Roosevelt University’s new Wabash Building makes Jeff Karp proud on two different levels.
First, as the president and CEO of Power Construction Co., the building’s general contractor, he’s delighted that the skyscraper was constructed on time, on budget and with great teamwork on the part of all stakeholders to meet the project’s objectives. At the same time, he’s a Roosevelt alumnus who can appreciate how much the building will benefit future generations of Roosevelt students.
Karp earned his MBA from Roosevelt in 1984. “I had a civil engineering degree from IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), but realized I needed more training in management,” he said. “My Roosevelt degree was a differentiator. It gave me a great framework for my future career which turned out to be more in management than in engineering.”
When Karp joined Power in 1986 as a project manager, it was a relatively small company with about 25 employees and annual revenue of approximately $50 million, despite having been in business since 1926. Today, there are 210 salaried employees and sales in 2011 of $680 million. “Our growth has been organic,” said Karp, only the fourth CEO in Power’s history. “We do business exclusively in the Chicago area and 90 percent of our growth has come from repeat-business customers, word-of-mouth and referrals.”
Karp believes the construction project which put Power, a Schaumburg-based firm, on the map was the Omni Hotel built on Michigan Avenue in the late 1980s. “That project really enhanced our credibility. It was a high-rise building that showed we were able to do a large job right in the heart of Chicago.”
The majority of Power’s projects are in five areas: hospitality, healthcare, institutional, higher education and corporate, with new hospital construction accounting for nearly half of its work during the past few years. The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago will open this summer, while a 14-story hospital at Rush University Medical Center opened to great acclaim in January. “Those projects have been huge for us,” Karp said with a grin. “Despite the very tough climate for building, we’ve been able to keep our people busy.”
Karp said that each assignment has its challenges, like having to build on a very constrained site at Roosevelt and implementing a unique structural design at Children’s Hospital. From his perspective, the key to success is having skilled employees and knowing whom to call to attack the problem.
“When you look at what we built over the years, it really makes you proud,” he said. “All of us at Power live here; we’re part of the community. It’s very rewarding when you work on something that will have a positive long-term impact on people, be it hospital patients, hotel guests or university students.”