- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
For 77 years, Koch Corporation (Koch) has been a well-established leader in the glass and glazing industry in Louisville, Ky. “We’ve been based in Louisville since 1936,” shares Benjamin Feinn, CEO of Koch. “We’re a privately owned, non-union shop that’s always been family-owned and -operated. We’ve been around for a long time and have completed several thousand projects -never walking away from a job, and in turn, earning a respected reputation with our customers.”
The company was established by Charles Koch in the mid 1930s. As the glass and glazing industry evolved, so did Koch. By the 1950s Koch had expanded on a national scale, specializing in engineering and installation of commercially applied windows and curtain walls. In the 1960s, the company continued to grow its operations, adding general contracting and architectural testing of windows, window walls and curtain walls.
“We’re a specialty contractor,” explains Feinn. “Glazing is our niche, from curtain walls to doors and windows -we strive to be the prime contractor when the majority of a project is glazing.”
Over the years, Koch has increased its national footprint across the continental U.S. “Our main office is in Louisville, but if we only worked here we’d starve,” admits Feinn. “There’s just not enough of this kind of specialty work in this small city; that’s why we’re national. Right now, we have18 employees up in Anchorage, Alaska, and we just finished a project in Buffalo, N.Y., another in Tampa and one in Louisiana.”
Koch covers an impressive amount of ground with the help of 120 employees with a range of technical abilities. “We have people who’ve worked with us for 10 to 20 to 30 years-or-more,” reveals Feinn.
Koch offers in-house product application design services, shop drawing and drafting with its architectural staff and an on-site fabrication facility. “If we’re acting as the prime glazing contractor, about the only service we won’t perform is roofing,” adds Feinn.
“Because we’ve been around for 77 years and we’ve never left anyone high and dry, we get a lot of calls from general contractors who want to work with us,” explains Feinn. “Some people shop around based on price, but we stand for quality.”
With this kind of respected reputation, Koch is often asked to participate in some of the most challenging historic renovations. “We recently replaced a skylight ceiling at the 140-year-old trolley station in Louisville,” details Feinn. “The historic society was watching over us the whole time and we didn’t have proper prints. We really had no idea of what was behind certain boards and we were trying to meet various codes, but it all turned out quite well.”
Feinn admits the station wasn’t the biggest or most expensive project Koch has ever performed, but it required a significant amount of precise engineering and a team of highly-skilled architects. Koch upgraded the existing window system while maintaining the station’s historical character though the use of architectural-grade windows of various mediums, panning systems, and high-performance finishes and energy efficient glazing.
“We’re also in the early stages of a Mormon temple in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.,” shares Feinn. “It has some of the most beautiful, ornate windows I’ve ever seen in a structure. They’re 16 to 18 feet tall and made out of hand-glazed glass from Utah. We’re partnering with Hope’s Products, the longest standing steel window manufacturer in the U.S., on this job.”
Koch has also recently ventured a little farther from home for an $8 million job in Puerto Rico. “We decided to try our hand at offshore construction, but quickly learned that you can’t get something there tomorrow,” explains Feinn. “We installed hurricane resistant windows with huge amounts of scaffolding.”
Pushing Through the Highs and Lows
Despite a variety of interesting projects over the past couple of years, Feinn admits Koch has hit some low points with the onset of the recession. “There have been times when I wanted to pack my bags and run to Mexico,” he laughs. “We’ve seen hard times, but I have to imagine other contractors are dealing with the same thing.”
Feinn says that 2010 was Koch’s lowest point. “Our balance sheets prove it, but I’ve seen what other companies are pulling in and they’re facing the same struggle,” he reveals. “I think our biggest challenge has been to get through this five-year recession while remaining true to the good people who’ve worked her for 10 to 20 to 30 years-or-more even with the ebb and flow of projects and our labor needs going up and down.”
Even through the lowest, low, Feinn adds that Koch hasn’t laid anyone off. “There were times we didn’t take a pay check -including myself,” he admits. “But we never cut benefits and we’ve tried to support and maintain our stable employee base as best as we can.”
Feinn says the recession has actually made Koch a better company. “We’ve switched more services in-house to control costs,” he adds. “I see things turning around now for the better, especially on the East Coast.” With over 77 years of experience and a trusted reputation, Koch Corporation has weathered the storm, remaining one of the industry’s go-to glazing contractors.
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