This construction firm wants to build a better tomorrow
Projects range from educational facilities to health-care complexes to municipal buildings
Like so many success stories of business beginnings, this one started in a basement. In Richfield, Minn., in 1946, George Adolfson launched a residential construction company and shortly thereafter was introduced to Gordon Peterson, a civil engineer. Together, they established Adolfson & Peterson Construction (AP).
Starting small and blossoming quickly, initial projects included sidewalks and fireplaces, swiftly moving to complete masonry homes. By 1950, commercial jobs outpaced residential projects, and AP gave itself advantages with innovations such as winterizing processes on job sites, allowing its crews to work through the year, while other contractors halted during the cold season.
This competitive edge, along with strong family bonds that weave through the history of the company, have given AP the strength to weather storms and triumph.
“We exclusively build things we believe are going to make our communities better,” says Tom Horsting, senior vice president for the construction firm. Projects range from educational facilities to health-care complexes to municipal buildings and commercial developments, tapping into senior living markets as well.
In 1980, AP’s second office opened in Denver, followed by several more across the country. “Colorado was appealing. It had so much to offer, from the mountains to its economic viability,” Horsting says. Today, headquarters remain in Minnesota, though the Colorado office represents AP’s largest region, with 193 employees.
Strong principles guide AP, including courtesy and respect for employees. Because funds were tight in the years following the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, AP made meals available to its team members starting shortly after launch.
“Our office kitchens are fully stocked to supply breakfast, lunch and even dinner if needed,” Horsting says. “This tradition was an important part of our founding and we strive to keep it alive.”
Another tradition is gifting employees with holiday meals each Christmas season to share with their loved ones. Initially the company hand-delivered a turkey to each employee, but with a current workforce of 529, every person now receives grocery gift cards.
“People come to stay at AP,” Horsting says, noting he started in 1985; the chief estimator began his career at AP as an intern and the director of field operations worked his way up from a teenage laborer.
Adolfson hired Denny Pherson in 1965 after he learned his trade skills working for his father, a part-time bricklayer on the family farm in western Minnesota. He honed his skills with AP as a foreman and superintendent and in 1980 helped open the Colorado office, working on more than 30 projects over the years, including the $27 million Kaiser Permanente Rock Creek multispecialty medical campus. Ultimately he spent six decades in the industry, 51 years of which were with AP.
“One of the best [parts of the job] is watching the younger generations grow up, seeing them get better at their jobs every year,” Pehrson, 77, says.
Stories such as Pehrson’s aren’t all that rare at AP, Horsting says, noting the average time of service for current AP employees is 7.6 years. He says the company’s focus on people is both its guiding light and greatest differentiator. Keeping the work compelling and challenging is another focus area.
“We are proud of our long history but we also want to make sure we stay innovative,” Horsting says, citing employee-run breakout groups with focuses ranging from hiring and retaining practices to culture and technology that allow the firm to remain fresh and nimble. Uniquely Colorado programs include the company-sponsored cycling and running teams, volleyball courts outside the building for warm-weather weekly smack-downs and a company-wide field day.
Now, 70 years after its start, the company is ranked No. 53 on Building Design + Construction’s Giants 300 list and reported $807 million in revenue last year. Prominent local projects include the new CoBank Center headquarters in Greenwood Village, the new Charter Communications facility nearby and the City of Denver’s Carla Madison Recreation Center located on East Colfax.
Dedication to sustainable building practices further illuminates the idea of a long-lasting community commitment and the company’s South Wing of the St. Vrain Community Hub project was honored as Colorado’s Greenest Project in 2015 by the Colorado Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.
(This sponsored content was paid for by Adolfson & Peterson Construction.)