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Building on a Legacy: Three Generations Strong

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For over 80 years and across three generations, Nowland Associates has built a reputation as a leading design-build construction firm in the Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania regions. Founded in 1942 and still family-owned today, the company, led by brothers Jim, Giff, and Jeff Nowland, takes immense pride in its tradition of quality workmanship and lasting personal relationships.

The Nowland brothers, part of the third generation guiding the company, grew up immersed in the family business. As Jim explains, “When you grow up in it and it’s in your blood and you drive by job sites, it’s hard for it not to be part of your DNA.” Despite witnessing the challenges that go along with operating a family owned construction company, the allure of carrying on the family name proved too tempting. Each brother found his own niche, with skills spanning architecture, structural engineering, and construction management.

This shared passion for building started with their grandfather and great uncle. Giff emphasizes the company’s commitment to evolving with the times while maintaining its core values: “Our grandfather founded the business in an ever-changing world of materials, methods, technology and safety. We inherited it, we’re the third generation of our family business. We try to hold onto our roots while keeping current and changing with the times.”

Adaptability and integrity have been crucial to Nowland Associates’ longevity in the competitive construction industry. When the second generation took over, the sudden loss of Jeff, Jim and Giff’s uncle, thrust more responsibility onto their father, Dale. Giff explains how this challenge led to important business safeguards that still guide the company today: “That really forced the business to evolve and develop a solid business plan, put policies in place, and we continue to strive for that.”

While construction standards and workforce challenges continue to shift through the generations, Giff says their motivation remains steady: “What’s consistent through all the generations is that we love building things and helping customers turn an idea into something that they’re very proud of.”

This passion for turning visions into reality is what really drives Nowland Associates to specialize in design-build projects. As Jim describes it, “We wear a lot of different hats, but we really pride ourselves on design-build construction because it fits our philosophy the best. We believe that it brings the whole design and construction team together at the beginning. Everyone’s on the same page in terms of design and costs.” By “quarterbacking” (as Jim puts it) the construction process from concept to completion, Nowland Associates ensures seamless coordination across the whole project.

Nowland Associates staff

Giff emphasizes that the company excels when working with private clients, being involved early in the process, well before construction begins. He explains, “We want to be your steward of the whole project, not just the building. Right after you bought your property and before you get into site design, we want to be a part of that to help make sure you’re making informed decisions and get the most efficient use of it.” This collaborative approach fosters accountability and problem-solving throughout the company. As an example, Giff highlights recent work done by Nowland Associates in constructing a new winery: “That all came about because the owners had just bought the property. I think they were having their driveway paved and they asked their site contractor who he would call if he was building something. And he gave them our name.” This project spanning multiple buildings and millions of dollars originated from Nowland’s reputation with a single local contractor.

As Jim states proudly, Nowland’s focus on customer service means that it has always fostered positive relationships with its clients. “We’ve never been to court with a customer, not once in our entire history.” This is an area in which the company works hard to maintain. At Nowland Associates, avoiding disputes and delivering exceptional final products is paramount. As Giff says, “We’re gonna do what it takes to get it finished and make sure the customer is happy. That’s first and foremost.”

“We’re gonna do what it takes to get it finished and make sure the customer is happy.”

Long-term clients in the education space exemplify Nowland Associates’ lasting business relationships built on trust and satisfaction. Ongoing projects with private schools like Las Américas ASPIRA Academy and decades of work with St. Andrew’s School stem from quality work and trusted relationships. As Giff notes, excellence with one church or school often leads to more opportunities with similar clients. “It’s just an example of what happens when you do a good job for one particular client and then word spreads throughout the community,” he says.

While major projects like the multi-million dollar ASPIRA Academy campus make headlines, Giff emphasizes finding equal personal satisfaction in modest community jobs, turning one small contract into years of work through strong relationships. Jim agrees, “We’re just as proud of the little warehouse that we do for the local developer.”

This community spirit extends to Nowland Associates’ employees as well. Giff highlights the family atmosphere, saying, “We all have lunch together around the table. We like to do things together outside of work when we can.” While professional expertise is certainly required, the Nowland brothers seek employees who share their values of integrity and teamwork. Giff explains, “You’ve gotta have the right personality and be the right kind of person too.” With some staffers spanning multiple generations, that family feeling reaches well beyond the Nowlands themselves.

The brothers also prioritize providing a complete benefits package for employees, despite their size exempting them from the requirements to do so. As Jim says, “It would be easy to say, ‘sorry but you’re on your own’ and not worry about it. But we do worry about that.” This exceptional care for their employees stems directly from Nowland Associates’ close-knit family culture and the desire to look out for one another.

Looking into the future, the Nowland brothers’ desire is to see the business continue to thrive and prosper. While they all have children, and the potential for a fourth generation is there, the Nowland’s are adamant that there’s no pressure to carry on the family legacy. As Jim says, “We certainly want the opportunity to be there, but equally we want everyone to choose their own path in life.” Above all, preserving their standards of ethics and craftsmanship remains paramount. That said, Giff does emphasize their mandate to see the company continue “with the same values and integrity” that has made the company the success it is today.

Staying relevant in the construction field for over 80 years has required constant adaptation. But Nowland Associates measures its success on foundations that endure – family, community, and delivering quality work with integrity. Jim sums it up simply and profoundly: “Do the right thing. The rest will take care of itself.”

The company’s consistent values are evident, as Giff emphasizes, “We’re equally proud of our relationship with our subcontractors, with our employees and with all our suppliers and vendors. We pride ourselves in treating our subcontractors better than anyone else in the industry.” Maintaining excellent relationships across the board ensures smooth operations on all projects.

By building on these unshakable values, Nowland Associates stands poised to construct both impressive buildings and meaningful legacies for generations to come. Their 80-year history is a testament to the power of ‘doing right’ by the community, the workforce, and most importantly, the customer. Nowland Associates exemplifies how a company can evolve over decades and generations without compromising its core purpose and integrity. As Giff says, “Our name is on our door, our name is on our trucks, and we do whatever is necessary to protect that name.” It’s clear that pride in the family name goes a long way to creating a strong family business that stands the test of time.

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