1980 – 1990

At the start of the 1980s, pivotal changes and considerable developments were underway. On a national level, Americans looked to a more conservative agenda as compared to the 1960s and 1970s, electing former Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States. In its first few years, the new decade unfortunately experienced economic struggles with escalating interest rates. Millions were unemployed. Businesses were closing their doors. In the face of America’s hardships and decline in construction, Findorff maintained its strong footing in the industry. The Company not only took on significant work during the 1980s, but also grew beyond Dane County with new leadership at the helm.

A defining moment in Findorff’s history occurred on November 2, 1981. Described as a “landmark date” by John Findorff, grandson of the Company’s founder, a four-year process concluded with the official sale of Findorff to three loyal and skilled employees: Gerd Zoller, Ken Kruska, and Curt Hastings. John found it “extremely satisfying to turn over ownership to three very capable persons who have been responsible for the Company’s rapid expansion in the past several years, and to know that the Findorff name will continue.” Assured the long-term interests of the Company were kept close to the hearts of each new owner, a novel era of success was on the horizon.

During the 1980s, construction placed a greater reliance on negotiated contracts as opposed to low-cost bids experienced from the previous decade. That being said, Findorff continued its historical trend of iconic projects and successful growth. From the community’s standpoint, one of the Company’s most notable developments was the Truax Campus for Madison Area Technical College. Almost 80 years after Findorff built its original vocational school in downtown Madison, the Company built the College’s $50 million, 750,000-square-foot replacement on the City’s east side. Such a development significantly impacted Findorff’s national standing.

In 1983, Findorff was the country’s 351st largest construction firm, with billings totaling $46 million. By 1986, the Company jumped to the 262nd largest construction firm generating over $91 million in revenue. Additionally, the Truax Campus project proved Findorff’s tradition of perseverance as it completed the College’s new campus six months ahead of schedule in 1987.

The 1980s also marked a fundamental period for Findorff in Milwaukee. During this time, the City avoided significant urban decline when compared to other areas of the Nation’s rust belt. Various construction initiatives involving Findorff improving the City’s overall image helped make this possible.

In 1982, Findorff started construction of the Grand Avenue Parking Ramp. One year later, the Company finished building the striking postmodern, 14-story Henry Reuss Federal Plaza. This 690,000-square-foot facility created a commanding presence in downtown Milwaukee and soon was nicknamed The Blue for its lapis-lazuli sheen. Additionally, Findorff constructed several segments of the billion-dollar Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Pollution Abatement Program. Such efforts paid off and quickly made Findorff one of Milwaukee’s first-class contractors. Realizing the significance of having a strong presence in the City, Findorff opened a satellite Milwaukee office in 1987.

It should also be noted that the Company’s construction initiatives also extended beyond Wisconsin. Findorff took on several projects and developed relationships in warmer climates. Offices were opened in Miami and Tampa. Additionally, Findorff completed the construction of a $17 million high school in Santa Fe.

Although Findorff was growing on a national scale, the Company still kept busy in Madison. Findorff was active on the Capitol Square once again with the construction of Boston Store on East Mifflin Street. The Company also continued its relationship with the Hilldale Shopping Center, constructing a 39,000-square-foot expansion, totaling $3 million. Additionally, Findorff again earned contracts with the University of Wisconsin – Madison, including its Veterinary School Clinic at Charmany Farms as well as the McClain Practice Facility adjacent to Camp Randall Stadium. Large-scale projects also helped build Findorff’s portfolio in the 1980s, such as the shimmering, 500,000-square-foot headquarters for General Casualty, an insurance company based in Sun Prairie.

As the decade reached its end, a change in leadership once again took place. In 1988, Ken became the Company’s new President. At this point, Ken had already been with Findorff for close to 35 years, beginning his career as a Carpenter’s Apprentice. His history with the Company and new position proved extremely valuable in the years to come, especially as Findorff was approaching its centennial celebration in 1990, accompanied by much future success.

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Notable Projects

  • American Exchange Bank West Branch
  • Boston Store
  • CUNA Mutual (Phases III and IV)
  • General Casualty Headquarters
  • Grand Avenue Parking Ramp
  • Henry Reuss Federal Plaza
  • Hilldale Shopping Center Expansion
  • Madison Area Technical College Truax Campus
  • McClain Practice Facility UW-Madison
  • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Pollution Abatement Program
  • Rayovac World Headquarters
  • Reptile House at the Henry Vilas Zoo
  • Santa Fe High School
  • Veterinary School Clinic at UW-Madison’s Charmany Farms