Archive for Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Construction executives buy Emporia firm

Pair leave Lawrence-based Harris to become owners

October 25, 2005

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Having spent years helping build a Lawrence-based construction company into a regional powerhouse, Art Kuehler and Bob Sarna are looking to do it again in Emporia.

This time on their own.

Kuehler and Sarna are the new owners of Hastco Inc., an Emporia-based design-build construction company with 25 employees and annual revenues of $8 million to $10 million.

Both Kuehler and Sarna are coming off lengthy tenures at Harris Construction Co. Inc., where just one of the company's projects - the Hobbs Taylor Lofts in downtown Lawrence - is a $15 million deal.

"The opportunity was right: I didn't have ownership where I was and so I took ownership of what I could get," said Kuehler, who had been at Harris for 22 years, until leaving in July as vice president for sales and marketing. "We're thrilled. We are over-excited. We've got the right crew. We've got the right people. We've got the right opportunity."

Sarna leaves Harris later this week, after nearly a decade working in roles that included chief operating officer, executive vice president and, most recently, vice president for real estate and property development.

Such experience will be used to help expand Hastco's reach into all of eastern Kansas, Sarna said, from Salina to all points east.

"It's a company that's been in business for a long time, has a very good reputation and we feel we can carry the company forward in a very competitive manner," Sarna said. "We both have very good backgrounds in design-build construction. We'll both be hands-on owners."

Bo Harris, president and chief executive officer of Harris Construction, said that the opportunity to purchase Hastco had crossed his own desk, but that he had decided to pass.

He's confident that Kuehler and Sarna will put their experience to work.

"I'm sure they'll carry a lot of their background into the new business," said Harris, who described the departures as "businesslike and friendly."

Harris already has hired a new vice president for business development: Eric Danielson, who previously worked for the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce as director of the Lenexa Economic Development Council. Assuming Sarna's responsibilities will be Hunter Harris, Bo Harris' son, who runs the company's office in Kansas City, Mo.

Kuehler and Sarna declined to disclose terms of the purchase of Hastco, and said they would continue to live in Lawrence, at least for now. Hastco's new owners are Kuehler and his wife, Nancy; and Sarna and his wife, Ruth.

Hastco was established more than 25 years ago by John Mallon, and has focused its business within 100 miles of Emporia.

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