Case Studies

The Hignell Companies

Full-service property management, maintenance and contracting

For more than 66 years The Hignell Companies (Hignell) has stood has a trusted name for various means of property management, maintenance and contracting services in northern California. Hignell is a family-owned, multifaceted firm, filling the role of specialty contractor to real estate broker, commercial and residential property manager to maintenance provider and nearly everything in between. Just north of Sacramento, in Chico, Hignell was one of the first to spark major development in the area.

“We were the first builder in Chico to build subdivisions in the early 1950s,” tells Jeff Stiemsma, vice president of Hignell. Beginning in 1948, founder Fred Hignell Jr. and his partner at the time, Floyd Strange, were responsible for the construction of 1,000 homes across 25 subdivisions, in addition to apartment and commercial projects.

“Our company has a lot of history in this area,” adds Stiemsma. “Mr. Hignell owned many large properties throughout Chico and although many have been sold off over the years, we still manage and maintain many of them.”

No. 1 priority is people

In keeping with the family tradition, Doug Hignell joined his father in 1970, bringing new vitality and an expanded vision for the company. Hignell’s emphasis shifted to real estate and property management services with a solid group of investors. But all along, as the company has grown by leaps and bounds, Stiemsma says Hignell remains a people-oriented business.

“We like to work with companies and people that have similar values to ours,” imparts Stiemsma. “Our No. 1 value in business is the relationship with the customer; the company we’re working with and the people. We not only say people are our number-one priority -we actually live by that as a faith-based company.”

Today, between all facets of the operation Hignell has approximately 160 employees and the company doesn’t hesitate to give back to them for all of the hard work. “We’ve started the Hignell Companies Foundation, mainly to help our employees but also the community,” shares Stiemsma. “About 60 percent of the money that goes in is for employees -anything from scholarships for continuing education to dealing with hardships such as an illness or medical expenses. The other 40 percent is invested back into the community.”

Hignell also has an Employee Care Fund and Community Impact Fund, truly embodying the firm’s principles and beliefs. “Our hope is that we might reflect God’s love through our own practice of uncommon generosity and truly inspire our community at large,” considers Stiemsma.

Wide-ranging experience

In the last three decades, Hignell has built numerous apartment complexes, a professional office complex of 37,026 square feet, a small specialty shopping center, developed and marketed a 64-duplex subdivision and a 59-lot planned unit development and many more area projects. “Our roots are in homebuilding, but now we’re also a real estate broker and we manage multifamily and single family homes,” says Stiemsma. “We’re a pretty turnkey firm, from management to contracting and maintenance with a focus in multifamily development.”

Currently, Hignell holds 11 contracting licenses and not only operates as a general contractor and construction manager, but also a subcontractor in multiple trades. “Besides our development abilities, we hold a general building contractor license and supplemental classifications in electrical, painting, plumbing, roofing, sanitation systems and sheet metal,” says Stiemsma.

“When we’re doing maintenance on one of our properties, we’re not out hiring a handyman or someone else to do the work,” compares Stiemsma. “We’re sending our in-house crew, certified in the specific trade.”

On the residential real estate side, Hignell manages more than 20 multifamily communities with a growing portfolio of single family homes in northern California. The firm’s commercial property management division currently manages more than 350,000 square feet of commercial real estate in Chico and surrounding areas.

Stepping up to the plate

But whether Hignell is tackling the construction of a single-family home, or delivering a specific trade at a large multifamily unit, Stiemsma says the company steps up to the plate to drive better projects. “The best example that comes to mind is a condominium complex, where we were redoing siding,” he tells. “There was an issue with the siding, so we stopped project and got the contractor and vendor together. We lost two weeks, but we got the vendor to step up and replace the faulty siding. We managed to get the contractor to step up and convinced the contractor to cover the legal fees for the association because we were making such good time.”

Throughout the process, Hignell worked with the facility owner and kept the project moving forward smoothly. “It was an extremely successful job that could have been a disaster if it wasn’t managed right,” considers Stiemsma. “We kept it at budget and met our timeline within a couple of weeks even after the lost time.”

Stiemsma says this is just one example of how Hignell really hits the mark, keeping the owner and the contractor happy. “People don’t realize there’s a difference between a GC and a construction manager,” he measures. “A good construction manager moves things along and represents the owners’ interest.”

He says this project, among others, gave Hignell a foothold to dig more into the construction management side of the business. “We’re expanding our footprint on the CM side, especially after the recession,” he says. “During the downturn, when the new construction market nearly disappeared, competition cut into our maintenance and service side and it really affected us.”

But now, Hignell is poised for further growth, keeping close attention to the same building blocks-people and relationships. “Our methods are simple: we work in and through relationships, seek to honor and encourage one another, demonstrate unwavering integrity, practice uncommon generosity and foster growth and innovation,” summarizes Stiemsma.

The Hignell Companies name remains a leader in northern California – driving quality construction, real estate development, management and maintenance service.

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Spring 2018



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