40 Years of Construction Excellence

Russell
Written by Pauline Müller

Russell is a dynamic company known for leading-edge construction of custom industrial and commercial buildings, federal structures, athletic facilities, senior and affordable housing, schools, multi-family housing developments, and more. Helping to maintain its reputation for premium quality construction is a visionary team steeped in tradition—a team that values not only doing things differently, but better.

After 40 years in commercial contracting and development, Russell remains committed to its roots in the Quad Cities area of Iowa. Having defied every economic downturn and industry challenge since 1983, the company continues to flourish. Completing over $3 billion worth of construction in over 33 states since its inception, the company has also grown three times in size in just half a decade.

The reason? A team that knows how to build and maintain longstanding business relationships by asking the right questions and providing valuable support and advice on everything from real estate to architecture.

While the company is very much at home within the greater Midwest region, its service presence is national, currently spanning 14 states and beyond. At present, Russell has expanded its presence with two new offices in Kansas City and St. Louis, following two mergers completed in 2020 and 2022.

Heading up the Kansas City office is Market President, Greg Sikora, who is in charge of building the local Kansas City presence across the Midwest. As for the St. Louis office, it was acquired as a century-old legacy business and is proving to be the success that Russell anticipated. This office is headed up by Market President, Matt Stack.

Beyond construction, the company also offers facility management services under the flag of Russell’s Facilities Management (RFM), managing far over half a million square feet of high-end offices.

Russell takes safety seriously as a matter of course. This is most evident in the recent achievement of 1 million safety hours clocked without any lost-time incidents over the past five years. “That’s something to celebrate. And it’s our number one core value: to make sure that our team members are safe, both physically and mentally. Because mental wellbeing contributes to physical wellbeing,” says President, Caitlin Russell.

As a result, the company looks at health and wellness broadly, providing its team of about 285 people with as much support as possible in every way it can. The company offers expansive mental health benefits for team members, mental health roundtables, and an increased focus on inclusivity and belonging. This includes everything from an ICF Professional Certified Coach to thorough safety training and three dedicated safety personnel whose sole purpose is to ensure overall safety across all operations and on site.

This keen sense of responsibility toward its people has won the firm numerous awards: Russell has been named among the Top 200 Contractors, the Top 90 Construction Management Firms, and the Top 36 CM Agent & PM Firms by Building Design + Construction (BD+C) Magazine; has been highlighted as one of the Best Places For Working Parents; and has been honored with a Best Culture Award by Kudos® Inc. The company is also proud that its dedication to safety has been recognized by the Association of General Contractors of America (AGC); the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council; the Illowa Construction Labor & Management Council; Master Builders of Iowa; National Contractor’s Insurance, Ltd.; SafetyXchange; and The National Safety Council.

Russell’s reputation has only continued to grow, along with the market share that saw it climbing the Engineering News-Record’s Top 400 Contractors List from number 378 to number 278 from 2022 to 2023.

The company achieved this growth by adding new industries to its portfolio, namely real estate development delivered for the federal government, which saw the establishment of the Russell Government Group, LLC. So far, this division has worked with departments like General Services Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since our last conversation in 2022, Russell has further developed its partnership with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, constructing Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) across the Midwest. Additionally, a Small Business Administration (SBA) Mentor Protégé relationship with a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDBVOSB) allows veterans disabled during combat to learn the trades in an initiative that has given life to the Coharbor Russell Group LLC, certified just under three years ago.

So far, the Coharbor Russell collaboration has completed projects in Mason City and Spirit Lake in Iowa, where two community-based outpatient clinics that primarily serve veterans were built, and is currently finishing a project in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

This client-centric relationship-building ethos permeates everything the company does. Many of its customers have been with the company for its entire four decades in business, and Caitlin Russell ascribes this longevity to her team.

“We have many relationships that span 40 years. We would not be here but for those clients. For that, we need to thank our team members,” she says of the team.

As is to be expected, the result is tremendously satisfying. “It is the internal team that makes it happen,” she says. “They are why clients keep coming back to us. Kudos to our team members that drive our clients to want to continue to be partners with Russell.”

The company is proof that striving for quality drives excellence. That’s what has landed Russell several notable awards, including the more recent Master Builders of Iowa – Masters Award in the division for projects exceeding $25 million, which it received in February this year for performing stellar work on the University of Iowa’s Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City, Iowa.

With the building design done by BNIM Architects, Russell is proud to have built a work of art. Featuring over 16,000 square feet of display area, the museum houses an internationally significant art collection, including masterpieces by Jackson Pollock and Picasso among others. It’s also home to the state’s biggest elevator, which was needed to transport Peggy Guggenheim’s famous gift to the museum, “Mural” by Pollock, to its designated exhibition space. “We’re proud of Iowa’s Stanley Museum of Art. And we’re really thankful to be the winner of the Master Builders of Iowa Award,” Caitlin Russell says.

But the Russell heart is bigger than just business and beauty. For three and a half decades, local charities have benefitted by over $700,000 in donations raised by the company during its annual charity golf outing every September. This year, Russell is proud to sponsor its 35th golf outing, this time in aid of a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a well-known organization providing people in need with affordable housing. This was a record-breaking year, raising $54,000 for the organization. Russell also completed a build day for Habitat for Humanity in late May of this year.

Community is a core value of the company, with around 60 charities benefiting from time and money contributed either by the business, its staff, or both. In addition, Caitlin Russell is chairing the United Way of the Quad Cities—an organization working toward ensuring that people from local communities enjoy optimum health by guiding them toward solid employment through good quality education.

“We’re very focused on giving back to our community,” Caitlin Russell shares. “I have always been a United Way supporter, but this year I will be the chair of the organization, so I am looking forward to focusing on that for the next two years.” This commitment to boldly meeting the future is also visible in the company’s plans.

Russell is keenly aware of changing trends in the industry. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and drones becoming commonplace have meant significant investment in all the latest resources. With tightening legislation around environmental sustainability goals for new builds, the company endeavors to deliver the best quality possible by staying abreast of these changes.

Russell is also committed to developing and maintaining proactive initiatives to secure a well-trained and capable workforce for the future. With a prominent focus on further deepening its roots in its existing regions along with emphasizing diversity amongst its team members, the Russell team looks forward to sustaining and even improving on the 40-year heritage of its founder, James Russell, a man well-seasoned in adapting to market conditions.

While the company expands into its latest market in the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor in Iowa, it aims to reach a $700 million development construction revenue goal. It will also continue growing its work in the local industrial market, as well as in the government sector. As Russell takes on whatever the next decade will bring, this team will continue building on their core values and celebrating a strong culture.

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