PART I, A History of Dorn Homes: 50 Years of Creating Neighborhoods, Connecting People


Over the course of the last 50 years, much has changed at Dorn Homes. Locations have changed, building science has changed, even the people have changed. The constant, however, has been Dorn Homes’ purpose: to enhance the lives of all those we touch. At Dorn Homes, that means taking care of employees, trade partners, homeowners, and the community around us. It also means innovative building science that reduces our environmental footprint and provides healthier homes. Building homes is what we do; improving lives is who we are.

It was with this purpose in mind that Dorn Homes was founded 50 years ago. Our founder, Michael Dorn, began building multi-family apartments in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area after a career in the lending business. Michael Dorn placed an emphasis on doing good above all else, a sentiment that is reflected in our organization and shared by our current CEO Dave Grounds.

After 4 years of building in the Minneapolis area, Michael Dorn moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1971. There he continued building apartments and began building custom homes. As the company grew, the capacity of the company to do good grew as well. This continues to be the most important driver for our growth as a company. Over the course of the next 15 years, Michael Dorn built hundreds of apartments and custom homes and, in 1980, began building shopping centers, restaurants, auto centers, and office buildings as well.

More importantly, Michael Dorn was active in the community. He donated to charities and mentored others in an effort to create what current CEO Dave Grounds calls “sustainable good.” The goal behind sustainable good is to do more than simply contribute to worthy causes, it is to plant a seed that will facilitate ongoing growth.

Dave Grounds saw this first hand after beginning his career with Dorn Homes sweeping out model homes in 1982. Mr. Grounds was one of the people that Michael Dorn mentored and he has taken the message of sustainable good to heart.

Beginning in 1990 and continuing through most of the decade, Michael and Dave, and their spouses Linda and Ellen, grew Dorn Homes into the most successful builder and developer in the towns of Green Valley and Sahuarita. A key factor in the success of Dorn Homes in Southern Arizona was their focus on quality: quality of the homes they produced, the people they hired, and the land they chose to build on. When Michael and Dave decided to build in Southern Arizona, they did so because of the beauty of the land itself. Michael and Dave saw the promise in building there and imagined the community they could create.

It is easy to envision the role of a homebuilder as a transactional one. But the best homebuilders create relationships. For some, that relationship lasts the duration of our 10-year builder’s warranty, for others it carries across multiple homes. In a few notable instances, the relationship is life-long. In discussing the history of Dorn Homes, Dave recounted one such relationship. Having established Dorn Homes as the premier homebuilder in Southern Arizona, Dave found himself called on by the top regional Realtor to build a custom home. And another. And another. And another. The Realtor and her husband followed Dorn Homes from neighborhood to neighborhood, ultimately building four Dorn Homes. The most important call was not to build a fifth home, it was when the Realtor, in tears, called Dave to tell him that her husband was ill, and that hospice care was imminent, with a request that he help set up the bed.

Dave promised to help, and learned how much this family truly loved Dorn Homes. Not just for the product, or the design, but for the relationship they had built over the years.

While Dorn Homes persistently strove to become the go-to builder in Green Valley, the impact the organization left there stretches beyond the boundaries of the homes we built. Dave and Michael donated land for use by the Green Valley Assistance Services, the Green Valley Community Food Bank, and the Green Valley Fire District Station #153. This donation exemplifies the purpose of doing sustainable good, contributing in a way that allows charitable organizations to flourish, and in so doing, allows communities to flourish.

Want to Read More? Check Out Part II of the History of Dorn Homes.