It all started with a flood.
Although Kraus-Anderson has worked in North Dakota since the 1970’s, its strategic focus on the state dates back to 2011, when KA performed emergency response in the aftermath of monumental flooding that damaged multiple facilities in the Minot School district. While working with the district and with FEMA in the assessment of six flood damaged schools, relocation of 1,000 students to temporary classrooms and construction management of replacement schools at four locations, KA opened an office in Minot, and has been in North Dakota ever since. In the past two years KA’s construction volume in the state has reached $200 million, reflecting service to a range of market sectors including public schools, higher education, municipal, industrial and retail. Projects and clients include:
• Watford City High School – 3-level, 167,672 s.f. high school; and the adjacent 262,000 s.f. Rough Rider Center, keystones in the Bakken boom town of Watford City;
• Winfield Solutions- new office and warehouse, Gardner, ND
• Scheels- retail renovations and space expansions into existing malls in Bismarck and Minot
• Erik Ramstad Middle School, Minot, ND- new 133,000 s.f. school
• John Hoeven Elementary School, Minot, ND- 73,000 s.f. new elementary school
Current projects include renovation of an existing field house to create a new 85,000 s.f. campus center and McDowell Activity Center renovations scheduled for completion this summer for repeat client University of Mary in Bismarck.
KA’s North Dakota staff of nine now operates out of Bismarck, in a new expanded location that is poised for further growth, says Director of Operations Ross Wilmes.
Q: Why did KA decide to maintain a North Dakota office?
ROSS WILMES: I believe the strong economy in North Dakota is what led to a decision to open a permanent office in Bismarck. Bismarck is centrally located in the state, and is home to the state government. From there we can easily service every corner of the state.
Q: What led to your recent move?
ROSS WILMES: We’re growing, and were maxed out in our old location. The new office is just a mile from the previous one.
Q: As a North Dakota native, talk about the challenges and opportunities of working in this market as a contractor.
ROSS WILMES: The biggest challenge we find is that there is still a shortage of subcontractors and available workforce in the state. This can lead to some scheduling challenges on projects.
Q: How has the Bakken region factored into our work? Have we shifted our strategy since the slowing of the economic boom in that region?
ROSS WILMES: We have completed numerous projects in the Bakken region, most notably Watford City High School, Watford Event Center/Rough Rider Center; and the Alexander School expansion and renovation. While the overall amount of work in the Bakken has declined, it hasn’t affected us very much to this point. We continue to pursue work with school districts and municipalities throughout the state.
Q: To what do you attribute our success in the region? What’s our point of difference from the competition?
ROSS WILMES: We provide a mix of local knowledge and the backing of KA as a whole, which is a unique combination of strengths in western North Dakota. Our competitors don’t have the local relationships and that depth of knowledge. We’re a large contractor with a small contractor feel. We’re very attentive to owners’ needs and fair. Also our open book approach; everything is above board with the owner. It builds trust.
Q: Talk about the importance of working with local subcontractors. How successful has KA been in these efforts?
ROSS WILMES: Our typical projects in the Bismarck and Minot areas include around 75% local contractor participation. We currently have two projects totaling approximately $60 million scheduled to start this year in the Fargo area, and we are anticipating very high local subcontractor participation on those projects as well. We feel that involving local subcontractors early in the preconstruction phase of the project allows us to provide the owner with the most accurate estimates. Local subcontractors are also able to provide quicker response times for any maintenance or warranty issues that may arise after the projects are complete.
Q: The CMa (Construction Management Agent) project delivery is uncommon in North Dakota. Has that affected our work in the area?
ROSS WILMES: In North Dakota, public entities are allowed to use the CMR (Construction Management at Risk) model, which we’ve applied on approximately 90 percent of our work in this state. We are comfortable with either delivery model, but we find that the local architects in western North Dakota are more familiar and comfortable with CMR.
Q: What’s on the horizon?
ROSS WILMES: We are scheduled to start a new Rural Fire Station in Williston in late April. We have school expansion and renovation projects in Richardton and Casselton that begin in May. We begin a new renovation at the old Burleigh County Jail this fall. And we begin construction of a new, 400-student residence hall at NDSU in Fargo later this summer.
Q: Are there other market sectors or goals in your sights?
ROSS WILMES: We plan to continue pursuing K-12 and higher education projects as well as work with the city and county governments in the state. And we hope to leverage our healthcare expertise in this market. We are very excited about our continued growth in the market.