Published: November 1, 2009
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been good to J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. this year.
In fact, the university has been a saving grace for many Wisconsin-based construction companies in 2009, thanks to $525 million in ongoing construction projects and another $640 million in the planning or design stages.
Madison-based Findorff’s work on the 300,000-square-foot, $150 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is the company’s largest project in the state right now, said John Feller, senior project manager. The work is a joint venture with Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Co., a company with offices in Wisconsin that also is benefiting from the UW’s massive construction push.
Construction at the UW has been ramping up during the past decade and is maxing out this year, said Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and management at the university.
“Almost uniformly, it has been a really difficult year for the construction industry,” he said. “The fact that we are peaking at this time keeps people working, keeps equipment in use and keeps businesses’ doors open.”
The university is happy to see Wisconsin companies on the receiving end of the work, Fish said.
“In my tenure, we’ve never built a project with an out-of-state firm,” he said. “All these projects are built by homegrown Wisconsin firms.”
UW-Madison’s last major building surge was in the 1950s and ’60s, when baby boomers pushed enrollment from around 20,000 a year to 40,000 a year, Fish said. Many of the buildings constructed at that time were built cheaply and are nearing the end of their useful lives, he said. Buildings built 80 to 100 years ago have better bones, and are being remodeled instead of torn down, he said.
Lucky for state construction companies, architects and engineers, the need for new and remodeled buildings is occurring at the same time.
Other major work on campus this year includes construction of the $600 million Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, redevelopment of Union South, renovation of the Educational Building and Findorff’s remodel of the Biochemistry Building.
The university has received good deals for the work, Fish said, making the benefits of all the construction a win for both sides.
“We did our budget last spring and summer, in the height of the economic fallout,” he said. “And the entire time, we were talking about adding more construction to the docket because of the value we could get and the need for work for state companies.
“We figured: What better time to expand than when the Wisconsin construction industry needs it the most?”