Minority Contractor of the Year
Khary Penebaker, The Penebaker Enterprises LLC
A determined Khary Penebaker is pushing ahead in the competitive regional roofing business with status as a minority contractor and the occasional shock of blue hair.
James Godsil, president of Community Roofing & Restoration Inc., Milwaukee, first brought Penebaker on as a laborer.
But, Godsil said, he realized Penebaker had a talent to lead, so he let a then-blue haired Penebaker meet a straight-laced Fox Point customer for the first time — a meeting Penebaker left having successfully pitched a $20,000 roofing project.
“That is, like, otherworldly in our trade,” Godsil said. “He had done so much research to answer the man’s questions that I doubt the guy even noticed that Khary had blue hair.”
Penebaker is now president and CEO of his own roofing and sheet metal firm, The Penebaker Enterprises LLC, Milwaukee. Penebaker founded the company in 2002, a year after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Last year the firm was included on the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Future 50 list of companies projected to do well.
Larry Rocole, vice president of J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc., Janesville, was Penebaker’s mentor through a minority leadership program with the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin Inc., and the two worked together regularly on the restoration of Milwaukee City Hall.
During that time, Rocole said, he watched Penebaker handle the touchy task of unexpected asbestos abatement with grace, and lauded Penebaker’s research that found an expensive flaw in the calculation of tiles initially sent for the downtown centerpiece.
“He’s certainly gone through some growing pains,” Rocole said, “but what is most important is that he learned from those things.”
Certification as a minority contractor has assisted Penebaker in landing some jobs, Godsil said, but it’s how the firm excels at those jobs that has let Penebaker Enterprises continue growing in a tough economy.
“Khary (has) a very quiet sense of confidence and is self-motivated across a whole range of skills,” Godsil said. “He’s a prime illustration of a truth that is becoming more apparent: Diversity is strength.”