This year, Tom and Micky Jelsema, of Jelsema Concrete, celebrate two major milestones: their fortieth wedding anniversary and forty years of being in business for themselves.
In high school, Tom Jelsema laid concrete with a neighbor, not realizing how God was already opening doors for his future. After a time of service in the military, he returned home and began a concrete apprenticeship. He and a fellow apprentice soon found a steady stream of work and formed a partnership doing flatwork concrete such as replacing driveways, porches and garage floors.
After two years, the partnership dissolved and Tom Jelsema went on his own to form Jelsema Concrete. “I figured we’d stay in residential work and then one call led to another and to a little bit bigger job to an even bigger job,” Tom Jelsema said. He learned from each job and word of mouth spread. “I didn’t realize it at the time how God had opened door after door. I was too naive even at that age to realize what He was doing.”
Jelsema Concrete progressed from the flatwork of floors and porches to include foundations, footings, walls, parking lots and building fronts. “We will form it, tie the reinforcing and bars, pour it and finish it. If it’s concrete, we do it,” Tom Jelsema explained.
Their work spread across Michigan. You’ve most likely seen some of their projects including: the two winged walls at the entrance to the Gerald R. Ford airport, the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, and the Heart of the City medical facility in Grand Rapids.
From the beginning, Tom and Micky worked the business as a team. While Tom Jelsema took care of bids, estimates, and managing the work on-site, Micky Jelsema handled payroll, office work, and picking up supplies. She recalled seasons of bundling up their four boys and loading them in a truck to pull a front end loader to locations. The couple’s partnership helped balance the business and family life and kept everything running smoothly on both fronts.
In the early days Tom Jelsema stayed up until 3 a.m. working on bids. The couple worried over having enough work, and in other seasons worried over having enough workers to handle the jobs. Through each season they experienced God’s provisions. One spring, two key employees left to start their own business. Jelsema Concrete had a number of open bids, and the concern was how they would handle the jobs if they came through. Many of those bids fell through, yet they still had enough work from the previous season to carry the business. Just when they needed work or employees, the right jobs and right people came to them. “That time taught us that God knows what we need, and we don’t need to worry, whether it’s work or workers. He has always provided, time after time, in the right season,” Micky Jelsema said.
In 1992, they built their current facility off East Paris, officially moving the business out of their home. Currently Jelsema Concrete employs about a dozen individuals.
1994 also marked another major milestone as they became involved in missions. After seeing a notice in the church bulletin about a trip to Costa Rica, Tom Jelsema felt a tug to begin giving back. He credits God’s work through Promise Keepers for helping keep his life aligned, his priorities in order, and prompting him to get involved in missions. That year he went to Costa Rica and helped Christian Schools International pour concrete. Tom Jelsema has continued in missions work each winter since then. This past January Tom and Micky Jelsema traveled to Brazil for a week and a half to help a local church and school with maintenance and painting. Missions has become such an obvious passion for the Jelsemas that their employees even took a collection at Christmastime to contribute to the next missions trip.
The Jelsemas recognize God’s blessings on their business. “He has blessed us not so we can take and say look at what I have, but so we can be a blessing to others, whether locally, nationally and globally,” Tom Jelsema said. In all areas, and into the future, they recognize the business is God’s and they will steward it for Him and to further His kingdom.
At a Glance:
Name: Tom and Micky Jelsema
Company: Jelsema Concrete
Family: Married 40 years; 4 adult children; 7 grandchildren, 1 on the way