Built From Humble Beginnings
It was 150 years ago when an Irish immigrant named Timothy McCarthy began a lumber business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, building farmhouses and barns. The company he founded in 1864 is now a multi-billion dollar construction firm and one of the largest and most diversified commercial construction companies in America.
For 138 years, we were primarily a family owned business. That changed in 2002 when the company became 100% employee owned. Each of us now has a personal—and financial—stake in the company's future, and each of us now has a greater responsibility to each other to innovate and provide real value. The net result? An empowering environment that is entrepreneurial in nature, and is directed towards providing our clients with creative and value-oriented building solutions.
Timothy McCarthy had 10 children, and taught carpentry to two sons, John W. and Timothy Jr. His son Charles became a bricklayer.
When John W. fell in love with a young woman who moved with her family to Farmington, Missouri, he followed. Discovering a need for carpenters in Missouri, John W. sent for his brothers. The brothers incorporated the McCarthy Lumber and Construction Company in 1907, and John W. became the first president. Previously, they had built barns and residential structures. After 1907, they ventured into other kinds of structures such as post offices and commercial buildings. Expansion into new building types led the brothers to nearby towns, and eventually into St. Louis where they relocated the business in 1917 and renamed the company McCarthy Brothers Construction Co.
The company's penchant for expansion and risk taking served it well. In the 1920s, McCarthy Brothers won the contract to erect the Missouri Building at the World's Fair in San Francisco. The entire construction team was transported there by train. The next major risk was a venture in Alaska to build the Anchorage post office and courthouse in 1939. Federal public works projects continued to help the company expand at a time when the national economy was weak. During World War II, McCarthy won government contracts in the Panama Canal Zone, where the firm worked on Army and Navy lock and canal facilities as well as the Air Base at Coco Solo. Early in the 1950s, McCarthy Brothers took on its first major St. Louis project—the Army Corps of Engineers' Publications Center. Also in the '50s, McCarthy took another risk that helped the firm survive the recession of that decade. The firm diversified and purchased the Rock Hill Quarries Company, a profitable operation until the '70s when it became a successful landfill operation. The current McCarthy headquarters is adjacent to this quarry.
Completion in 1961 of the Priory Chapel helped establish the company's reputation as a skilled builder with creative solutions, as well as a significant force in St. Louis construction. As the company slowly expanded, so did the McCarthy family—with many members filling valuable positions within the firm. Merryl L. McCarthy, Timothy R. McCarthy, John E. McCarthy, J. Melvin McCarthy and Francis F. McCarthy are credited with much of the company's success from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Upon Melvin's death in 1976, his son Michael M. (Mike) McCarthy became president of the company. Roger H. Burnet, who had joined the firm in 1972, became its first non-family president when Mike assumed the position of chairman of the board in 1984. In the early '70s, McCarthy started a healthcare company (McBRO) and quickly became a national leader in healthcare construction management. At the same time, the company established a parking structure group, which became the largest design/build parking structure firm in the United States.
Continuing with the risk-taking tradition, the firm branched into bridge and heavy construction in the early '80s. At the same time, McCarthy's pioneering spirit led to the opening of offices in high-growth areas across America. Two of them, Phoenix and Irvine, California, later became full-service operating divisions and are now ranked among the top two builders in Arizona and California. The company had its first billion dollar year in 1986.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, McCarthy expanded into semiconductor, bio-pharmaceutical, educational, R&D and general manufacturing markets, becoming a major player in each. Additional, full-service divisions located in Dallas and Northern California were formed to serve clients in these regions. In 1999, McCarthy opened an office in Las Vegas to serve that booming market. The centralized healthcare, parking and bridge divisions were merged with the full-service regional offices—as these markets continued to thrive. In 1995, Roger Burnet retired, and Michael D. Hurst, a 24-year McCarthy veteran, became the new president and chief operating officer.
Capitalizing on the increased need for advanced research and science capabilities, McCarthy has become nationally noted for its ability to build technically challenging laboratory and process facilities. As Mike Bolen notes. "We love to hear people say it can't be done, and then we figure out a way to do it."
Continuing the company's quest to become "the Best Builder in America", Mike Bolen, an Air Force Academy graduate who started with the company as a carpenter, was named chief executive in 2000, becoming the first Chief Executive Officer in the company's 140-year history without the last name McCarthy.
138 years of family ownership came to an end in April 2002, when Mike McCarthy sold his majority interest in the company to McCarthy employees. Now 100% employee owned through a well-funded ESOP, McCarthy employees are now both challenged and rewarded to act like owners while maintaining the family atmosphere that has made McCarthy distinctive since 1864.
With more than 2,600 salaried and hourly employees across the country, McCarthy focuses on attracting partners committed to professional excellence and providing creative solutions to client needs. Beginning as a family endeavor, McCarthy remains committed to its founding philosophy. States Mike Bolen, "We operate like a family—learning from each other, accepting challenges and taking risks. Without risk taking, we wouldn't be the leader we are in numerous product and regional markets."
That market leadership has taken new forms as we've entered the 21st century. McCarthy has become a significant national player in the construction of complex research facilities (including BSL Level 4 labs), K-12 education and green building projects.
For 150 years, our difference continues to be our hands-on approach. Confidence built on a foundation of experience. We share this confidence with every owner and partner. That is the heart of what we do, and where our true value lies.