Small Time – Big Time Success Stories – Article from the City of Arnold
Kozeny-Wagner Construction – “Building a Better Quality of Life”
As young boys in kindergarten, Donald Kozeny and Richard Wagner became lasting pals whose ambitions years later stirred them to form a construction business.
With $1,000 in 1965, civil engineer Don and concrete expert Rich founded Kozeny-Wagner Construction, Inc. They created the motto “Building a Better Quality of Life” and dedicated it to the clients and communities the firm would serve. Little did they know that Kozeny-Wagner would become one of the biggest full-service construction companies in metro St. Louis.
From headquarters at 951 West Outer Road in Arnold near I-55, Kozeny-Wagner today provides diversified construction, construction management, and design/build services for clients across the Midwest. The spectrum of construction industry sectors is represented among its projects – from aviation, commercial, corporate, governmental and institutional to healthcare, civil transportation, millwright and education, plus parks, recreation and retail sectors.
“We are a proud company that is proud to serve all of our clients large and small,” says Patrick Kozeny, the firm’s President, CEO, and son of co-founder and board member Donald Kozeny. “In my opinion, we have grown because of our unique delivery system and our team member skills,” Patrick says. “We are the only construction firm in the greater St. Louis region to provide diversified construction, construction management, and design/build services in both a civil and commercial capacity. Our team has been fortunate to develop track records of excellence in those different areas and as a company.”
The firm employs 80 field personnel, plus 20 managers and administrative staff members. “Employee tenure averages more than 20 years,” Patrick adds. They include Michael Kozeny, vice president, and Christopher Kozeny, project engineer.
“Our growth and success from a small firm to a larger company is a testament to our widely skilled and experienced employees,” Patrick Kozeny asserts. “We are an all-union shop. We are signatories to the Carpenters, Laborers, and Operating Engineers.”
In 1965 Kozeny-Wagner’s first client was the U.S. National Park Service. The company excavated and helped build the grounds for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, known as The Gateway Arch, on St. Louis’ Mississippi riverfront downtown.
Over the years the firm has continued to win many projects for the National Park Service, including for part of the recent $380 million renovation of the Gateway Arch National Park. In 2014 Kozeny-Wagner won a $10.27 million contract to complete the North Gateway section of the CityArchRiver project. The North Gateway is a 7.5 acre park for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial that connects Eads Bridge, Laclede’s Landing, Washington Avenue, and neighborhoods surrounding the Arch grounds to the north.
“More than 90 percent of our projects come from repeat clients. Some of those organizations have been clients for decades,” says Patrick Kozeny.
The firm’s motto “Building a Better Quality of Life” is reflected in many of its projects for the National Park Service and others, such as the Great Rivers Greenway, a regional parks and trails district that currently connects 121 miles of greenway trails for walking and biking in metro St. Louis.
Great Rivers, a not-for-profit entity, originated in 2000 when voters in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County approved a sales tax to develop an ADA accessible greenways network to connect the region. Great Rivers identified 45 potential greenways totaling 600 miles and, with community partners such as parks departments, is now building out 16 of them, with 121 miles completed to date.
So far, Kozeny-Wagner has been hired to provide construction management services for more than a dozen Great Rivers Greenway projects. The greenway projects are a good fit for Kozeny-Wagner – they complement the firm’s philosophy of “Building a Better Quality of Life.”
“We strive to improve quality of life in our region through the projects we are involved with that we build and the community programs that we support,” Patrick says. “It’s really an honor for us to serve Great Rivers Greenway, the U.S. National Park Service, the City of Arnold, the City of St. Louis, and other organizations to help revitalize the region where we live and work.”
Projects in Arnold
Over the years Kozeny-Wagner has completed many projects for the City of Arnold and local organizations. The firm provided construction services for Arnold’s 55,000 sq ft community recreation center, which offers indoor and outdoor pools, aerobic workout rooms, a gymnasium, walking track, equipment and locker rooms, lobby, meeting rooms, and administrative areas.
In addition, Kozeny-Wagner managed construction for Rock Community Fire District Fire House Number 5 that serves the local area. It is a 14,861 sq ft, two-story, stick frame fire house with an equipment apparatus bay, living quarters, exercise facilities, and training rooms. The project included a 3,227 sq ft pre-engineered vehicle maintenance building with storage mezzanine and vehicle lift equipment.
“Our company works for clients all over the Midwest, and we travel beyond that for some projects, yet it’s always special to work on projects in our headquarters city,” says Patrick, who is also a stockholder of the firm.
Since he joined the company in 1990, Patrick Kozeny has served as project manager, estimator, director of business development, and as administrative vice president from 1996-2000. Before then he worked in seasonal and part-time capacities for the firm in field and office positions, learning virtually every aspect of the company and its capabilities from the ground up.
With his father as president, his mother and two sisters working in administration, and his late brother Jeff a dispatcher and part-time laborer, “The business was the topic nearly every night at the dinner table during those years,” he recalls.
Patrick Kozeny attended Christian Brothers College High School and earned a business degree from Maryville University. He has served on several community boards and foundations, including Enterprise Bank & Trust at Enterprise Financial Services Corp.
In addition, he hosts Kozeny-Wagner’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament to benefit St. Louis Children’s Hospital and SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
Since 1976 Kozeny-Wagner has been headquartered at 951 West Outer Road in Arnold, although it was originally based in St. Louis County.
The firm bought its current headquarters building on West Outer Road across from Fox High School “so our teams can have quick and close access to client companies that we serve in the metro St. Louis area,” Patrick says.
As a fan of St. Louis Blues hockey and of popular music including country rock, he notes that the firm’s 10,000 sq ft headquarters building originally opened as a public hockey rink in the 1960s.When the hockey business failed, the building became a venue for rock concerts. “I think this place was pretty well known for heavy metal rock concerts back then,” he says with a smile.
When economic recession hit the U.S. construction industry hard starting in December 2007, Kozeny-Wagner was hard hit, too. “We had a full staff on board when a number of our clients were forced to cut back or shelve their projects, and we had to deal with that,” he explains. “We had to lay off a number of our employees, and that was very unfortunate. We looked at every aspect of our business and our spending, and we had to cut back expenses wherever we could – and we did so,” he says. “As we studied every corner of our operations, we identified new operating efficiencies, and our company learned to be more efficient. We got through those tough times, and now we have a number of ‘boomerang’ employees back working with us. We are a much more efficient company today than we were in 2007.”
“My responsibilities as CEO include management of really smart and passionate men and women that love ‘building a better quality of life’ in the communities we serve,” he says. “We’re in a good economic market right now. We are doing more with less, we are doing well, and we hope to achieve many new milestones for our clients and our company in the future. As a construction company, we want to ensure that future generations will continue to thrive in the community we are proud to call home.”
In 2018 Kozeny-Wagner will surpass $1 billion in contract values realized since the company was founded in 1965. A milestone, indeed.
Story by Jeff Dunlap