A company can’t stay in business for more than 130 years without an expert understanding of how to keep customers happy. Michael Kinder & Sons (MKS) has outlasted the design-build competition by delivering superior value, careful planning, and close partnerships with clients on a variety of projects including healthcare buildings, office and retail buildings, primary education and college campuses, senior living and multifamily residences, industrial facilities—and, more recently, a high-profile, high-end airport expansion—all while continuing to commit only to projects it knows it can deliver on time and on budget.
By maintaining its core philosophy over the years of serving clients’ needs no matter how large or small through quality planning, design and construction services, MKS continues to experience success in all areas of business.
This includes the impressive Fort Wayne Terminal Expansion and Renovation Project, a $47 million project. In 2020, MKS was brought on board as Construction Manager for the West Expansion, which includes complete renovations of ticketing, baggage handling, front entries and drive canopies, and the addition and renovation of the West terminal.
A significant portion of the project, including the terminal building expansion, has been reopened, and now features two additional passenger gates and accommodations for those with disabilities. These new amenities aim to help travelers and their families with emotional or physical disabilities with adult changing tables, sensory rooms, service animal relieving areas, and height-accessible gate counters. In addition to more passenger seating and new men’s and women’s facilities, there are new glass passenger boarding jet bridges, a new family restroom, two mother’s rooms, a cane trail, and a new children’s play area.
The renovation involved FWA relocating its current Gate 8 and expanding the terminal by adding Gates 9 and 10 as part of its west terminal renovation and expansion, all of which opened in September. The work continues, however, with Gates 5 to 7 now currently closed for renovation with a spring 2023 reopening. The entire project created 45,000 square feet of additional space, making a total of 159,000 square feet while allowing more room at each gate for larger aircraft.
It was a momentous project and one that MKS is proud to have been part of.
“The airport staff and the local community are thrilled with the outcome of the new terminal expansion and ongoing improvements at the airport,” says CEO Bill Kinder.
The entire endeavor largely took place during the ongoing COVID pandemic, which certainly presented its own set of unique challenges. The team has wisely continued to only bring in work that they are confident they can complete with high quality workmanship and on time schedules.
“Northeast Indiana continues to grow,” Kinder shares. “There’s been plenty of work in the construction industry, and one thing we were very conscious about was not to overcommit.”
Supply chain delays with bigger items such as roof insulation, rooftop units and switchgear led to other challenges, in addition to workforce shortages, an issue MKS was determined to overcome.
“I think something we did very well as the leader on the project was setting the example by not overcommitting ourselves,” explains Kinder. “We were able to get in there and press the schedule with our self-perform crews and management team setting the pace for the entire project. As we encountered obstacles, our team was able to expeditiously make adjustments, working with our subcontractors and the Owner in harmony with agreeable logistics and scheduling modifications to overcome these obstacles, accomplishing the goals of the entire construction team and client.”
While COVID has, of course, played havoc with the daily operations of many businesses, Kinder says it’s also been leaned on unnecessarily as the reason for delays.
“People at times will use it as an excuse, and that’s something we have not been tolerating as a company,” he says. “We believe that, yes, there are issues with it, but how do we work around it? How do we plan for it and overcome it? It should not be the ‘easy button’ when in reality it can be overcome with good planning and communications,” he stresses.
“Our drive to provide superior planning on the front end with current market conditions in mind and earning the trust of our clients has resulted in the need for company growth and expansion. Plans are underway to move into a new headquarters in fall of 2023,” shares Kinder. The new 50,000 square foot facility, which is currently under construction, will house the company’s offices, warehouse, and mechanic shop along with its affiliate real estate company, Allied Commercial.
“We are super excited to get into our new building,” says Kinder. “We have simply outgrown our existing facility and [need more space] in order to serve our clients at the highest degree, and with the most efficiency. We will continue to invest in our team, providing the best resources available in the industry, allowing MKS to deliver superior services and quality to our clients at a competitive value.”
But growth for MKS always means responsible growth, he adds. “We’re not trying to do more than we can handle each year. We’re trying to grow responsibly with the people that we have, and as we hire talented people, we train them up. We’re growing, we’re taking on more work, but we’re not working for people who don’t have similar values and a vision that aligns with our team,” he says. “At MKS, our core values spell TEAMS: Transformational, Excellence, Accountable, Meaningful, Safe. It takes a great TEAMS to do great things!”
The company, he adds, strives to model its vision (“Deliver innovative project solutions for clients who share our values by empowering our team to use their gifts and talents to achieve excellence”) with its prospective clients and make sure they’re a good fit, a process the team has taken a lot of time to refine.
“Over the past few years we’ve also started a development company, which continues to grow,” says Kinder. “Building our own buildings and doing leasebacks for clients is a great fit in our line of work. We will continue to develop and purchase property for future development in areas of Northeast Indiana.”
MKS also started a sister company in the last year—a real estate brokerage firm, Allied Commercial. “This affiliate company provides value add to our clients in not only commercial real estate brokerage, but also property management services,” says Kinder.
The team indeed has a lot going on, but in every area of work they’re determined to do whatever it takes to make their clients’ lives easier. “If it’s complementary to our current business, and all those things are complementary to our current business, we’ve tried to bring that in-house and do it under our roof so our clients don’t have to go out and find another party to do that work—they’ve got one point of contact they can depend upon and trust.”
This is due in large part to the company’s ongoing commitment to customer service. “Our client experience is always the top priority no matter what’s going on,” says Kinder.
This includes a new client care program rolled out in late 2022 designed to help maintain that communication between MKS and its valued clients at all levels of the project. “It’s so we know whether we’re doing well or not, and where we can improve,” Kinder says. “That’s the goal every day. We want our clients to tell us what we can do to make their lives better, and when we’re not exceeding expectations, defining what is needed now, not after the fact.”
This also includes subcontractors and vendors, the partners MKS strives to maintain good relationships with during every project. “It is a team approach, which means our partners must be top shelf… When you plan, design and build a project, you get one chance to do it. The right team is critical.”
This approach extends to working with clients “in the very early stages,” often during concept development, to look at a budget and lead times in order to avoid issues down the road. “Our belief at MKS is that the most critical work is done in pre-construction. It’s no different than going to class and studying hard for a test; if the time is put into the preparation on the front end, taking the test—which is the construction process—flows very smoothly, and the results and client satisfaction are top in class.”
It’s that commitment to communication, honesty, and client care that has led to more than a century of success, from small projects to airport expansions, and many other projects to come. As Kinder says, “We’ve been very fortunate to have a great team, and to have flexibility from both the client and our vendors.”