on behalf of Pinner in Zimbabwe, where he is working to provide water sources that help communities grow their own crops.

Pinner has previously completed an initiative to provide clean water and electricity in the country’s Chiunga Primary School.

“Not only are we helping with resources, we are also providing jobs and actively making a difference one school at a time,” Griffin said in a statement.

In the States, Pinner employees are also giving back to their communities.

The company last year participated in the Ronald McDonald House of OC’s Walk for Kids—which supports children receiving treatment at OC hospitals—as well as the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Internal Growth

Opportunities for career development growth are also abundant at Pinner, according to officials.

“We frequently onboard new members because of internal promotions,” Davis said.

One path to growth offered by the company is a two- to three-year plan for estimators, who are responsible for price proposals, risk evaluations and other pre-construction efforts.

The program supports employees as they prepare for certification by the American Society of Professional Estimators.

Employee Recognition

The employees’ hard work does not go unnoticed at Pinner.

The company hosts an annual summer social aimed at celebrating the staff’s achievements by doling out awards to employees who most exemplified excellence in safety, teamwork, innovation, growth and leadership.

This year’s event was held at the rooftop of Ballast Point in Long Beach.

Every year “we rent out a rooftop venue and have a great time together,” Davis said.

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