Release Date: August 8, 2010

Middle management

Wisconsin Builder

By "Posts by Caley Clinton" Caley Clinton Category: "View all posts in Peer Review" Peer Review

Dave Rudolf

Dave Rudolf is at home in the middle.

Growing up with nine siblings, the executive at The Boldt Co., Appleton, learned there were benefits to being in the center of the pack.

It's a philosophy that has fit in well with his role as vice president of the company's power and industrial sector, an arm of Boldt that found its niche with medium-sized projects, he said.

"We've settled in between the massive projects and the smaller projects," Rudolf said. "It kept us to a smaller group of competitors, which helped. There was not a really solid core of people in that marketplace."

Boldt's power division has homed in on the $20 million to $80 million projects, he said, which falls in the middle of a wide variety of potential projects, from those in the several hundred million dollar range to projects less than a million dollars. Notable projects Boldt has worked on in that range include construction of a coal-fired plant for Manitowoc Public Utilities and installation of a combustion turbine at Wisconsin Public Power in Kaukauna, he said.

Recently, the company has been riding a surge in such renewable energy projects as wind farms and biomass plants, which fit well into the power division's mid-size project scope, Rudolf said.

"The wind sector has the potential to surge ahead," he said, "but financing is still so tight that it's hard to get projects going."

When Rudolf started at Boldt 21 years ago, the company's power sector was more concerned with paper and pulp plants than power plants, he said. But as the paper and pulp production industries began to wane, Rudolf and his team began looking at other projects and started expanding the company's role in the power industry.

"We went out and approached some customers we already had from other projects,"
he said, "and we were able to hook into some decent-size projects, which got us going."

During his two decades at Boldt, Rudolf has advanced from industrial estimating to project manager to his current role as a vice president. The steps along the way to his executive role were an asset when he was promoted about five years ago, Rudolf said.

"In this role, I'm watching over projects from a higher level," he said. "My background in project management and estimating helps me better understand how it all comes together."

Though the promotion to vice president pushed Rudolf out of the middle of the pack, he's enjoying watching the power sector grow, he said.

"Twenty years ago, the power sector represented about 5 to 10 percent of our business," Rudolf said. "These days, it's more like 40 to 50 percent, and it's only going to get bigger."

Dave Rudolf

The path most taken

Dave Rudolf is the father of five children, and the youngest just graduated from college. All five went to school at Marquette University, which meant Rudolf and his wife, Pat, created a well-worn path from their home in Appleton to Milwaukee, he said.
Now that the last child has graduated, it will be strange not to make that drive as often, he said.

Ski bums

Rudolf's family, including many of his nine siblings and their children, loves to ski, he said. The family regularly went on ski vacations in Colorado when Rudolf's kids were younger, he said. Skiing recently at an indoor mall in Dubai was a surreal experience, he said.

A foreign affair

Rudolf's son Jeff, 30, lives in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and recently became engaged to an English girl. "I don't even know what continent they'll get married on," Rudolf said.

If the couple decides to get married in the Middle East, the experience wouldn't necessarily be as foreign as some may think, Rudolf said.

When he went to visit not long ago, Rudolf said, he was amazed at how westernized the region was.

"You can really do anything you want," he said.