Pluims keep work all in the family

Ashley Archibald, The Union Democrat /

The men of the Pluim family see just about enough of one another. If living in the same community wasn't sufficient to the task, sharing a workplace probably fit the bill. Joel, Joe and James Pluim work together at Plum Construction, a general contracting firm specializing in metal and concrete buildings that operates from offices in the Standard area. All three work different aspects of the company, creating a tripartite system that supports the larger whole. "It's the perfect set of skills," said father and founder Joel Pluim, 52, of Sonora. "I've done it all before, but not as well as it's being done now." Joel founded the company in 1991 after the Louisiana-Pacific company folded. The company he had worked for built sawmills for Louisiana-Pacific, and when lumber began drying up in the area, work did too. Joel counts the closure as one of the best things that ever happened to him. "You can't beat being your own boss," he said. "It was a great move." He didn't expect his sons, Joe and James, to follow in his footsteps, but he did have his hopes. Joe, 26, was familiar with the contracting business. He worked as a laborer during the summers and any breaks in school in both high school and college, working with concrete, operating the equipment and helping to erect buildings. Joe graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2006, with a degree in construction management in hand and no definite plans. He said he didn't like the feel of the companies that reached out through the schools, which lacked the family touch of Plum Construction. "It was a lot different than larger construction companies that recruited out of the colleges," Joe said. "It's the variety in the job description. You're able to do estimating, design and still be able to get out in the field and have control over the projects." In the end, Joe came back home and took over the office management tasks, much to the relief of his father, who would "rather be anywhere than in the office." James, 21, graduated from Sonora High School and attended Columbia College. He joined the business as a laborer, working outdoors with his dad getting the projects built. The arrangement benefited the whole family. According to Joe, the business has landed almost a full year's worth of work as of Monday. "As of today, we declared the recession over," said Joe. "We have several projects lined up. It was hit-or-miss for the last six months." The Pluims hope to keep the company operating, profitable and family-owned for generations to come. According to the Institute for Family Owned Businesses, 80 percent of businesses are owned and operated by more than one member of the same family. However, less than one-third make it past the first or second generation of ownership. The Pluims aren't looking toward failure. "I see it staying in the family for years to come," Joel said.

The Union Democrat
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