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Grace under pressure

Project Manager of the Year

Ben Kossow, Riley Construction Co. Inc.

Ben Kossow

Building a three-story vertical expansion over an operating hospital has many challenges, but for Ben Kossow, division manager with Riley Construction Co. Inc., Kenosha, it’s all just part of the job.

“What really sets Ben apart is that when problems come up, he’s full of ideas of how to address the problem. He doesn’t panic,” said Michael Welman of Welman Architects Inc., Waukesha.

Welman’s firm designed the 322,000-square-foot expansion at St. Catherine’s Medical Center Campus in Pleasant Prairie that Kossow, who specializes in health care construction, is managing for Riley. Despite the complications of erecting a steel structure on top of an active hospital and balancing the needs of hospital staff and construction workers, Kossow always remains calm and focused, Welman said.

“Ben is very professional. He’s always looking ahead and is easy to talk to,” he said. “He follows up on what he says he’s going to do.”

Kossow’s ability to communicate well with staff and hospital administrators has been critical during the project, said Linda Wohlgemuth, vice president and chief operating officer for the United Hospital System Inc., Kenosha.

“Ben is always very conscious of what we’re trying to do here with patients,” she said. “He brings items to our attention and is always on the lookout to make sure construction won’t disrupt service.”

Kossow’s calm leadership has the project going so well, in fact, it is on track to finish ahead of schedule. Work on the $70 million expansion was expected to continue through the end of 2011, but now looks like it will be complete by spring 2011, she said.

“I’ve worked with some project managers who lose their cool when things don’t go the way they should,” Wohlgemuth said, “but Ben is always a perfect gentleman and works with everyone to help find a solution and make it all work.”

Before tackling the project at St. Catherine’s, Kossow was a project leader for a clinic expansion at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints in Racine. His ability to bring everyone together as a team was particularly notable, said Rose Fowler, Wheaton’s vice president of operations.

“He really works with everyone to bring out their best qualities,” she said. “He definitely gets things done on time and creates an atmosphere that builds people up, which is refreshing.”

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