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Construction Heavyweight

October 15, 2012

Kiewit Corporation is one of the largest construction companies in North America. Like many large companies today it had humble beginnings that goes back over 125 years ago.

In 1884 Peter and Andrew Kiewit formed Kiewit Brothers which was into masonry contracting in Omaha, Nebraska. They then went into general contracting making buildings. The brothers dissolved the partnership in 1904 and Peter continued the business as a single proprietorship.

Peter’s sons joined the family business. Upon the death of Peter in 1915 son Ralph ran the company. Just like in the case of Peter the brothers eventually had other interests and the youngest son also named Peter was left to run the company. He dissolved the family firm in 1931 and reorganized it into Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co.

To conserve cash and motivate employees he began selling company stocks to key managers. This was the start of what is today one of the largest employee owned company in the U.S.  Peter Kiewit is also responsible for turning the company into a construction giant. He began hiring talented individuals who helped him successfully run the company.

The Great Depression was actually a blessing in disguise for the company. With building construction slowing down Kiewit started getting into government projects.  It went into constructing highways first in Nebraska then expanded to other states.

Then the buildup to WII began and the company started getting military contracts like building barracks. Later on Kiewit went into bigger projects like missile silos and projects related to atomic energy. It was getting into billion dollar projects by the 1950’s.

Kiewit Corporation has built huge landmark dams and bridges.  The company also went into mining. It has now four major groups. The first is infrastructure which handles construction in transportation, water/wastewater, and heavy civil works. The energy group does business in the power and oil, gas and chemical markets. The building group does business in building construction. And the mining group is into the mining market having its own mining operations.

The company has kept its decentralized district arrangement dividing North America into districts. This allows the company to take on smaller projects; the average size of Kiewit projects is under $25 million. It is also one of the few construction companies which can tackle multi-billion dollar projects.

With an excellent track record the company looks good to prosper for another 125 years.

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