Bontke Brothers Construction Company
In Abilene, Texas, a third-generation family contracting business has made a name in quality, integrity and adaptability. Bontke Brothers Construction Company has been in business since 1924, when A.T. Bontke established a small materials supply and rock crushing business. More than 90 years and three generations later, Bontke Brothers is an established earth work, foundation, demolition, concrete and asphalt paving operation that serves a 90-mile radius from the company’s headquarters.
A.T.’s grandsons, Kenneth “Kenny” Bontke and Michael Bontke, currently run the operation. They have each spent more than a decade with the business and took the reins from their father, current sole owner of Bontke Brothers. “My brother and I started helping out when our uncle had health issues,” Kenny recounts. “He passed around 2003. Our father encountered his own health issues and got out of the business in 2010. He’s recovered, but more or less retired now.”
A well known name
The family business has long been a community fixture. Bontke Brothers has established lasting relationships with the City of Abilene and Texas Department of Transportation (TexDOT), as well as several local commercial entities and institutions of higher education.
When the recession hit, the business turned to new sources of revenue and expanded its scope to include commercial work. “We branched more into commercial concrete around 2009, during the tough times in the recession,” says Kenny. “It seemed like most of the city work dropped out and municipal work had made up 25 percent of our volume. We diversified and now we perform concrete foundations, concrete parking lots and other commercial projects.”
Now that much of the volume that dropped out during the downturn has returned, Bontke is up to approximately 60 employees, a number that fluctuates in relation to projects. “We do most of what we can in-house,” Kenny elaborates. “We have probably four or five earth work crews, a full-time patching crew as well as a full-time crew to manage the dispatch contract we have with the city for repairs for infrastructure that we picked up five or six years ago.”
“We have a few concrete subs, but we have three or four in-house concrete crews,” he adds. “We’ll do smaller foundations like a dental office, but we do sub out some of the concrete work. We also sub out underseal for chip seal, and some milling, though we are trying to get a milling machine so we can do it in-house.”
Growth across the board
Bontke Brothers has put its team to work in a range of recent projects. The company performs work regularly for Abilene Christian University (ACU), often working with general contractor, Hoar Construction LLC. In these projects, deadlines are crucial — timely completion guarantees undisturbed campus operations.
“Right now we’re looking at new football stadium for ACU, which just became Division I,” says Kenny. “There is the opportunity to perform new improvements there. We demolished the old stadium and we still have track to demo once we get the go ahead, but they wanted to leave it for now. Hopefully we’ll get the dirt and concrete work on the new stadium. It would have a projected finish date in 2017, so as soon as plans come out, it kicks off.”
Bontke Brothers also performs a significant amount of work for the local Abilene Independent School District. Over the course of summer 2015, the company performed $1.2 million of work for the district, including parking lot repairs, bus lanes as well as building renovation involvement.
In recent years, the business has added commercial foundations to its suite of services. Bontke Brothers recently completed selective demolition and building foundation for the Onstead Science Center at ACU. Other foundation work includes hospitality market work and other commercial projects with long-term general contractor partners.
Municipal work is picking up for the company. “Abilene just passed about a large bond with $40 million going to streets and other improvements like the police department and fire department,” says Kenny. “Our first project is probably going to start in the spring, but the water department is already working on moving utilities. We started bidding late fall and more opportunities are rolling in.”
As the market for Bontke Brothers’ services warms up, Kenny says his largest challenges is fighting the labor shortage. “We have a good core group of great guys who have worked there for 30 years or more,” he explains. “Now the challenge is hiring new people and getting them to stick.”
Despite a lack of labor, Kenny sees potential for growth over the coming years. The business is currently running at capacity and there are more opportunities available if and when the labor market catches up. Public road funding as well as institutional endowments are providing strong potential as Bontke Brothers Construction Company continues to provide leading performance in horizontal construction.
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