The year 1917 was a big one for Kansas City. A cub reporter named Ernest Hemingway began working at The Kansas City Star, Rockhurst College opened its doors, and Martin Fogel- along with sons Paul and Lyle- officially launched and incorporated Fogel Construction Company.
In 2015, Jolynne Bartolotta, Roger Summers, Brad Kaestner and Greg Harrelson teamed up to purchase the closely held firm. Since then, Fogel-Anderson Construction has grown from 18 employees to 27 and is involved in high-profile projects including Price Brothers’ 300-acre BluHawk Development in south Overland Park and the Paragon Star Soccer Village in Lee’s Summit.
MetroWireMedia recently sat down with two of the company’s four owners-- Jolynne Bartolotta and Roger Summers-- to discuss the firm’s history, evolution and future.
MWM: Share with us how Fogel-Anderson has grown and evolved as a successful family-owned business for 100 years?
Roger: In 1923, Paul Fogel hired OT Anderson, a 16-yr-old baseball player from the local Shrine semi-pro team. OT helped build the firm for several decades and in 1953 his son, Ted, joined the firm. That same year OT and Ted acquired the Fogels’ interest and thus Fogel-Anderson Construction Co. was born.
In 1974, Ted’s stepson Phil Bartolotta joined the firm, eventually becoming a partner and president in 1997. As Phil looked for a succession plan that would protect the people, preserve the Fogel-Anderson name, and secure a place for his daughter, a new partnership was formed to acquire the company.
Today’s ownership includes Jolynne Bartolotta, Roger Summers, Brad Kaestner and Greg Harrelson. Brad’s expertise is in project management and operations, while Greg’s is estimating and pre-construction.
MWM: Tell us more about the importance of the family leadership dynamic at Fogel-Anderson and how that played into the firm’s succession plan.
Jolynne: It has always been a family-owned business, even though the families have changed. My roots go back to my great-grandfather, OT Anderson, who joined the company in 1923. Phil (my father) led us though some tough times while wearing many hats. As we moved toward a succession plan, I knew I wasn’t going to assume all of the leadership roles that Phil had, so we worked toward a team approach of complementary partners.
That said, it was easier for my dad to give me away on my wedding day than it was for him to sell this company.
MWM: How did Fogel-Anderson manage to weather the 2008 recession?
Jolynne: Construction management work got us through the recession. We started that around 2004-05, because Phil saw the coming downturn of retail. In 2008, we went from a staff of 33 down to 11. We also lost my grandfather, Ted Anderson, along with two other key people.
Roger: Coming out of the recession, school construction slowed down, so we jumped back into the vertical markets the firm established in the past including grocery stores, retail, churches, K-12 projects, office, and hospitality. From a business standpoint, we’ve been opportunistic in going where the market has taken us.
MWM: What have been some of your challenges over the years --and more recently with the current ownership --and how have you overcome them?
Roger: We recognized a few challenges when we got here. One was: how do you take a 100-year-old company and rebrand it to appeal to young people in order to fuel future growth? Recognizing where we are and the story we have to tell, we undertook a deliberate rebranding/remarketing exercise to figure out how to tell that story.
Jolynne: Some individuals weren’t ready to embrace technology and procedural changes, and some of those individuals had been part of leadership before the acquisition. It’s one of those things where you lead by example. Once Brad came aboard, he and I worked together to begin that effort. IPads started flying out the door. Training started happening. For a company that at one point in time had been ahead of its time in technology, we had fallen behind the times. But with the new ownership, Brad and his drive to bring that tech to the table really helped.
MWW: What is Fogel-Anderson’s approach to handling workforce challenges?
At one point, we had an aging workforce, but as we’ve grown we have brought in some Millennials and Gen X’ers. One of the fears (pre-2015) was, you bring in these Millennials, what will it do to the workforce? What we’ve found is that they’re working together. There’s a Baby Boomer working back there that knows it all; he’s been through it, and you can’t teach him new tricks. But you bring in this Millennial and put them side by side, and you see them learning from one another. You see that cross-mentorship and it’s been a real morale booster to watch everyone work together as a team rather than one-on-one.
MWM: Tell us about some of your current projects.
Roger: Probably the biggest project going on right now is the first phase of the BluHawk Development by Price Brothers in south Overland Park. It’s a 300-acre development; we’re doing the first phase of retail and a new grocery store right now.
The Paragon Star Soccer Village complex will be big and exciting for Lee’s Summit. We have an ongoing relationship with the Grain Valley School District. We’re about to build another branch for Frontier Justice, the Lee’s Summit indoor shooting range, in KCK at The Legends.
MWM: What is on the horizon for Fogel-Anderson?
Roger: We take a long-term approach to what the company will be. We have a mindset that Fogel-Anderson will be a contractor in Kansas City long after we’ve passed it on to the next generation.
The way this opportunity came together, and really Phil’s role in structuring this so it could happen with the four of us, is very unique. It was a great opportunity that just doesn’t come around everyday.
Jolynne: The fact that we found the right fit for a leadership team and put together a structure that allowed me to be that fourth generation of ownership-- it’s quite amazing. I’m grateful to my dad for that. He could have sold out, he could have closed up shop, but he didn't because of what this company meant to him. And quite honestly, what it meant for my future. That was important to him as well.