The son of European immigrants, Martin Boldt is representative of the American spirit that defined generations of hard working, enterprising individuals of the 19th century.
A skilled carpenter, young Martin left the family farm to open up his own carpentry shop in Appleton, Wis. The year was 1889 and Martin was 24 years old. He advertised himself in the community paper as an “Honest and Reliable Contractor."
Now, more than 125 years later, the current executives and Boldt descendants, say those four simple words are still the foundation for The Boldt Company, a national construction firm employing thousands of people on projects throughout North America. The firm moved into the California construction market a decade ago—continuing its mission to become a strong proponent of today’s more integrated, Lean construction practices that have reinvented the face of construction in the state.
BUILT ON MID-WESTERN ROOTS
Since 1889, Boldt has been guided by four generations of family leadership. The first Boldt, Martin, initially built high-quality cabinets, wood products and cisterns and then moved to homebuilding. He married soon after and had three sons: Arthur, Robert and Oscar J. (better known as OJ).
As the boys got older (OJ was 14) and worked in the business, Boldt Sr. renamed the company Boldt & Sons. Young OJ inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, even inventing a better bowling pin when he was just 21. After his service in the Army during World War I, OJ returned home and assumed a managing role in the business, which continued to expand through the Roaring 20s.
OJ’s son, Oscar Charles (OC) Boldt, current chairman of the Boldt Company, recalls, “I wasn’t just born into construction; I think I was born for it. From the age of four, I never wanted anything but to build.”
Around the same time, his father transitioned the company from housing to commercial construction. OJ Boldt incorporated the company in 1931 at the beginning of the Great Depression. OC became CEO in the 1950s and led the company for the next four decades. His tenure as CEO saw the company grow into one of the nation’s largest construction services firms— now consistently recognized as an Engineering News-Record (ENR) Top 100 Contractor with 14 offices across the country.
Nationally, Boldt provides services to clients across a variety of markets including healthcare, power, renewable energy, education, industrial, forest products, manufacturing and commercial.
In 2004, Northern California-based Sutter Health reached out to Boldt to see if the company could help it deliver large, complex healthcare projects in a new, more integrated way. It was the beginning of a relationship that helped accelerate Boldt’s own efforts to become a more Lean/ integrated general contractor. In the early going, Boldt was awarded a medical office building project in Fairfield, Calif. Based on their performance on this project, Boldt was offered several increasingly complex opportunities in the state and now considers northern California one of its core geographies.
David Thomack, Group President of Boldt’s Western Operations, leads business interests that include offices in Sacramento and San Francisco and credits the company’s success to continually driving innovation into the building process—a common thread throughout the company’s history.
Today, Boldt uses Integrated Lean Project Delivery® (ILPD), an open collaboration approach to project delivery that includes Lean principles for continuous improvement—minimizing cost and maximizing value—that was first adopted by the manufacturing industry. According to Thomack, the Lean process was one of the key reasons why Boldt was selected to participate in a number of projects for Sutter Health.
Since 2010, Boldt’s western operations group has tripled thanks in large part to work it has completed for Sutter. Boldt crews have been on location on Sutter Health projects in Sacramento since 2008. Projects include the Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center and an integrated women’s and pediatric care facility in Sacramento. Boldt has also worked on the Sutter Capitol Pavilion Medical Office building, Sutter General Hospital and Olson Hall for the University of California, Davis. Most recently, Boldt completed a 50-bed behavioral health center for the Universal Health Services Sierra Vista Hospital.
In San Francisco, The Boldt Company has worked in partnership with Herrero Builders since 2007 to provide construction management and general construction services for Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center expansion program. The $2 billion program includes the construction of a new 300-bed acute care hospital campus at the Van Ness and Geary Campus and a 120-bed replacement hospital at its St. Luke’s Campus in the city of San Francisco. These projects are well underway and are scheduled to complete in 2018/2019.
Since many of the buildings Boldt builds become part of the community in which they operate and many of the construction workers will have some direct association with the buildings they build once they are in operation, community is clearly important to Boldt.
Oscar C. Boldt emphasizes, “It’s a demonstration of a commitment you have made to yourself that you’re going to try to be as good as you can be and in the course of that effort that you build good structures, good communities and you participate in the communities everywhere you can.”
One way that Boldt participates in the building of local communities is to maximize MBE/WBE/DVBE participation for ALL of its customers. Boldt believes that this is good for business and good for the community, since all construction is local. “Because of all of this, our approach to project execution is custom tailored to fit each project’s unique set of attributes,” Oscar C. Boldt adds. “We look at the local construction market and then assemble a team of local contractors and suppliers in such a way as to maximize their involvement, only looking to those outside the market when we can’t reasonably meet the essential needs of the project.”
A GENETIC LOVE OF CONSTRUCTION
“We’ve tried to build a company recognized for its honesty and expertise,” says Oscar C. Boldt. “Our 125th anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate success, celebrate the past and most importantly, celebrate what the future holds for us.”
Oscar C. Boldt’s son, Tom Boldt, the company’s current CEO, says, “The concept of loving what you do—loving construction—is a strong motivator. That is very powerful for us as a family, but it is also a way we’ve been able to attract the right kinds of employees to be our representatives with customers and in the communities where we work. It’s exciting to see our people at every project I visit. They are engaged and dedicated to working hard for the customer and building communities through not only creating infrastructure, but also through volunteerism and philanthropy.”
Boldt President and COO, Bob DeKoch, said the company would not be where it is today without its culture of continuous improvement, adding, “All the methods we use to do our jobs have changed over the past 125 years, but what hasn’t changed is our culture of innovation. Every person in this company is a leader at his or her own level and it is their dedication to finding new and better ways to accomplish our goals and the goals of our customers that has been a key to Boldt’s success.”
Boldt Chairman, Oscar C., Boldt doesn’t know all that the future will bring, but there is one thing he is sure of: “Boldt will be there,” he says, “because we will continue to innovate—and most importantly—because we will continue to live by our founder’s motto to be ‘honest and reliable.’”