A legacy of doing right by our customers.
Over the course of our history, a lot has changed. The one thing that hasn’t? Our dedication to be the best possible partner to every customer. Explore Gray through the decades—and see how we’ve helped our customers build a prosperous future.
When James Norris Gray was a young naval petty officer in WWII, he realized business would not be done the same in the postwar economy. He was right. James Norris returned from the war to work with his father in the ice plant, which shortly went out of business as a result of new refrigeration and air conditioning technology.
In 1953, James Norris Gray took the first step into the construction industry with what would become an international business.
Thanks to James Norris’ uncanny ability to build relationships, recruit the right talent, and understand the customers’ needs, Gray begins to win choice regional contracts.
In 1960, James N. Gray Construction was incorporated. Gray’s first major project as a general contractor was the Uptowner Motel in downtown Glasgow, KY–a visible project that would put his new company on the map. Years quickly passed, and James Norris was building a family, a business, and a community.
The James N. Gray Construction company moved into its new headquarters on Happy Valley Road in Glasgow, KY.
After the untimely death of James Norris Gray in 1972, the family business pressed on with Howard Gray, the oldest son, becoming president at age 23.
My father was much more than a builder in the literal sense of the word. He was a builder of people… of communities… of our state… and of our nation. He touched so many lives, in so many ways.
With financial disaster looming, the Grays learned the value of relationships from Gabe Alberici, owner of a large construction company in St. Louis.
Gray entered the international market with a project for Toshiba in 1979.
That really did establish a long relationship where Japanese business has been undertaken on the basis of a strong level of trust and confidence that goes both ways.
In the ‘80s with Toyota’s help, Gray created the Safety Circle and instituted safety training as a part of its commitment to an incident-free jobsite. The company also celebrated safety by hosting safety luncheons and pig roasts. Gray became one of a select few in the nation to receive the National Business Roundtable Award for Excellence in Safety.
By the mid-80s, Gray was on the fast track to significant growth and success. Gray was doing more than designing and building–the company was building lasting relationships.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, U.S.A. broke ground on its Georgetown, KY facility after a hard-fought battle by the state of Kentucky to win the plant. Gray was chosen to build the company’s plastics building.
In 1988, the Gray family made a painful—but necessary—decision to move the company headquarters from Glasgow, KY to Lexington, KY. Keeping true to the family-owned roots, members of the Gray family have provided leadership throughout the company’s history.
In the early ‘90s, Gray’s values, vision, and mission were defined as “Gray: Measurably the Best.” This reflected the company’s desire to maintain the same values on which it was founded.
Throughout its history, Gray has earned a reputation for honesty, integrity, discipline, and hard work. In the mid-90s the Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABC, named Gray as the recipient for the ABC National Award of Merit for Excellence in Construction.
By the mid-90s, Gray had mastered all aspects of construction project management from planning to engineering and resources, pushed it to deliver the best possible outcome on every project.
In April of 1997, Gray opened the doors to its new home in the heart of downtown Lexington.
Gray will become an anchor for that area of Main Street, which has been in transition. It’s going to be more prosperous because of them.
To serve an expanding customer base, Gray opened offices from coast to coast and began to acquire sister companies–WS Construction, now Gray Ohio Valley in 1999 and ICE Builders, now Gray West Construction, in 2001. In 2023, Gray West Construction was purchased from Gray, Inc. by a new ownership group.
By the millennium, Gray was recognized as one of the top design and construction firms in the U.S.
After supervising the sales and marketing operations, Jim Gray became president and CEO of Gray in 2004, serving until 2009.
In 2005, Gray developed a renewed focus on customers, markets, and relationships dedicated to creating unforgettable customer experiences. This emphasis led Gray to continue developing projects across the U.S., working with companies around the world.
In 2009, a shift in leadership occurred when Stephen Gray was named president and chief operating officer with Jim Gray stepping into the chairman and chief executive officer roles.
Despite the difficulties of the recession, the Gray team stuck together and focused on its core values to guide them through the downturn, thus equipping the company to shine during the U.S. manufacturing resurgence.
In 2011, Stephen Gray was named president and chief executive officer of the company.
In 2012, Gray celebrated the life of the company’s co-founder and Gray family matriarch Lois Howard Gray, who lost her courageous battle with Alzheimer’s Disease on March 19, 2012.
In 2014, Gray announced its acquisition of Timberwolff Construction, Inc., an Upland, CA construction firm specializing in the retail construction industry. The companies joined forces due to similar values and the growth opportunities for all parties involved.
Gray was awarded the industry’s highest national safety honor from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the leading association for the construction industry in the U.S. Gray received the 2014 “Best of the Best” Grand Award after also bringing home the first place honor in the 500,000+ construction management hours worked division.
It’s not about programs, procedures or policies. It’s about making the conscious decision to be safe.
In the 2010s, Gray developed a specialized focus on the Food & Beverage industry. Having completed project for customers like Clemens Food Group, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Yamasa, Tyson Foods, Nestlé Waters, and Pepsi Bottling Group, Gray became highly specialized in this dynamic market.
On November 3, 2016, the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) presented Gray with two national awards for Champion Petfoods’ DogStar Kitchens.
The Champion Petfoods project has been exciting from day one based on our strong relationship with Champion, the way the team came together to ensure success, and the innovation that was developed and integrated specifically for this project.
Gray announced the acquisition of Spencer Bristol Engineering, a consulting design engineering firm based in Georgia.
Early in 2018, Gray announced the addition of Gray Solutions, a full-service Automation, Operations, and Information Systems Integrator with a heavy Food & Beverage focus. Then, in May of 2018, Gray additionally announced the acquisition of InLine Engineers, an engineering and design solutions firm also in the Food & Beverage sector.
Two Gray projects were honored with prestigious awards in 2018! The new fresh pork processing facility for Clemens Food Group in Coldwater, MI was named a winner in ProFood World magazine’s 2018 Manufacturing Innovation Awards. Also, Kraft Heinz’s new factory in Davenport, IA was named Food Engineering magazine’s 2018 Plant of the Year!
Gray announces the acquisition of Willett Engineering Company, a structural engineering firm, into the Gray family of brands.
All of us at Willett are thrilled to be part of the Gray family. We look forward to working with all the Gray companies, and their valued structural engineering partners, to build stronger, integrated skill sets for all of our customers.
Gray announced the acquisition of Spec Engineering, a specialty process engineering and equipment fabrication company, located in Plainfield, IL, to further bolster each company’s position in the Food & Beverage market.
Gray proudly announced that two of its team members were named to Constructech magazine’s 2019 Women in Construction list. Allison Lewis, pre-construction research specialist, and Valan Daniel, BIM/VDC specialist, were recognized for leveraging tech in construction.
The Women in Construction are true examples of stalwartness in an industry that is primarily dominated by men.
Gray broke ground with Publix Super Markets, Inc. on the company’s new refrigerated distribution center in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Gray bolstered service offerings for Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Industrial, & Vacuum Technology Markets with the acquisition of Anderson Dahlen Inc, a 75-year-old and family operated specialty equipment manufacturer and custom stainless-steel fabricator.
In September, Gray announced a partnership with Nestlé Purina on two new projects: a world-class 1.2 million s.f. facility in Williamsburg Township, Ohio and a state-of-the-art 1.3 million s.f. facility in Eden, North Carolina.
Gray announced a merger agreement between Gray Solutions, a Gray company, and Stone Technologies, a national systems integrator based in St. Louis, to deliver strengthened digital services to customers across the Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences, and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) markets.
Gray partnered with the University of Kentucky (UK) to sponsor the design, renovation, and construction of a dedicated building for the College of Design (CoD), as well as a new design-build curriculum at the college.
This new design-build program will represent a collaboration with UK’s College of Engineering and the Gatton School of Business and Economics.
This is a generational opportunity for us to give back to a college that has meant so much to our family and team members.
Gray and repeat customer, Qcells, partner on a historic solar investment. Qcells is one of the world’s largest and most recognized photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers, known for its high-quality solar cells and modules. This monumental project is the construction of the largest solar panel production plant in the U.S., in Cartersville, GA, an investment that will increase production capacity to a combined 8.4 gigawatts by 2024.
Having worked with Qcells, Gray is honored to continue our relationship on such a monumental investment. These projects will tremendously impact the people of Georgia, the American economy, and the solar industry.
Gray embraces the future with the opening of Gray’s Phoenix Talent Hub. Gray Talent Hubs will focus on intentional areas of growth to allow for the best talent to be part of Gray.