United Excel returns to private sector work, beefs up KC presence

Since 1994, United Excel’s bread and butter has been in the health care market, building 130 projects for the University of Kansas Medical Center and dozens more for Shawnee Mission Medical Center. But about 8 years ago, the recession forced the company to branch out into design-build government health care projects.

United Excel is the only family of companies in the U.S. that incorporates design and construction-- as well as furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E)-- into its wheelhouse. That differentiation has paid off for the Kansas City-based general contractor, which currently rakes in roughly $130 million a year in government contracts alone, with projects lined up from New York to Hawaii.

But while steady and lucrative, government design-build is among the most difficult construction work a company can undertake, according to United Excel President Kevin Rogers. The government itself is a demanding client, and adding layers of oversight and input from various agencies makes for a grueling process.

“Doing work for KU Med or Shawnee Mission Medical Center is hard enough, and when you add in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Air Force on top of that, it’s very difficult.” Rogers said. “Plus when you’re working in a city where none of the contractors know you, it can get pretty tough, but the challenges have helped us create a team of amazing builders. They don’t even know how good they are.”

With architects in St. Louis under United Excel Design, most of the FF&E team in Denver, and the general contracting team in Kansas City, United Excel prides itself on taking a 3,000-page RFP and turning it into a project within 45 days.

“When we submit our proposals, they’re masterpieces,” Rogers said. “We don’t win every time, because the price isn’t always right, but it always comes back that our proposal is the best. We’ve become experts at understanding the government’s needs and submitting proposals, but it takes a lot of time.”

After two years as president, Rogers has observed a team approaching burnout. To reward all the hard work and success, he’s leading United Excel's charge back into private development. It’s a ripe market, and leadership believes the firm's highly capable and talented team will continue United Excel's winning streak as it expands into new strategic areas with significant potential. For example, Rogers believes United Excel's established health care design experience will set the stage for expansion into the assisted living sector.

United Excel is in the process of hiring a new business development professional to chase new business, ideally a Kansas City industry veteran with local and private sector experience who can complement Rogers’ background in government health care. Once that critical leadership piece is in place, United Excel will open a new Kansas City office—preferably in the Crossroads Arts District—later this year. 

“We don’t want to just do local work; we want to be part of Kansas City again,” Rogers said.

United Excel’s office at 5425 Antioch Dr. in Merriam, Kan. is listed for sale by CBRE.

Kevin Rogers, President of United Excel; and Jennifer Hansford, Vice President of Mill Creek

Kevin Rogers, President of United Excel; and Jennifer Hansford, Vice President of Mill Creek