While firms across the country are tightening their belts, Denver contractor RK Mechanical Inc. has re-invested in its employees and completed one of the largest construction projects in the company's history. For its ongoing pursuit of portfolio diversity and its steadfast attention to the health, safety and training of its employees, RK has been selected by ENR Mountain States as Colorado's Specialty Contractor of the Year for 2011.
From its modest start 48 years ago as a plumbing and heating company in northeast Nebraska, to its current world-class headquarters on a 16-acre site in Denver, RK has grown to become one of the region's leading full-service plumbing, mechanical and process piping contractors and fabricators. The mechanical powerhouse closed its 2011 books with $156.7 million in revenue, up from $124.2 million in 2010. While these figures are down from the company's high-water mark of $164 million in revenue in 2009, "we've actually grown despite the recession," says Rick Kinning, chairman and CEO. He has run the company with his brother Jon, president of RK's Performance Building Services division, since their father retired in 2007.
"We're passionate about our business," says Jon Kinning. "It goes deep—we're relentless about improving our delivery, to be better, faster, smarter. And we compete against ourselves, not the marketplace."
RK Mechanical is also passionate about its nearly 700 employees. Rick Kinning says their quality, loyalty and depth has helped the firm grow. "We look at downtimes as an opportunity to invest in our people," he says.
RK recently revamped its human resources department, creating what it calls the people services department. The department is largely responsible for launching RK's new wellness culture, which is aimed at improving the overall health of the firm's 450 field personnel, 100 office staff and 100 fabricators.
An in-house wellness coach provides consulting and support services to both office and field employees, visiting jobsites, helping staff adopt a healthy lifestyle and organizing weight-loss programs. RK also recently restructured its health benefits program, upgrading its employee options so that the firm maintains its role as an industry leader, Jon Kinning says.
The Denver Business Journal ranked the contractor third on its 2011 list of healthiest employers in the Denver metro area and has named RK Mechanical one of the best places to work in the large company category for the second year.
"To hit our 2030 goals, 40% of our revenues will be established through diversification," says Marc Paolicelli, RK's vice president of corporate business development.
In addition to construction in the health-care, industrial, institutional, government and aviation industries—to name just a few—RK fabricates 90% of the firm's sheet metal, piping, plumbing and structural products in its 65,000-sq-ft Denver facility and a second 110,000-sq-ft facility in nearby Henderson, Colo.
"Shipping prefabricated assemblies allows us to install a higher-quality product because we're doing it in a controlled environment," explains Wayne Fee, RK operations manager.
A 10,000-sq-ft clean fabrication room in the Denver shop is used for receipt, fabrication, quality-control inspection and packaging for delivery of stainless-steel materials. RK Specialties—the contractor's $10-million steel-services group, housed at its Henderson facility—is expected to grow to $20 million by 2013.
"This all ties back into diversification," Jon Kinning says.
But RK's growth is not limited to diversification in traditional contracting. Paolicelli says RK is venturing into multiple manufacturing arenas such as working with a local architecturally based product design company to manufacture components for its Sustainable Solutions product line. The products aim to simplify customers' lives by providing functional and sustainable everyday goods.