Case Studies

Swift Contractors Inc.

Diversifying for Success

Swift Contractors Inc. (Swift) is one of the oldest general contracting companies in the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota. Swift, founded in 1946, has endured the industry’s constant fluctuations through diversification. The team at Swift handles all the concrete, steel and carpentry work with a strong network of subcontractors on call to handle the rest.

Teryl Kelley, president of Swift, says the company focused mainly on residential work when it was founded. Brothers Robert and Raymond Swift started the business after being discharged from service in World War II. The veterans built Swift from the ground up with high-quality work and long-term employees.

The brothers laid a strong foundation for the company to persevere, even through hard economic times. As the construction industry changed, Swift began to venture into commercial construction, and the company had moved from residential work to strictly commercial work by the early 1960s. Kelley attributes the company’s success to the transition into the commercial sector.

Over the years, the Swift team has built many prominent buildings and plants nationwide. Employees have worked in Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Alaska, as well as all over the state of South Dakota. “The current staff of 30 employees work mostly within a 100-mile radius of the company’s office now,” says Kelley.

Kelley and business partner Dennis Kindt, vice president of Swift, were project managers prior to becoming the company’s executives. Both Kelley and Kindt learned from the founders of the company how important it is to work directly with clients, even as president and vice president of the company. “One thing that makes us different is that the ownership is involved in every project,” says Kelley.

Building for the People

Recently, the focus for Swift has not been just commercial projects for private businesses, but in the public sector, as well. The company currently has a number of large projects in progress that focus on offering new space for citizens, including a $7 million job. The affluent project includes the building of the Downtown River Greenway Park in Sioux Falls, where the first phase was completed in June 2012. The expectation is that the second phase will be finalized by June 2013.

“This is our biggest park,” says Kelley. “However, we’ve also built a lot of other new parks with restroom facilities, playgrounds, bike trails and baseball/softball fields.”

Another local project Swift is working on is a new branch of the Siouxland Libraries, which will be on the west side of Sioux Falls. Kelley explains that the growth of the town has created a need for additional city services, with the new library boasting approximately 5,000 square feet at an expected cost of $3 million. Kelley expects Swift will also be involved in building other elements in this new area of town, possibly including a fire station and community center.

Learning from History

Swift has survived even in the worst economy for general construction. Kelley believes experience making it through such bad times is what has helped the company stay strong even in recent years. “One advantage we have is we’ve been through previous economic declines,” says Kelley.

The construction industry was hit hard by a downturned economy during the 1970s. Kelley says the industry was worse during that time than today. Many of the company’s preferred subcontractors and suppliers have weathered the worst, and survived 40 to 50 years in business. Kelley says Swift hasn’t seen the impact of the economy as much as other members of the industry.

“We have some historical perspective,” says Kelley. “For people who started business in the boom years, they have no perspective … [They] have no idea what a bad economy really is.”

Personalized care is important to Swift and its employees. The company has established a reputation of completing top-notch work in a timely manner, in addition to taking pride in avoiding costly problems and working with the owner through all phases of construction. Swift also uses high-quality products, ensuring each job gets done correctly, the first time.

The company is sure to not only take care of its customers, but its own as well. Many employees have worked for Swift for decades, with Kelley boasting over 28 years at Swift. A consistent staff helps Swift build rapport with clients. It is clear that the company takes pride in all its employees, and many customers have returned for additional projects with that in mind.

Kelley and the rest of the Swift team plan to continue working in the commercial realm of public- and private-sector construction. Kelley says the company has thrived throughout even a slow period for construction, and he doesn’t anticipate the company changing what has worked for them to date. With Kelley leading the way, Swift Contractors Inc. will continue diversifying for success.

Published on: March 28, 2013

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