Ed Ehinger (center) and his sons, Erick (left) and Trent (right), have owned and operated 3E Industries for 20 years. Together they make a toast to their family business while at Country Heritage Winery and Vineyard in LaOtto, Ind.
Alumni brothers’ beautification projects pave the way
Their names aren’t exactly Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, but nonetheless, the men behind 3E Industries share a certain kinship with the famous Three Musketeers: Together they pursue a common good through their efforts and express the highest of ideals in the process.
And 3E Industries founder Ed Ehinger and his two Ivy Tech Community College Northeast alumni sons, Trent and Erick, wouldn’t have it any other way.
In 1993, Ed started what was to become the family business in custom residential and light commercial construction and landscaping work, following a lengthy career in finance and business management. Trent and Erick were still in middle school and elementary school, respectively.
As the boys matured, they didn’t mind getting their hands dirty in the construction field, often helping their father on various projects.
Ed’s Roanoke, Ind.-based business operated primarily using manual labor until about the time Trent developed a fascination with Bobcats, a brand of compact vehicles used in construction and landscaping projects.
“I noticed his interests when we would go on family vacations,”
Ed says. “You know how some heads will turn when a Corvette goes down the highway? Trent’s head would turn when he saw a Bobcat being hauled, an excavator, or any piece of construction equipment.”
It wasn’t long before Trent’s pleas for one were successful despite his father’s initial reservations. With Trent’s grandfather’s financial assistance, the 15-year-old scored his first Bobcat following his father’s insistence that he become self-educated about operating them. Trent has owned nine Bobcats to date and has even served as a sales representative for the company for a period.
As high school graduation approached, Trent felt compelled to study construction trades based on his upbringing. And he pursed the option at two separate colleges for a few semesters at each until he concluded that adequate hands-on practice and a personal touch were lacking at both.
Sometime later, while attending a construction trade show at Memorial Coliseum, Trent stopped at the Ivy Tech Northeast recruiting booth, where he renewed his interest in college. Trent enrolled that fall, and two years later, he graduated with an associate degree in construction technology and summa cum laude honors.
“With the hands-on training and ambitious teachers and students at Ivy Tech, I felt like I was finally in the right place,” Trent says. “Not only did I enjoy the school, I enjoyed what I was learning and knew this would help me to continue in my career.”
Select Ivy Tech Northeast employees, such as adjunct faculty member Jim Foote, took note of Trent’s ambitious nature, in return.
“Trent was one of those people who you knew was going to succeed at what he did. First of all, you need to have a certain level of ability to succeed in any area, and he had that. And the rest of it, in my opinion, is all linked to desire, and he definitely had that,” Foote says.
When Erick was ready to pursue college, he sought the advice of his older brother; Erick also chose the same college to one day become his alma mater. The younger Ehinger, however, received an associate degree in manufacturing/industrial technology.
Today, given 3E Industries’ expanded operations, the division of labor places Ed in charge of construction and finances, Trent responsible for concrete and excavating, and Erick coordinating the landscaping.
“The main factor that influenced me to choose a career in construction and landscaping was being able to work outside and having the opportunity to work on different projects everyday,” Erick says.
He still relies on his technology repair and welding skills to maintain the construction equipment as needed.
To date, 3E Industries has completed more than 500 construction and landscaping projects, with a significant portion of the work coming from repeat customers.
“We focus on client relationships and trust to combine for a successful project,” Trent says. “Every year we grow more and more and strive to complete new design concepts and innovations to set us apart from the competition.”
Differentiating from competitors has also meant forming new partnerships.
Ed, Trent, and Erick have been working with Woodland Water Gardens in Columbia City, Ind., for nearly eight years on a number of collaborative projects that involve the installation of water features.
“They are very meticulous about what they do, as are we, so it’s been an incredible merge of talents and resources for both companies,” says Gary Wechsler, co-owner of Woodland Water Gardens.
The Ehinger family patriarch says he has become particularly proud of his sons and the business the three of them have nurtured during the past 20 years.
“I don’t have any specific goals left for the company because I’m letting the boys take it where they want to take it,” Ed says.
Regardless of its direction, one hallmark of the family business that’s likely to remain a constant is the inseparable bond between its members—not unlike The Three Musketeers.