Stakeholders tout opportunities following House of Design acquisition 

Alx Stevens//October 27, 2021

Stakeholders tout opportunities following House of Design acquisition 

Alx Stevens//October 27, 2021

Recent area growth has been positive for Nampa’s House of Design Robotics, and with a recent acquisition, it is ready to do more growing of its own. 

Robots cut a door opening into a wall panel at Nampa’s Autovol plant. House of Design provided the engineering, controls and automation integration for the volumetric modular facility. Photo courtesy of House of Design

“In the beginning, we probably didn’t have a broad enough vision,” co-founder Ryan Okelberry said. “In the nine years since we started the business, it became very evident that the necessity for automation, and the talent our team provided in using automation in a different way, was needed and in demand. There was no stopping the growth if we just kept being innovative, kept pushing the limits as to where and how you could use a robot.” 

House of Design can now expand its robotic automation systems and software for the residential construction market on a broader scale with the acquisition by Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P. (THL), which is described as a premier Boston-based private equity firm investing in growth companies. THL’s investment will strengthen House of Design’s existing capabilities and provide capital and resources for future growth investments, according to the press release. 

“I think most observers thought (this) was a small, growing market; it must be much more advanced than we thought. I’m kind of stunned,” said Chris Blanchard, formerly with indieDwell and current director of partnerships for Reynolds+Myers. “This is as big as Ericsson/Cradlepoint, Equifax/Kount. This is…making a huge bet on automation, and it’s in Nampa. That’s really something.” 

Okelberry said the like-mindedness of the companies is a positive strength, as THL has an automation focus. He explained THL sees House of Design as a platform acquisition, meaning “House of Design will stay House of Design,” but it can now capitalize on synergies and opportunities across THL’s portfolio. 

“What they’ve been able to do with some other companies really excites us,” Okelberry said, adding THL has been able to grow companies from being localized in North America to having a global footprint. 

“Obviously, with investment dollars, this is going to give (House of Design) the opportunity to hone internal systems and increase capabilities and get these solutions deployed to more customers more quickly,” Blanchard said. 

What might that look like? 

Ryan Okelberry. Submitted photo

Nine acres of property has already been purchased for new facilities nearby to House of Design’s current location, Okelberry said. “The new facility will help us grow that presence in the area with manufacturing and research and design; the plan is to stay in Nampa.”

“Right now we have 38,000 square feet,” co-founder Shane Dittrich told Built in Idaho. “Within the next year, we’ll have over 200,000 square feet.” 

With just over 100 staff members, Dittrich also said House of Design expects to at least double that figure in the next three to five years. 

“I know we’re looking to hire anywhere from 30 to 45 people in the first 100 days of the acquisition, which we’re actively doing,” Okelberry said. Positions range from fabricators to engineers. “That’s a tremendous piece of growth just in the short term.” 

He added this acquisition provides a great opportunity for upward mobility for current and future employees, and for customers, House of Design will continue to offer and expand support and training  with improvements  for robotic automation adoption. 

Regarding talent acquisition, Okelberry spoke highly of working closely with the College of Western Idaho — which has a mechatronics course that has robotics in it, as well as engineering and drafting programs — and Boise State and Northwest Nazarene universities. 

“We are working to advise the local education system on what we’re needing and in ways that we need it,” Okelberry said. “What we need is logical and open-minded thinkers. To solve the world’s problems, you have got to be able to look at them in a different way and then cross that with the technology that’s available.”

When asked what additional future partnerships exist, Okelberry said: “I can’t necessarily give any names, but we are very excited to be in conversations and provide systems to a number of national companies that have sites and locations in Idaho.

photo of chris blanchard
Chris Blanchard

“Hopefully we get to put some more robotic automation into Idaho-based sites with those companies,” also in the construction industry, he added. 

“Idaho has long been a leader in construction (technology)…we’ve also got quite (a group of) modular home builders. I feel this will put Boise much more on the map as a high tech manufacturer in construction trades,” Blanchard said. “This is already quite a big hub for mod manufacturing; it’d be interesting to see if this drives further automation with the other firms in this valley and (if) this really becomes a center for automation in the country.”