Local Contractors Scored Strong in 2007, Expect More of the Same In ‘08

Apr 13, 2008

Local Contractors Scored Strong in 2007, Expect More of the Same In ‘08Wichita general contractors last year continued to experience the upswing in the local economy.
The city’s 20 largest commercial builders reported completing $1.1 billion in jobs during 2007, according to the Wichita Business Journal’s general contractors list, published today (Page 12). That’s up from $860 million in 2006 and from $792 million in 2005.


Some of those jobs were out of the local metro. Contractors such as Key Construction and The Law Co. continued work with national retail and hotel clients. But most of Wichita’s mid-range and small contractors reported strong gains on local projects.

Simpson & Associates Inc. completed the first phase of the El Dorado High School expansion and renovation, a $12 million job. Hutton Constructioncompleted the $9.2 million Newton Surgical Center. Dondlinger & Sons Construction Co. finished the 56,000-square-foot, $8.2 million Dugan Library and Campus Center at Newman University.

More work is to come.

Dondlinger is in the early stages of the $138 million downtown arena. Simpson is slated to begin construction this year on Via Christi’s new $75 million westside hospital. Both firms have partnered with national companies on those jobs.

“I think everybody’s pretty upbeat about commercial construction in Wichita,” says Gregg Oblinger, executive vice president of Simpson & Associates.

Wary of Future

The question now is how long the optimism will hold out. The national economy continues to sag.
But locally, the aviation industry continues to thrive. Cessna Aircraft Co. recently announced plans for a large final-assembly plant at Mid-Continent Airport for its new large-cabin jet.

“Statewide, we have been trending up. But Wichita, the industry has been particularly healthy there,” says Corey Peterson, executive vice president for the Associated General Contractors of Kansas.

He says Kansas contractors remain “cautiously optimistic,” expecting the residential woes from across the country not to spill too heavily into commercial construction. They also hope the nation’s center will continue to be sheltered from the nation’s struggles.

But some Wichita companies have ties to national firms whose fate might run more on course with the national economy.

“I’m concerned about it,” says Key Construction president Dave Wells. “But the thing that gives me some comfort is we’re not just in one area. We don’t live and die based just on one area.”

Key Remains Tops

Key remains the city’s largest contractor. The firm reported strong growth in 2007 as its portfolio climbed by 65 percent to $376 million.

The firm has three Wal-Mart Supercenters, six Walgreens and eight Value Place hotels in the works.
The Law Co. Inc. finished second on the WBJ list, growing its business by nearly 50 percent from 2006 — to $106.5 million. The company continues with its national retail work with Simon Property Group and J.C. Penney. Law also is the general contractor on an $80 million shopping center in Hallandale, Fla.

“It’s knocking on the door of 90 percent of it (being out-of-Wichita work),” says Rich Kerschen, president and chairman of The Law Co.

He says the company will do a little more local work in 2008 — including Wink Hartman’s $18 million Park City arena.


Still, the economy has Kerschen worried, particularly about the company’s work with national firms.

“I am a little concerned about ’09. I’m not sure how it’s going to impact our good customers,” he says.

“The retailers and hospitality work is what the economy will impact more than anything else.

Everything you read in the newspapers and hear in the media, they’re kind of talking us into a recession.”

By Chris Moon
Wichita Business Journal