PITTSFIELD — Like many Pittsfield residents of his generation, Ron Griffin went to work for General Electric. He rose through the ranks, to the point where he became one of the employees who helped GE close down its power transformer division in Pittsfield in the late 1980s.
"I had to make a decision on what to do," Griffin said.
Griffin eventually formed his own company, EDM Architecture and Engineering in 1988. Since then, EDM has grown from a single office in Pittsfield to a firm with 38 employees and two other locations, one each in Connecticut and New York, that has taken on bigger and bigger projects.
EDM recently performed all the engineering, architecture and construction oversight work for Miraval Berkshires Resort and Spa's $130 million transformation of the former Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club in Lenox.
Now, it's time for Griffin to turn over EDM's leadership to someone else.
Technically, that transition already has occurred. Griffin retired last September — he has been working part time as a consultant for EDM for the past 12 months. And EDM's current CEO, Jeromy Richardson, has been in place since January 2019. But, officially, emotionally and spiritually, the proverbial torch might have been passed Aug. 26, when EDM held a reception for its retired founder at the Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield.
"We'd been planning the gathering for him for a year," Richardson said.
Griffin, who will continue to do consulting work for EDM, said the decision to retire was difficult. He is pleased with the company's progress over the past three decades, but he regrets the amount of time that the work he put in took away from his family.
"I gave 30 years of my life to EDM," he said. "The sacrifices that my family made are significant."
"I missed seeing the home run that my son hit, a grand slam, the only one he hit in Little League, because I had to walk away for a meeting," Griffin said. "I missed a lot of things that they were involved in because of the things that I was involved in. If anybody asks me if I would do things the same way again, I would not.
"I met a lot of great people and had a lot of great friends that I never would have met were it not for the work I did at EDM," Griffin said. "That's all well and good, but I lost a lot of what I think would be more meaningful."
Marketing the company to others was his primary responsibility at EDM.
"I was on the road constantly, selling EDM's services," Griffin said. "We grew from a business that provided services almost solely to the paper industry — Crane was our first major client — to a business that provided engineering services to the plastics, pharmaceutical and other industries in related businesses."
EDM began offering architectural services in the early 2000s, which is one of the reasons the company opened its second office, in Farmington, Conn. (the firm's third office is in Troy, N.Y.).
"I outsourced those services, but then I found an architect that I liked and I hit the road," he said.
In 2008, EDM designed a $5.8 million student union, dormitory and academic center for Mitchell College in New London, Conn. Four years later, EDM developed a working relationship with GlobalFoundries' microchip facility in Malta, N.Y.
Griffin said he chose Richardson to be EDM's CEO two years ago, "because I felt the business needed to go through a generational change."
"I'm an old-school type of manager/owner," Griffin said. "I really loved and respected my people as long as you, as an employee, understood your responsibility. I made this change to the business because I felt that Jeromy Richardson was the right choice in my mind. Time will only tell if that's the right decision for EDM, but I had enough confidence in him to put him in that position to continue to grow the business."
Richardson, who once in an interview with The Eagle referred to Griffin as a "father figure," described his predecessor as "the heart" of EDM.
"He lives it and breathes it; he kept things running for many, many years. He set our foundation," Richardson said.
He also said Griffin made the transition to new leadership a smooth one.
"In passing the baton, he made it easier than it could have been in other situations," Richardson said.
Griffin officially might be retired, but he still plans to visit the office.
"When you commit 30-plus years of your life to a business like this, you never really retire," he said. "A lot of clients who I consider friends call me with questions. ... Unless they tell me they don't want me to show up, I intend to put in an occasional visit."