Most companies spend their marketing budgets communicating with their customers. But Ozinga Brothers, a ready-mix producer in the Chicago area, uses some portion of its marketing budget promoting the image of construction and concrete through media that doesn’t go directly to its customers, such as radio ads and billboards. For its community work and also its progressive approach to the ready-mix industry, Ozinga Brothers is one of this year’s Most Influential Companies.

“It’s about more than concrete,” says Tim Ozinga, co-owner and director of marketing communications, “it’s about being involved in our community. We feel that through concrete we can help build better families, better communities, and a better country. It’s something we feel have to do.”

One approach to this end has been the Born to Build campaign, started in 2014, with billboards, TV ads, and an inspiring video that shows the value of construction and the spirit of those who do the work. “We were coming out of a recession and tough time and there was a lot of negative sentiment about the construction industry,” says Tim Ozinga. “We felt like somebody needed to tell a positive story about construction.” Since then, the Born to Build video has been seen by more than 250,000 people through social media.

Over the past 25 years, Ozinga has gone from a small producer to the dominant player in the Chicago area, spreading out into three states. Ozinga also recently began operations in Florida both through a greenfield site and acquisitions. The company’s approach to concrete production is to innovate and not be afraid to try new things. They recently started using the CarbonCure system, injecting liquid carbon dioxide directly into the mixer trucks.

Ozinga has also been an early-adopter of digital technology with the MyOzinga mobile and desktop apps that allow dispatchers and contractors to know exactly where the trucks are and when to expect concrete to arrive. “We are launching lots of new customer tools,” says Ozinga. “From invoicing to field management to truck tracking and in-truck monitoring. Our biggest challenge with this is integrating the various technologies and deciding whether to go with a third-party solution or to develop the solutions in-house.”

Like most producers, one of Ozinga’s challenges is attracting drivers. They recently started a new workforce development program they call Trade Up, which includes humorous videos that celebrate the freedom of driving a truck over working in an office and the dynamic nature of the ready-mix business. Tim Ozinga clearly revels in it. “Things are always changing. Each morning you wake up and don’t know what you’re going to be in for that day. Weather, traffic, a lot of things that are out of your control. If you like to do the same thing every day, this is probably not the job for you.”