From Marine to race car driver, cop to contractor, Ron Givens Sr. has done it all, with no intention of stopping.
Ron Givens Sr. isn’t the retiring type. Not even at age 75.
With a career as varied as it is accomplished, including more than 30 years of experience owning and operating small businesses, Givens is now the CEO, president and majority owner of Pekin-based GIVSCO Construction and JM Industrial Supply, two of the largest minority-owned businesses in the Peoria area.
GIVSCO, which also has locations in Morton and Belleville and will be moving next year to a new headquarters facility in Bartonville, was founded in 2011 by Givens, who retired as a Peoria police detective in 2008, and by Richard Scovil, likewise a former law enforcement officer. GIVSCO comes from the combination of their last names. Givens purchased majority ownership of JM Industrial Supply from Scovil in 1999. The latter remains as the CFO and treasurer of the two companies.
GIVSCO employs upwards of 40 people depending on the workload at any given time, with another dozen on the payroll at JM Industrial Supply.
“Both companies are growing because we’ve surrounded ourselves with good people,” said Givens, who much as he enjoys fishing in the Ozarks, isn’t done growing his business résumé. “There’s always another opportunity out there.”
‘He must have tapped into the fountain of youth.’
Givens has crammed an awful lot into a career that also includes stints in the military, law enforcement and auto racing.
Indeed, Givens was such a good stock car driver that he was inducted into the Peoria Old Timers Racing Club Hall of Fame at Peoria Speedway in 2019. He was a member of the Richard Petty race team that tested and timed cars at NASCAR tracks across the country, including the fabled Daytona International Speedway. He owns a 2004 Ford Taurus stock car that he often uses for fundraising events.
What keeps this alleged senior citizen on the move after going non-stop for nearly 30,000 days since his birth in 1948?
“I like life. I like people. And I have a healthy religious background,” he said.
Son Ronnie Givens serves as the vice president of sales and marketing for GIVSCO Construction and JM Industrial Supply. At 42, he’s had a ringside seat to his father’s whirlwind life, going back to the days when he felt compelled to say, “Dad, let’s go” as his father conversed at length with business associates and friends when the two were out together.
“My father was always on the go when I was a kid,” Ronnie said. “But if our family needed anything, he’d help us at the drop of a hat. He’s always been able to balance work with family.”
Ronnie said his father’s connection with people is a gift from God.
“He treats people with respect, but he’s also a straightforward guy,” he said. “He’s genuine … He won’t say something to you, then say the opposite behind closed doors.
‘What makes Ron tick? I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger. That’s why he’s so successful.’
“Most people would need several lifetimes to accomplish what my father has done. He gets stronger every day. He must have tapped into the fountain of youth.”
Givens and Scovil have known each other for 50 years, as police department colleagues, as business partners and as friends.
“What makes Ron tick? I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger,” Scovil said. “That’s the reason why he’s so successful. He enjoys people and he has an instant likeability for anyone who meets him.
“That personality goes a long way in business. I’ve met, known and interacted with many successful people in Peoria. All of them have that ability.”
A philanthropist, too
John Morris, president and CEO of Peoria Riverfront Museum, appreciates Givens’ support of the not-for-profit museum.
“Ron shares my love for the community, and his core values mirror everything the museum stands for,” Morris said.
GIVSCO Construction donated the remodeling work on the museum’s Owens Gallery, which ultimately allowed the museum to accept acclaimed artist Preston Jackson’s epic work, “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story,” as a permanent exhibit in 2021.
Meanwhile, the 30,000 lights that adorned the museum’s 50-foot-tall blue spruce Community Christmas Tree on Water Street were largely covered by another GIVSCO and Givens family gift.
In 2019, Givens was inducted into Peoria’s African American Hall of Fame, which is housed inside the museum.
Givens is a two-time past president of the South-West Peoria Kiwanis Club in Peoria, where he’s been a member since 2010. He’s also a former Kiwanis division lieutenant governor.
Jan Deissler is another former Kiwanis president who, at 23 years, is one of the club’s longest serving members.
“Ron can sell anybody anything,” Deissler said. That includes being the big cheese in the South-West Peoria Kiwanis Club’s annual cheese sale fundraiser.
“He’s Mr. Kiwanis in my book,” Deissler said. “He even was bringing people into our club during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Peoria roots run deep
Givens traces his life’s accomplishments to a long-ago conversation he had with his father, William, a 40-year Caterpillar employee — his mother was the longtime cook at the Gamma Phi Beta sorority at Bradley University — when the two were raking leaves in the backyard of the family’s south Peoria home.
“I was only 13, but I already had what we’d call now a ‘bucket list’ of things I wanted to do,” he said. “I told my father about all my plans.”
Givens would ultimately graduate from Peoria High; earn certifications and degrees at Illinois Central College, Bradley University and the University of Chicago; and win his stripes at the University of Illinois’ Police Training Academy and the U.S. Marine Corps’ School of Warfighting and Management in Quantico, Va. There’s nothing on the list Givens detailed that day with rake in hand that he hasn’t accomplished, from exceeding his father’s rank in the military — Givens the son retired as a Marine gunnery sergeant — to running a family business and acquiring the personal wealth that came with it.
Much of the motivation for the latter came from his father telling him about the 1929 stock market crash, and the Great Depression that ensued, during the pivotal backyard conversation.
Meanwhile, Givens is a family man as much as he is a businessman. He’s been married to Carrie since 1979. Through son Ronnie and his wife, Oneida, they share two grandchildren, Malia, 13, and Cameron, 11.
“This is the greatest part of my life,” Givens said. “I have a fantastic work/life balance.”