BYRON CENTER — Steve Huizinga recently left his post as the third-generation president of Allied Mechanical Services Inc. to help lead a woman-owned construction startup and pursue more diverse business partnerships.
Huizinga, who started with Allied Mechanical Services (AMS) when he was 13 years old and mowed grass for the company, publicly announced this month that he has started as president of Byron Center-based commercial general contractor Freedom Construction and Consulting Inc.
He will retain his ownership stake in mechanical contractor AMS, which also includes subsidiaries Air Components Inc., ControlNET LLC, Third Coast Test and Balance, and 43Forty Fabrication Services.
Huizinga told MiBiz that he recently took a 30-day leave of absence while “dealing with some mental health stuff — I didn’t seem happy and couldn’t figure it out.”
“During that time, I started to realize I had never imagined doing anything else. I like the company, but I wasn’t happy,” he said. “One of my passions is lifting up women- and minority-owned businesses, so one day I woke up and said, ‘I think it may be time to try something new.’”
Huizinga spent 28 years working in various roles at AMS, including the past five years as president. Huizinga helped make strides in increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in AMS’ hiring practices, but the company lacked opportunities to subcontract and work with other companies, he said.
Huizinga added that a lack of diversity seems to plague the construction industry.
“Part of my frustration is … all sorts of stuff on people’s websites that talks about them using minority-owned businesses, but when it comes down to it, they are not,” Huizinga said. “Sometimes I feel like it’s a lot of lip service.”
Huizinga was interested in Freedom Construction because it is a new, woman-owned company founded in 2021 by Carrie Wilson and her husband, Matt Wilson. In his new role, Huizinga envisions more opportunities to partner with other woman-owned and minority-owned businesses compared to his previous role at AMS, he said.
“My passion is working with customers and business development,” Huizinga said. “We’re focusing on a lot of smaller projects (at Freedom Construction) than we ever did at Allied, which then allows us to more easily work with minority contractors.”
Freedom Construction is focused on commercial construction projects, and currently is working on a few developments with Kent County and in Kalamazoo, Huizinga said. The commercial general contracting firm also offers owner’s representative services, which Huizinga will lead.
“Most construction companies are owned and operated by 40-year-old white males, which I was one of,” Huizinga said. “People like to hire people that look and act like them, so we want to challenge that. If you want people to work for you, you’re going to have to learn inclusion and equity. That’s the future of the construction industry.”