The Heavy Civil Contracting Family

S.M. Hentges & Sons
Written by Jen Hocken

S.M. Hentges & Sons Inc. (SMH) is a family-owned-and-operated heavy civil contractor with decades of experience in complex construction projects and delivering exceptional service to their customers. The company uses industry-leading technology to increase the efficiency of a project and give added value. They provide a wide variety of services including underground utilities installation, mass grading, curb and gutter installation, concrete paving, bridge construction, erosion control and piling/sheeting.
These services have been performed by S.M. Hentges & Sons in the Midwest for almost forty years, and the company credits their success to teamwork, the ability to build a quality complex project and creating deep customer relationships while completing projects on time and within budget.

In the past, S.M. Hentges & Sons’ footprint included Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota, but since 2008, the company has put their focus on Minnesota and Iowa.

Municipality and state work is the most common type of project for SMH, and they also do quite a bit of private commercial work with developers. They have significant experience with housing and large building development and construction foundations. The plans are usually already established and drawn up by the engineers. However, SMH does take part in the design-build part of the project when it works for the state. After the design of a project is finished, S.M. Hentges & Sons takes the project to completion.

In April of 1981, S.M. Hentges & Sons was founded by Steve and Jeanette Hentges in their towing business shop and home office in Shakopee. Initially, this small company with only a backhoe, a crane and three employees worked on small utility work for commercial businesses – mostly sewer and water projects. The company gradually expanded. Steve also owned a towing company at the time, but once SMH was capable of site excavation, concrete and erection work, he decided to sell the towing company and focus on utility construction. By 1994, the company had grown out of its home office and small shop, into an energy efficient shop and office building in Jordan, MN and it included six sewer crews, a street crew and a commercial crew. The concrete division of SMH was added in 1997. This expansion has enabled the company to take on increasingly bigger projects.

SMH added multiple divisions to the company to maintain more control of projects. The team now only uses subcontractors for specific functions such as the signal systems, the traffic controls and occasional blacktop.

In 2001, S.M. Hentges & Sons demonstrated their ability to complete quite a large project. The Elm Creek interceptors in Maple Grove, Minnesota required 26,000 feet of sewer pipe, between forty-two and fifty-four inches diameter buried at a depth of fifty feet.

During their business journey, Steve and Jeanette had four children. Steve is the president and chief executive officer and Jeanette is the vice president and chief financial officer, and together the entire family makes a great team who collaborate exceptionally well. Their three sons and a daughter would eventually all become a part of the company in some way. Jeremy Hentges is the Director of Operations, Nate Hentges is the business director, Jonny Hentges is the safety director, and Krystal (Hentges) Swartzer has branched out into her own construction company, Rice Lake Boring Inc (RLB). RLB performs trenchless installation of sewer and water utilities, subcontracting to S.M. Hentges & Sons and other General Contractors as well.

Krystal was born after the company was already established, and the family realized that adding the word ‘Daughter’ to the company name, S.M. Hentges & Sons would make it too long. Jeanette had the idea of starting a Women Owned Business (WOB) for her daughter to take over when she became old enough, and had Krystal involved with the business from the age of five to learn all the ins and outs of construction.

All of the children were very interested in the family business and were quite involved in the company’s operations from early ages. They were exposed to different areas of the company such as pipe laying and concrete paving, allowing them to gain valuable experience in the field.

“The kids jumped right in and got a firsthand view of what was to come and, therefore, were able to be excellent managers and make good decisions because they grew up with Steve and I, and they know how we think,” says Jeanette.

The company’s corporate headquarters is in Jordan, Minnesota and it has a satellite office in Des Moines, Iowa. The business employs nearly 300 people during the busy season. Like other companies in the industry, SMH finds it challenging to find new qualified workers to replace retiring employees.

“We value our employees very highly. They are very important to us. Our employees are our asset. They help us get the work done on time, with skill and precision,” says Jeanette. “We consider our employees a part of our SMH family team. We try to help with whatever needs they have as far as putting family first and covering for each other.”

The weather is also a challenge for any construction company in the north. Minnesota and Iowa pose different weather challenges, as Iowa is a considerably warmer and construction is possible year-round, unlike the unpredictable weather of Minnesota.

SMH can fully manage its schedule and budget, which the company believes is what makes it distinguishable in the industry. “We basically do everything as a general contractor. It is a one-stop shop from mass excavation to sewer and water utilities, curb and the gutter, concrete flatwork and bridge work. We do everything except for asphalt paving and electrical,” says Jeremy.

S.M. Hentges & Sons is still growing and regularly searches for new ways to vertically integrate to gain the most control possible over all operations in a project. The team is venturing further into the concrete paving business and has a specialized concrete branch of the company that performs bridge deck repairs.

SMH was awarded for their work on the St. Cloud Regional Airport in Minnesota, completing the runway extension project two years ago. “We do the challenging jobs, the tough work is our forte,” says Jeanette.

The South Grand Prairie Parkway project in West Des Moines, Iowa is a good example of the bridge work done by S.M. Hentges & Sons. The project involved a physical relocation of the Raccoon River through pipes. The company’s responsibilities for the project included hauling dirt for the fill sections north of the Raccoon River, construction of the substructure of the bridge, construction of the concrete-encased utility crossing under the river for sanitary sewer and water main and more.

S.M. Hentges has great relationships with its suppliers and attempts to support local suppliers whenever possible. “We work with a handful of large suppliers, and the majority of our suppliers are local to the area. Our subcontractors are local as well,” says Steve.

The future of S.M. Hentges & Sons will see the next generation taking over the company. This hopefully will continue through the generations to come. “Our mission is to be the best construction company out there in our division and to consistently build quality projects on time and on budget,” says Jeanette.



Achieving Equity Through Sustainability

Read Our Current Issue


Hands-On Learning for Future Success

March 2024

Cladding and Exteriors

February 2024

A Concrete Foundation

December 2023

More Past Editions