Case Studies

The Petry-Kuhne Company

A rich history of integrity in Illinois contracting

Specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional construction, The Petry-Kuhne Company has been serving the central Illinois area for nearly a century. Headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, Petry-Kuhne performs a fair amount of its work in the health care and higher education markets. With a commitment to quality, customer service and integrity, the company has positioned itself as a leader in the Illinois construction industry.

Petry-Kuhne has been a union contractor for more than 90 years. During those years, its employees have served on numerous industry boards to improve relations between labor and management to promote the industry. Petry-Kuhne also maintains a steel erecting division called Central Illinois Erectors.

Originally founded in 1924 as C.A Petry & Sons, the company operated under its own entity until it merged with The Kuhne Company in 1985. The dire economic situation for the construction industry in the early ’80s was motivation for the two companies, which were competitors at the time. “They just found it would be more beneficial for both companies to work together instead of competing with each other,” says Chris Uhlarik, president of Petry-Kuhne.

Establishing a niche in health care

In such a competitive industry, construction companies often thrive through creating a niche market. Petry-Kuhne has been able to do that with its work in the health care sector. Currently, a large percentage of the company’s revenue is generated through its work with Carle Foundation Hospital. The health care facility has been a consistent repeat customer for Petry-Kuhne. “Last year we did approximately 500 jobs with Carle Hospital,” says Uhlarik. “The size of jobs ranged from $1,000 to $1.5 million.” Petry-Kuhne is currently involved in a $5 million job with Carle Hospital that involves the remodeling of five patient-care floors.

The Petry-Kuhne Company

In addition to the remodeling work that Petry-Kuhne is completing for Carle Hospital, the company has teamed up with Pepper Construction, a general contractor based in Chicago. The two companies are working together in a joint venture to complete an $18 million orthopedic sports medicine facility for Carle Hospital and a $10 million renovation of the physical medicine and rehabilitation unit. “We created the joint venture with Pepper Construction for some of the larger jobs that we do at Carle Hospital,” Uhlarik explains. “We recently finished an $11 million remodel job of the ninth floor of the heart and vascular department that was also a joint venture with Pepper Construction.”

Petry-Kuhne has also works with Kirby Medical Center in Monticello, Illinois. The company recently completed a mile-long, 10-feet-wide walking trail that circumnavigates the entire Kirby campus. Uhlarik says that Petry-Kuhne is currently working on a negotiated project with the facility to construct a CrossFit gym on the campus that will host classes for employees as well as the public.

A relationship-based industry

With its solid reputation and rich history, Petry-Kuhne has established a strong network of subcontractors that the company is able to turn to on a consistent basis. In the health care industry, many facilities maintain a list of prequalified contractors and subcontractors, which has helped to create a community of strategic partners within the market. “We have relationships with all of the HVAC, electrical and plumbing companies that are permitted to bid on the hospital jobs,” says Uhlarik. “There is a group of approximately three companies in each trade that we work with. Who we choose to work with usually depends on the current workload that the sub has at the time.”

When it comes to measuring success, the bottom line remains the true indicator of the pulse of any business. While that remains true for Petry-Kuhne, the company also strives to achieve a positive presence within the industry and community. “We really pride ourselves on maintaining strong relationships with not only the clients that we work for, but also our subs and suppliers,” says Uhlarik. “We look at every job as though we are all working together to make everybody happy, so when there is repeat business, we are all able to work together again.” This attitude and approach has resulted in many of Petry-Kuhne’s subcontractors providing the company with leads for jobs. “We get referrals from them because they want to work with us on a specific project,” Uhlarik adds.

The Petry-Kuhne Company

The history of Petry-Kuhne and its portfolio of so many completed projects throughout the state of Illinois give Uhlarik the greatest sense of pride about his company. “It’s really great to be part of a company that has a reputation and long history as we do,” he says. “I’m proud of the respect that the Petry-Kuhne name has earned through being honest and fair and it shows through the relationships that this company has established.”

With a positive outlook on the economy and the construction industry as a whole, Petry-Kuhne will continue to grow as a general contractor while also expanding its steel erecting division. While the company will remain a go-to contractor in the Illinois health care market, Petry-Kuhne will spread its attention to the commercial sector where potential for an upswing exists. While expanding its market share, The Petry-Kuhne Company will always maintain its relationships with current clients and subcontractors while looking forward to establishing new partnerships. 

Published on: January 4, 2016

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