Complete Story


Luse Contracting Group Celebrates 100th Year of Service

Luse Contracting Group Celebrates 100th Year of Service

to Chicago-Area Construction Industry


Fifth-generation family business specializes in mechanical insulation and environmental remediation

Aurora, Illinois—Luse Contracting Group, a fifth-generation family business that has serviced the construction industry since 1923, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and joined a select group in the process: Fewer than 1 percent of family businesses survive to the fifth generation.

Founded in Chicago and now headquartered in Aurora, Ill., Luse Contracting Group provides mechanical insulation and environmental remediation services for new construction and renovation projects in Illinois and Wisconsin.

“Our founder, Daniel ‘Uncle Claude’ Luse, was a highly successful salesman for a well-known insulation manufacturer in New York,” recalled Dee Luse, the third generation of Luses to run the business (1975-1998). “When his boss reneged on a deal they had made, Uncle Claude left for Chicago and started Luse-Stevenson with a financier named Stevenson in 1923. Even after Stevenson departed two years later, the Luse-Stevenson name was retained for more than 75 years until the multi-faceted business was rebranded as Luse Contracting Group.”

Both the name and the business have stood the test of time through equal measures of resiliency, adaptability, creativity, and proven quality.

“It’s essential to keep up with the times,” said Dee. “Originally Luse specialized in roofing and pipe insulation. We put the roof on the old Chicago Stadium when it was built in 1925 and roofed many of the buildings for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-34. Luse-Stevenson was also heavily involved in the cold storage business. Don’t forget, Chicago was the meat-packing capital of the world back in the ’20s.”

No longer involved in roofing or cold storage, the heart of Luse Contracting Group today is in the Chicago area.  Luse is one of the top union mechanical insulation contractors in the market, servicing hot and cold mechanical systems in a variety of construction projects, from high-rise office buildings in the Chicago business district to manufacturing plants, data centers, power plants, and steel mills across Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. The Luse team is often called on by clients to travel outside the state for specialty projects.

In addition, Luse also provides asbestos, lead, and mold abatement, as well as demolition services, to the same set of end markets. In 2021, the company acquired a business in Milwaukee, Wis., which provides mechanical insulation services across southern Wisconsin.

All told, in 2023 the Luse workforce boasts nearly 300 employees.

“Seeing your name out there and knowing that it is highly regarded within the construction industry motivates you to do business the right way, to make sure your family’s reputation and legacy are carried on by each generation,” said Steve Luse, chairman and CEO of Luse Holdings, and the fourth generation of Luses to lead the business.

But Steve and Dee would be the first to admit that the climb to the century mark wasn’t always easy.

Uncle Claude, who ran the business from 1923 to 1955, deftly steered Luse through the Great Depression and World War II. The second generation of Luses to take the reins was Duane Claude Luse, one of Uncle Claude’s two nephews. Uncle Claude didn’t have children of his own, so when his nephews were “displaced” from their homes in California during the Depression, he relocated them to Chicago and gave them jobs in the company. Duane started out as a laborer in the acoustical tiles side of the business, a service Luse no longer provides, and eventually rose to president/CEO in 1955. During Duane’s tenure, the focus of the business shifted to only providing insulation services for commercial buildings and industrial facilities. Mechanical insulation services remain at the core of the Luse Contracting Group’s success. 

Duane remained in charge until 1975, the year he passed away. Shortly thereafter, Duane’s son, Dee, assumed the position of CEO.  It was during the period of the 1970s and ‘80s that the business faced its greatest challenge when the asbestos crisis rocked the construction industry. The building material that Luse and other companies had long used for insulation was found to be hazardous. Asbestos-related disease was routinely discussed in the media, unions sought hazardous duty pay for workers, and countless structures across the country were deemed “unsafe” by OSHA and other government entities.

Luse Contracting Group found itself at a crossroads.

Around the time the anti-asbestos movement was in full swing, Steve was graduating from Valparaiso University in Indiana. “I was planning to go on and get my master’s, but dad needed me because the business was teetering,” said Steve, who joined Luse in 1981.

Dee remembers well the day his son came to him. “Steve said, ‘Dad, let me come help you out. I won’t ever let you down,’” Dee recalled. “Son to father. Just like that.”

Steve realized that while the insulation side of the business was facing a monumental threat, he also saw an opportunity for Luse to shift gears and get into the asbestos removal business. He convinced his dad to take a chance and also to let Steve lead the way.  Ultimately, asbestos removal became a mainstay of the Luse business.

Dee and Steve credit the Luses’ ability to adapt and thrive during turbulent times to their faith. “We spent a lot of time praying to Jesus, and that was when Dad truly found his faith,” Steve said. “Prayer gave both of us—and the business—the ability to power through. Ultimately, we turned the corner and pointed Luse Contracting Group in a new and exciting direction.

Steve stepped into the role of CEO when Dee retired in 1998. Over the last 25 years Steve and his brother, Brad, the director of health and safety, have navigated Luse through the housing crash of 2008 (“the industrial side of the business carried us”) and the Covid pandemic that began in 2020.

Now in his 25th year overseeing the Luse enterprise, Steve has begun the process of transitioning leadership as well as ownership to the fifth generation of Luses, his daughter, Ashley Luse DeBoer, who became president of Luse Consulting Group in 2020.

"The fifth generation of Luses, including my nephew Dylan Luse, is now carrying the mantle for the business,” Steve said enthusiastically. “We are also hoping that Luse Contracting Group will be recognized as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) within the next couple of years as Ashley prepares to purchase the assets of the business.”

The impact of her dad’s statement is not lost on Ashley. “It’s a unique situation being a woman in this business,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of young females in it. I feel like one benefit of me being in this position is the opportunity to try to change the perception that the industry is not ‘female friendly.’  I tell women considering the industry that there’s a place and an opportunity for them here. I’m a firm believer that the industry is already great because of the people in it.”

Ashley said her goals for her turn as president include expanding Luse Contracting Group’s Midwestern footprint while pursuing operational excellence and using data to quantify the energy savings they generate for their clients, a process she calls “scaling our impact.”

“Mechanical insulation and asbestos abatement are still our bread and butter, but I also think our quality sets us apart,” Ashley said. “Our sweet spot is in the industries where quality really matters, like food processing, pharmaceuticals, and heavy industrial projects—complex, intricate work where quality is essential to clients/owners.”

Another goal high on Ashley’s list is furthering Luse’s passion for “giving back philanthropically.”  The business not only gives financially, but also organizes volunteer outings for employees to donate their time to local charities during work hours and offers a robust Matching Gift Program that allows employees to double the impact of their philanthropic gifts to their favorite charities or ministries by requesting a matching gift from the corporate foundation. 

As the start of its 101st year approaches, the secret to longevity and success for the Luse family business really isn’t a secret at all.

“It takes hard work, a little luck, a lot of prayer, and a close-knit family that supports one another and the people who work for us,” said Steve. “We are conservative in our approach and try not to get way out over our skis. If we haven’t done something before, we have industry relationships across the country and through our professional association where we know we can reach out and bring in partners to work with us and teach us what we need to know. We know we haven’t ‘done it all,’ so we just think it’s good business to seek wise counsel as needed.”

Dee added that each generation has not left the next generation in dire straights or in debt. “It’s how we have survived and thrived,” he said. “We don’t cut corners, we work with integrity, and we generate trust.”

Dee figures that if Uncle Claude were alive today, he’d be amazed and pleased. “I imagine he’d say something like, ‘Wow! My business has crossed five generations of family and made it to 100?’” Dee offered. “I’m really proud of you.”

Printer-Friendly Version