Kraus-Anderson Duluth Celebrates 20 Years Building in the Northland
The KA Duluth team serves a wide variety of clients and construction challenges. Above, Hermantown Middle and High School and Duluth International Airport Terminal.
Duluth has been a cherished destination for as long as there’s been a Lake Superior. Whether for summer celebrations, fall color, winter sports or the spectacular year-round vistas of this great harbor, the Duluth region is a place to play. Happily, for KA’s Duluth team, it’s also a place to live and work.
While this year marks the 20th anniversary for the Kraus-Anderson Duluth office, KA has been building here for more than a generation. Creating the built environment in and around this region is challenging, and rewarding, as these employees can attest.
How would you describe the work environment in your office?
PETE AUVINEN, PROJECT MANAGER: The atmosphere is more laid back/small town, which is an ideal environment for me personally.
PAT GALLAGHER, SENIOR PROJECT MANAGER: Best of both worlds; small office with large company support.
MIKE DOSAN, SENIOR PROJECT MANAGER: We’re a close knit group…We all pitch in wherever we are needed.
PAUL NOLL, PROJECT MANAGER: A lot of personality in this office- people get along and always find a way to have a fun time. Great teamwork- everyone wants to help each other out!
Tell us something about the economic strengths and challenges of this region and how it’s a good fit for KA.
DAN MARKHAM, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: The region has a strong foundation based in healthcare, education, natural resources and tourism, but we don’t have the economic depth of a larger metropolitan area. Because of this, people and businesses are very thoughtful when making significant investment decisions, including construction projects. Our approach as a collaborative partner, where we help our clients find creative solutions to meet their budgets, fits perfectly in this region. It’s why we have such enduring relationships with our customers.
PAUL NOLL: A lot of projects are also re-use and renovation jobs, since Duluth’s infrastructure is very old – a lot of selective demolition, tie-in, and gut remodels, which are very high-coordination requirement jobs. Most of the suitable sites for development in Duluth are already taken – so owners and developers have to be VERY creative. Our negotiated work, pre-construction services, & CM services allows us to transfer that knowledge over to the owners & developers. We have a very flexible team of office staff with a very experienced team of field staff….many deep relationships within the community where we partner with owners & designers to develop projects & work pre-construction. The talented project managers have seen countless projects & scenarios and have the experience to proactively plan against risks. And the very seasoned superintendents do such a nice job overseeing work being put into place in the field.
How much connectivity is there between Duluth, KA Twin Cities headquarters and the other KA offices?
GALLAGHER: Beneficial mutual support, expertise and manpower sharing among offices.
PAUL NOLL: It’s been really nice to work with the pre-construction/estimating team as well as the MEP team when we’re putting together proposals. In addition, working closely with marketing to develop RFP’s has worked so great too. Social media and our intranet Kraus Haus help us keep up on the other KA offices as well. And KAU does a nice job keeping us linked up with continuing ed. The annual KA Seminar and Northern Ops Seminar help us keep in touch with the larger groups too, in particular, our cohorts in Bemidji.
DAN MARKHAM: Our outstate offices are able to act independently, but at the same time receive support from Minneapolis seamlessly when needed. We have a pretty close connection to the Bemidji office because we overlap frequently – that will be especially important starting next year as our 2 offices will have over $250 million in construction projects in the city of Virginia.
Would you share a memorable, unusual project challenge you’ve undertaken at KA?
MIKE DOSAN: The Duluth Airport Terminal project. We built a new terminal building directly in front of the existing terminal building while keeping the existing one in operation the entire time. We spent a lot of time routing the public safely around the new building project to get them to the existing terminal which is a real challenge in the winter. We built temporary tunnels for the public to use so they wouldn’t get cold and wet on the long walk from the public parking areas to the existing terminal.
How does the Lake Superior region’s robust weather impact our approach to planning and executing projects?
PETE AUVINEN: The term ‘summer slam’ doesn’t just apply to school projects up here, it is every project we work on! We have 3 short months to complete as much as possible on our projects… This means much more coordination between KA and our subcontractors to stay on track.
MIKE DOSAN: We always encourage our clients to have late spring early summer starts to get a jump on beating the cold weather construction.
PAUL NOLL: The months of April, May, September, & October are typically so rainy, our jobsites are typically reduced to mush… 60 MPH gusts and surprise snow funnels from the Lake Effect can give one jobsite 14” of snow and another 2 miles away bright rays of sunshine.
BECCA BOHLMAN: Always predict the unpredictable.
What inspires you about working at Kraus-Anderson?
PETE AUVINEN: When I tell people where I work, they always give me the same response, “wow, what a great company!”
SARAH BYERS: It’s a fascinating industry, seeing a project go from inception to final product.
MIKE DOSAN: I love living in this region and when I was looking at joining the KA team what interested me the most was how such a large company could have such a family feel. To this day even though we are much larger than we were 20 years ago, I feel KA always tries to maintain a family feel to our work environment.
PAUL NOLL: I really like the team and flexibility of what my job really is – every day is so different and I get to do so many different types of things throughout the day. In a single day I might wear the hat of a project manager, an estimator, a mountain bike festival planner, an accountant, an attorney, a human resource person, a mentor, a mentee, a business development seller-doer, and a Lean Coffee facilitator – it’s such a unique line of work!
Talk about the “why” of Bike Duluth Festival, now in its sixth year. What’s KA’s connection to this event?
DAN MARKHAM: Duluth is known throughout the national mountain biking community as a world class destination, so the KA Duluth team’s inspiration to start the Bike Duluth Festival was visionary. In 2018, our participation doubled and we raised $50,000 that was split between 2 great community organizations that are helping to improve the quality of life in Duluth: the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores and the Gary New Duluth Development Alliance.
BECCA BOHLMAN: This is my third Bike Festival where I am overseeing the majority of operations. I feel each year runs better than the previous. This event is possible because of the nonprofit Kraus-Anderson Community Foundation and is dedicated to giving back to the community and supporting Duluth’s outstanding trail systems. Giving to the community, teamwork, relationship building, commitment, taking integrity in what we do is how this benefit festival operates and aligns perfectly with KACC.
What piece of wisdom would you share from your time working at Kraus-Anderson?
MIKE DOSAN: Looking back at my 20 years at KA, I think I value most the relationships I have built with my co-workers and clients. The projects are important as well but I think the people are what I value the most.
PAUL NOLL: Work hard and look/listen/learn from the very experienced and talented people that you have a privilege to work with KA. Treat people right – respecting, building up people, & building relationships is not only how KA and other businesses should operate, but how humans should operate.
Any closing thoughts?
PAUL NOLL: #Relationships #PowerOfOne #GoTeamKA