By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
St. Louis-based KCI Construction is celebrating 100 years in business.
The firm that began in 1922, founded by Charles Kloster as a carpentry construction company known as Kloster Company, built schools, churches and single-family homes in the early days and evolved into hospital construction and then predominantly infrastructure work. In 1995 when the last of the Kloster namesakes left the business, the company’s name became KCI Construction.
But what hasn’t changed through the years, says its current president, is KCI’s love of construction.
“Our passion for building and finding unique solutions to new problems is what has defined KCI throughout its history,” said KCI President Tom Huster, only the fifth president in the firm’s century-long history, noting that since the 1960s and 70s the company has worked as predominantly a heavy construction and concrete contractor. “We try to self-perform as much of the work as possible, so we have tighter control from a schedule and cost standpoint. Self-performing holds us all accountable…if there’s a hiccup on a job, we have no one to look at but ourselves,” he added. “We definitely see ourselves as a builder, not a broker.”
KCI is currently owned by Huster and Vice President Brent Krueger.
Although the company’s early roots were in South St. Louis City, KCI later moved its headquarters to South St. Louis County and remains there, along with an office in Springfield, MO. Except for an occasional project performed in Arkansas, Illinois and Kentucky, the firm’s focus is on Missouri work. Its three biggest markets, according to Huster, are transportation infrastructure, civil engineering and water/wastewater construction. Secondary markets include design/build, heavy industrial, general building and earthwork/utility construction. The firm’s field workforce fluctuates between 150 and 200.
“We love to find jobs that aren’t typical so they push us to think outside the box,” Huster said. “We bring a collaborative approach to every project, from start to finish. We’re not into job titles. There’s not a lot of ego around here. Everyone contributes and has a team mindset. We all dive in.”
Early projects completed by KCI include: St. Cecilia Catholic Church; a former bowling alley at Hampton Avenue and Chippewa Street in St. Louis that Huster says was the first one to sport a carpeted concourse; and the Bowling Hall of Fame, which was torn down to build the current Busch Stadium.
Recent high-profile KCI projects include: an aggressive nine-month rehabilitation of the I-70 Blanchette Bridge in St. Charles, completed in Fall 2020; multiple Route 61 Troy bridge replacements, also finished in 2020; the St. Louis County Courts building, completed in 2017; and completion of the pedestrian bridge affording visitors a continuous greenway route to walk from the Old Courthouse to the Arch grounds and St. Louis downtown riverfront, finished in 2014 as part of the Gateway Arch National Park revitalization.