Each month, we will highlight a nonprofit, business owner or organization that purposefully gives back to its community. If you know of a Colorado-based business that has a passion for charitable giving, let us know—we would love to share their story.
Name: Jerry Marks
Company: Custom Environmental Services, Inc.
Business Rundown: CES specializes in emergency response, environmental, abatement and industrial vacuum services.
How did the business get started?
In 1989, I was on the road 287 days of the year with my job. I learned a lot [in the environmental services industry], but there was enough work in Colorado and surrounding areas that I didn’t have to be doing all over the country. I left that large company and worked for a handful of smaller companies in the Denver area. But in 1998, I started my own company: CES in Arvada. I’m in the same office space that I was when we started, but we’ve expanded from 4,000 square feet and four employees to 38,000 square feet and 45 employees.
We [provide] emergency response to hazardous spills, which includes truck wrecks, train derailments and chemical spills. We install and remove tanks at gas stations, do asbestos abatement, meth lab clean up, and clean up mold in residential and commercial buildings. The catch phrase I like to use is, “We’re hands-on.” We’re the guys who put on the suits and respirators and go out and [get it done.] There might be 300-400 consultants out there, but environmental contractors—the guys who actually go and do it— are only maybe a dozen of us. I liked that angle of it better to reduce my competition.
What do you love about the community you serve?
Arvada to me has always had that hometown, homegrown feel. There’s a big sense of community here. A lot of other business leaders and people in the area love giving back, love being involved in Arvada. I’ve been in other cities around the country and you don’t see the caring and community spirit that we have here in Arvada.
How have you and your business contributed to the local community?
My parents raised me to give back and do what you can for others and I learned it as a volunteer with the Arvada Fire Department a while ago. I started on the business side to network and help the business grow, serving on the Arvada Economic Development Association and the Arvada Chamber of Commerce at the same time. I eventually went through the Chamber and became Chairman of the Board. After two years serving there, there was a vacancy on the City Council in Arvada and I was selected to serve the remaining two years of a city council member’s term from 2013-2015.
But there’s been both small and large type of involvement. I’ve been involved with the Arvada Community Food Bank, Ralston House and Arvada Rotary. The Rotary is really active locally in [the food bank’s] backpack programs for kids who may get food during the week, but don’t have food to go home to on the weekends. I’ve also been the vice chair and chairman of the Arvada Vitality Alliance. We try to be the broker or fundraiser for the little charities like the food bank, Ralston House and Jefferson Center for Mental Health. We target these smaller organizations that are doing good things and try to help them out with something small. For example, the Carin Clinic, that does daycare and after-school programs and medical programs for kids, are housed in an office trailer. We donated about $2,000 to help them fix the roof on their trailer. It may not be big, but it’s a game changer for those smaller organizations.
How has giving back to the community helped your business?
For one, there are likes with likes. There is always someone you can bounce ideas off of. It’s not so much of a funding opportunity or they’re sending work my way. For me, it’s about mentoring and learning from other people’s experiences. Even though we’re all in different industries, we have the same issues and problems with employees, cash flow or really, anything it may be with running a business. I can’t do that within my company, so to be able to network and talk to other executives and share information, I get more out of that than I do people giving me work.
What are some goals for the future?
Getting on city council was a big goal and I’ve given so much that way. Now, I want to go back and continue to give as a business owner and be involved in charities. I’m looking more in the philanthropy areas, so my spare time will be channeled more that way. I think I just want to continue being a good business owner and a good corporate citizen, stay involved in the community and focus on fundraising in whichever organizations I’m with down the road.