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Callas Contractors celebrates 50 years

February 24, 2008|By JILLIAN E. KESNER

HAGERSTOWN -- As the story goes, Mike Callas sold his car and bought a station wagon and a shovel and began Callas Contractors Inc. in 1958. While Callas no longer is at the helm, the company continues his founding principles and will celebrate 50 years Feb. 28.

A native of Hagerstown, Callas obtained his degree in civil engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, served four years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and returned to Johns Hopkins to earn a master's degree in structural engineering in 1947.

Callas worked for several other contractors in Hagerstown, including Norman S. Earley, before starting his own contracting company. In 1961, Callas had 44 carpenters working for him. Today, Callas Contractors has 125 employees, including 25 supervisors.

Many of the firm's employees have had long careers at Callas, from 15 to 30-plus years.

Connie Vance has worked at Callas for 12 years and was Mike Callas' secretary for seven years.

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"He treated us like family," Vance said.

Along with the impact the company has had on area development, it also has given significant civic contributions to the community. In the company's 50-year history, Callas was the second largest individual contributor to the United Way of Washington County and served as campaign chairman in 2000. Last year, the firm more than doubled employee participation.

Timothy Campbell, president and CEO of Callas, said that the company's mission is to build on its past and keep community as a priority.

"Everyone has bought into it," said Campbell, who has worked for 12 years at Callas. "We expect them to live and work by (our values), to do what's right and have high ethical standards."

The firm is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and Associated Builders and Contractors, which Callas was president of in 1973 and 1974. During his tenure as president, membership nearly doubled and there was a 30 percent expansion of new chapters.

In order to fit the company's growing needs, Callas has relocated several times. Their first address was on Howard Street before relocating to Robinwood Drive. The firm moved to its present location, a converted 1851 farmhouse on Downsville Pike on June 29, 1979. The original 4,500-square-foot building was completely renovated, and in early 2005, an 8,000-square-foot addition was completed, according to its Web site.

Over the past 50 years, employees at Callas say the biggest change they have seen has been in technology, which makes everything instant.

"Technologically, we're as advanced as you can possibly be," said Nick Hill, vice president of construction for Callas.

Callas was heavily involved in the company until he died in May 2004 at age 83. The company was left to his trust and eventually will become an employee-owned company, Campbell said.

Campbell and Hill say that in the next 50 years, the young up-and-coming employees will be running the company.

"Mike's vision was for it to perpetuate, and we plan on carrying it out," Hill said.

Green building is a new focus, something that is becoming a requirement, Campbell said.

A formal reception to celebrate the company's anniversary will be in May.

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