A company founded in Colorado is bringing its unique system of home building to the Magic City.
K.C. and Cayttie Heister opened Kopper Creek Building in October 2010. The business is located at 5313 S. Broadway, just across the highway from the North Central Research Extension Center south of town.
Cayttie said they moved in well before the Souris River flooded and intend to make Minot their permanent home while letting others handle the day-to-day operations of the company's original location in Montrose, Colo.
"We build anything from residential housing up to hotels, motels, restaurants," Cayttie said. "Any type of building that you're looking for, we do."
She noted they can build up to four stories tall and have even built a McDonald's.
In Minot, Kopper Creek has been building residential housing. While the company is perfectly capable of building on-site, its specialty is system-built homes, where the major sections are constructed off-site in a factory and then shipped to the home's location for final assembly.
K.C. got his start in the construction business at a home-building factory in 1982. After a downturn in the construction business in the late 1980s forced the company to focus only on the exterior of buildings, the market turned back up, which allowed them to finish the interior as well as the exterior.
"In 1991 the market picked back up, and it was proven that we could build more house for the dollar in a controlled environment," K.C. said.
His job entailed putting on doorknobs, and nothing more. Building a house indoors, or at least the major portions of it, was an incredibly streamlined process that allowed them to keep quality high while cutting costs and construction time compared to building on-site.
"Basically the strong point is getting a better house faster and less expensive," K.C. said.
The company saved money by purchasing directly from the suppliers in volume, which allowed it to pay competitive labor salaries and work year-round, all while lowering the final cost for customers.
K.C. eventually bought the factory he worked at before selling it in 1997. He then worked for another large corporation before starting Kopper Creek Building in 2003.
As an example from his own business of how efficient it is to build home sections indoors, he said one particular house built in the factory was around $33,000 less than the exact same house built on-site. The on-site home also took six more months to build and had a few less options just because of time constraints.
"So it kind of gives you a little bit of a concept as far as where we talk the talk and walk the walk," K.C. said.
"And we still site-build. We're building a big, Victorian home, we do both," Cayttie added. "But we only do that (site-build) where they require us to."
"There's really not as much building that goes on outside anymore, it's assembly. If you are a builder, you don't cut roofs very much anymore, you order trusses. And then the trusses come in as a component," K.C. continued. "You buy a prehung door, you buy premade cabinets. You're not out in the field making your cabinets anymore."
"We just take it to the next level," Cayttie said. "Everything is built in the factory now."
Kopper Creek has two factories - one in Colorado and another in Nebraska.
K.C. said they also build a lot of homes for people who are builders themselves, which is about as good of an endorsement as you can get. All system-built homes are constructed to the International Residential Code standard, which is the same as site-built homes use.
Cayttie said one of the reasons they moved to Minot was because of the economy. Things had been good in Colorado, where they built in high-end areas that had people like Goldie Hawn and Tom Cruise. However, a couple years ago the faltering economy basically turned off construction in Colorado.
In the meantime, a landscaper they had built a duplex for in Colorado had opened a business in Williston and told the Heisters they should come to North Dakota. Their son, who is also named K.C., then happened to go to North Dakota and said it looked promising.
They initially were just going to buy some property, build some homes and sell them as they were built. However, they found a housing market in desperate need of a full-time presence and decided to take the plunge.
"So we flew out here thinking we would just spec some homes, but then we started talking to different people and it sounded like there's a huge housing crisis here in Minot," Cayttie said. "So we decided to sink our teeth in and buy this (storefront) location."
"And then we started working with the people, and to be honest they were about the nicest people we've ever worked with," she added. "The building officials, the customers that we worked with. And we thought this is a good place for us to start a new section of our life."
Their son, K.C., and his wife, Jenny, have also moved to Minot and work at Kopper Creek.
Living in Minot on a permanent basis not only involves the Heisters in the business here, it involves them in the community as well. They have employees who were impacted by the flood and are doing everything they can to work with customers who are in the same situation.
Cayttie said they have already built some houses for flood victims and are incredibly glad those families will be able to live in their own homes this winter. She said the reduced time their system-built method takes to erect a home means flood victims still have another month to order a home and have it completed in time for winter.
"We've actually put some disaster relief home packages together where we've discounted (some costs). So we get incentives, like certain appliance packages and stuff like that, that we've been able to put as a package and offer it specifically for the flood (victims)," K.C. said. "And we've made some arrangements where those people will go through engineering faster and get some benefits."
"We thought that they should be first priority right now, really," Cayttie added. "They can't be in every circumstance. People that have already ordered need their homes, too. But anything that we can do we're trying to speed those processes along.
"And it's working, you can tell they're really grateful. They have some kind of completion date, some kind of relief. An end to the frustration and the limbo. They're in limbo right now."
Cayttie said their hearts goes out to all the flood victims, and this has quickly become far more than a business venture to them.
"We didn't move here to have a business here," Cayttie said. "We moved here to get involved in the community."