Release Date: February 2, 2010

Boldt Co. takes on big California medical building projects for Sutter Health

Gaining a foothold in California

The Post Crescent February 2010 Boldt Co. takes on big California medical building projects for Sutter Health The Boldt Co. is gaining a foothold in California. While that's not unusual in itself - the Appleton-based construction giant has performed big jobs in 47 of the 50 states - the scope and challenge of the work, all in the medical field, puts the firm's ventures in the Golden State into a class by themselves.

The company has forged a link with the Sacramento-based Sutter Health organization, a relationship that bloomed after the major health network learned more about Boldt's acclaimed lean building practices.

At present, major projects in San Franciscohc and Sacramento command all the attention the company can give them. The largest of these, Cathedral Hill Hospital, is a new hospital to be built to meet the earthquake-prone state's exacting seismic regulations.

"It is exciting," said Thomas Boldt, chief executive officer "The atmosphere out there is very innovative, creative. There's just a real commitment that I've seen. They're tackling a big problem. And when you get people that are focused on that you get a tremendous energy."

Boldt has permanently relocated about 20 employees to California and also hired new help from that state. Dave Kievet, group president, California operations, is a fixture out West. While he still calls Wisconsin his principle residence, he spends many weeks each year in California, shuttling between projects.

Kievet said California's seismic regulations alone are formidable for major construction, particularly health care."Out here they take the approach that in a catastrophic earthquake the hospitals will be the last building standing because they need to provide care," he said.

The ventures are rooted in an integrated team approach that with complex jobs places as much importance on the process as the outcome.

Honesty and continual communication are watchwords.

"We're looking for companies that can certainly do the work. But we're also looking for people who have the right mental attitudes and right approach to these things," Boldt said. Kievet said Boldt's fortunes in California grew from about 1998, when the company got involved with the Lean Construction Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.

In 2004, talks with Sutter Health got a little more serious as the health network refined concepts for its ambitious $6 billion expansion. Kievet said he and colleague Paul Reiser, Boldt's lean guru, were invited out to talk to Sutter. Boldt subsequently landed the contract to erect a new $19.5 million medical office building on the Sutter campus at Fairfield between San Francisco and Sacramento. Ground was broken in October 2006. Completion took place in December 2007.

"Prior to that, Paul Reiser and I had worked pretty extensively in the Wisconsin River Valley market," said Kievet. "When we talk about the growth of lean within the Boldt organization, a lot of practices and principles we're currently using and developing further in the California market have their roots back in the early 1970s in the Fox River Valley and Wisconsin River Valley in pulp and paper mills."

The late 1990s were also a pivotal time for Sutter Health. "Sutter Health was looking for a better way to manage and approach its construction techniques and policies," said Tony Burg, family planning and design project manager for the Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. "I think we were looking for something that would leapfrog us into the new generation of hospitals and the ability to construct them better." Burg said Boldt's approach was refreshing.

"They're totally collaborative," he said. "They really bring the team concept in play. I believe their main goal in that collaborative approach is to add value for the customer and the project. The collaborativeness goes not just from the old triad of owner, architect and contractor. But it filters right into all the trade partners who work on the project, which is the quintessential (trait) for the lean approach."

In an unusual move last summer, Sutter Health handed the reins to Boldt to pick up where another major contractor left off on a complex series of projects in downtown Sacramento. The cost of the four separate parts is pegged at $665 million overall.

On another front, Boldt will take the lead on clearing one city block in downtown San Francisco and erecting the new Cathedral Hill Hospital.

"We have a challenge," Boldt said. "But I think the contractual obligations and commitments we have from our building team make us confident we have a number of ways to mitigate some of the risks inherent in a project that size."