East Alton Construction Company Celebrates 80 Years in Business


Helmkamp Construction Holds Open House Event

Every business experiences different phases, especially those who are fortunate to see success through several decades.  That has certainly been the case for Helmkamp Construction Company in East Alton, Illinois.  Helmkamp was founded in 1938 by Gilbert Helmkamp and has been a local family business for 80 years now.

Ownership of Helmkamp Construction had been passed on to family members in the business for decades.  Gilbert’s son-in-law, Byron Farrell, a civil engineering graduate from Purdue University joined the firm in 1961.   Gilbert’s son, John Gilbert (also known as Jack) Helmkamp Jr., an industrial management graduate from Purdue University joined the firm in 1971.  Eventually Byron’s son, Brad Farrell, a construction engineering and management graduate from Purdue University in 1985, joined the firm in 1987.  Brad led the company for thirty years until his retirement earlier this year.

In January of 2018, Helmkamp was acquired by its first non-family owner, a long-time employee and construction management graduate from SIUE, Rob Johnes.  Johnes joined Helmkamp in 1997 and was later promoted to President in 2012 under Brad Farrell’s leadership.  Farrell says “Rob has always been the natural choice to adopt ownership of the business.  He will carry forward Helmkamp’s tradition of quality, safety and focus on customer relationships.”

The company held an open house that was themed “Camp Helmkamp” last Friday in celebration of their 80th year in business.  The event doubled as a retirement party providing a memorable farewell to Brad Farrell.  Past owners and presidents, Byron Farrell and Jack Helmkamp attended along with Riverbend Growth Association members, customers and more.

Johnes kicked off the event speeches welcoming guests. “We welcome our past and present employees, friends and clients who have become friends which is always a good thing.  I especially thank the Farrell and Helmkamp families for coming to help celebrate the occasion with us.”  Johnes referenced the history timeline collage that was recently added to the walls of the Helmkamp training room.  “We used to have our Values on the wall.  As soon as Brad left, I painted over that” he joked, but continued with “to me, it’s always been those values, but more… it’s about being a company of people with those values.  The collage starts with Brad’s grandfather and goes all the way through Jack Helmkamp, Byron and Brad Farrell, and we hope to continue with that depicting good people working on tough projects while having a lot of fun.  I want to keep that tradition going for another 80 years.”

Byron Farrell, who owned and managed Helmkamp Construction from 1962 until he retired in 1994, addressed the crowd saying, “A family business doesn’t continue on its own.  It takes a leader.  Brad has been a marvelous leader and we’re proud of Rob and know he’ll take care of the business as well.”

Helmkamp is a relationship-based general contractor, based in East Alton, IL, working exclusively for private, professional, repeat buyers of construction, primarily in the industrial, power, manufacturing, healthcare, higher education, and pharmaceutical industries. Helmkamp provides self-performed general contracting services, including civil, millwright, concrete, carpentry, structural steel, and excavations.

Their primary focus is in the St. Louis and Southern Illinois markets, but have completed projects in 20 states over the last 5 years.


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