Release Date: September 29, 2011

Boldt succeeds with attention to safety

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

It's hard to find an energy project in Wisconsin that doesn't involve the Boldt Co. of Appleton.

Among projects Boldt is working on are two for We Energies that would add more renewable energy to its mix. Boldt also worked on the Milwaukee utility's first big wind farm several years ago and is converting a Madison power plant to burn natural gas instead of coal.

A combination of cost-effective bids and attention to safety are among the reasons it's been selected for the energy projects, Boldt said.

At a time when the construction business is slow, Boldt has almost 600 people on job sites around the state, as well as about 1,200 people working for its subcontractors.

The company is ranked 24th among the state's largest privately held employers on the Wisconsin 75 list prepared by Deloitte.

We Energies employs state firms whenever possible, said Allen Leverett, who runs the utility's fleet of power plants. The utility worked with turbine supplier Vestas to steer fabrication of towers to Broadwind Energy's wind tower division in Manitowoc.

Though it tries to hire Wisconsin firms, Leverett said, "It's important that those companies are competitive, and Boldt has shown that they are very competitive with other companies in their field."

The downturn in the commercial construction industry has led to more companies bidding on energy projects, said Tom Boldt, chief executive of Boldt.

"This isn't for amateurs, this is very technical work," he said. "The developers or the utilities, depending on who is responsible for the job, have very high safety and quality requirements. They want to make sure they're dealing with responsible people."

Boldt is the second-highest ranking Wisconsin construction firm on the Engineering News-Record list of top contractors in the nation.

Boldt generated $535 million in revenue last year, ranking it 89th in the country. That's up slightly from $534 million in 2009, when it ranked 93rd.

Including Boldt, Wisconsin was home to three companies among the top 100 contractors, and 13 firms among the top 400. Other top-100 firms from Wisconsin in 2010 were Michels Corp. of Brownsville, which ranked 43rd with sales of $1.06 billion, and Neenah-based Miron Construction Co., with $517.9 million in sales, according to Engineering News-Record.

Attention to safety

Boldt has enhanced its attention to safety training in recent years, and recently announced a milestone of 4.4 million hours worked on construction sites without a lost-time injury.

"Our industry has not been known for its safety record," Boldt said. "In some ways people had these attitudes that 'Safety equipment was for sissies.' Well, safety equipment is for smart construction professionals and that (attitude) has really gone by the wayside."

Attention to safety has increased, but workplace accidents can still occur.

"We have a long way to go, but it's encouraging to see that the industry has also embraced this in a meaningful way," he said.

Training on safety emphasizes not only the importance to the company but the significance of an injury or a fatality to a worker's family.

In one case, a worker in another state wasn't taking safety training seriously. The Boldt trainers borrowed a family photo. The next day, an oversized picture of the worker's wife and children greeted him when he showed up for work.

"And for some reason the guy saw the light from that," Boldt said.

Boldt said he sees potential opportunities in helping utilities comply with federal air pollution regulations or to work on construction of power lines.

"We just got a contract for Kaukauna public utilities for a hydro upgrade," he said.

The 1,400-employee company has a diverse book of business, including school projects under construction in Oklahoma and hospitals in California, Boldt said. As a result, sales in 2011 are forecast to top $535 million last year.

Concerns about the economy and a slowdown in orders that hit this summer make it hard to predict the company's prospects for 2012 and beyond, Boldt said.

"We've been successful in securing some pretty meaningful projects and we're keeping our fingers crossed going forward," he said.

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WISCONSIN 75

Deloitte will honor the Wisconsin 75 largest private companies and recognize five companies as Distinguished Performers on Tuesday at Pier Wisconsin. Kevin Steiner, president and CEO of West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., will be the keynote speaker. For information on the event, contact Amy Winter at (414) 977-5430.