Clarkson Construction Company
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: John Carioti
- Estimated reading time: 3 mins
George G. Clarkson founded Clarkson Construction Company (Clarkson) in 1880. After returning from the Civil War, Clarkson worked on the foundations of Kansas City, clearing land and excavating for streets and buildings.
The former one-man, one-horse grading operation has since become a leading contractor with broad capabilities to serve clients in Missouri, Kansas and beyond. Enhancing the company’s expertise is Tom Kellerman, chief engineer at Clarkson, who has been in the industry for 46 years. Kellerman’s experience and dedication to hard, quality work is a common trait at Clarkson, which employs as many as 1,000 people during construction season.
“Clarkson is a sixth generation family business,” Kellerman explains. “We have been operating for over 130 years. Our experience sets us apart from other contractors. We build large, complex, design-bid-build and design-build projects. Our primary niche is highways, but we excel at anything involving road work, railroad work, paving and bridgework.”
The company’s diverse set of services allows the team to perform nearly any type of horizontal construction, including work for railways. In fact, paving the way for trains has offered Clarkson opportunities throughout the Midwest. The company’s reputation for quality and efficiency encourage new and lasting relationships with a number of returning clients, including major railways, the transportation departments in Kansas and Missouri, as well as private developers.
The growing business has undertaken a number of unusual design-build projects over the years. Recently Clarkson was awarded a major bridge restoration in Missouri. “The Manchester Bridge project was strictly structural,” says Kellerman. “We will replace two bridges that are about a half-mile long, taking the existing six lanes of traffic and expanding to eight lanes. We are required to maintain three lanes in each direction without disturbing traffic flow throughout the project.”
Clarkson performs work for various agencies; however, the goal remains essentially the same among all projects. “We get the job done early and within the budget,” Kellerman states. “That’s what we pride ourselves on and that’s our primary goal when undertaking any given job. The design-build experience is very exciting, although having a fixed budget makes it a lot harder and much more of a challenge. We are approached with scope of the project and then we use that information to develop plans and determine project budget, so it is an exciting challenge.”
Working on infrastructure projects has helped Clarkson avoid some of the issues faced by other contractors throughout the recession. “Our focus is making sure all the jobs go as planned, are on budget and completed in the timeframe we are given,” says Kellerman. “Safety is a large part of the job, working on roadways and bridges can be dangerous, so it is always a challenge to maintain safety on such large-scale projects.”
To ensure safety and quality control, Clarkson performs most functions in-house. The Clarkson team performs grading, concrete paving, structures, asphalt, pipe work and culverts. “We subcontract out specialty items, such as electrical, signing, traffic signals, traffic control, guardrail, pavement marking seeding and more,” Kellerman says. “Our subcontractors vary from job to job. It depends on who is the most competitive and if they can perform the work per the specifications and in the timeframe they are afforded.”
Kellerman notes that subcontractors must keep up, as he and his team take great sense of pride in fulfilling obligations and exceeding expectations. “We have a constant flow of work,” he explains. “Roadways always need to be maintained or repaired. Bridges, roads and railways are part of what keeps our country connected. That makes it even more vital for us to be able to keep on schedule with our jobs and for our subcontractors to follow suit. Time and budget are critical in this industry.”
To Kellerman’s delight, the future holds more challenging projects for the team. Highway and rail projects are picking up. “We are actively pursuing a number of major contracts,” Kellerman explains. “We have some commercial development sites in the Midwest, and we are working on a proposal and the design for a $300 million job for the Kansas Department of Transportation.”
Having celebrated 130 years in business in 2010, the sixth generation family company continues to focus on the work that keeps America connected. “Over the next few years we’re staying on course,” Kellerman says. “We are always working to maintain our company’s excellent reputation.” Known for hard work, expertise, safety and integrity, Clarkson Construction Company will continue to find growth in new regions as one of the country’s oldest and largest horizontal contractors.
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