Success regardless of gender: Kari Karst’s BX Civil & Construction

Kari Karst and a few of her employees.

Kari Karst and a few of her employees.

 

A successful woman-owned highway construction company, while not unheard of, isn’t something you read about every day.  In fact, only eight percent of construction businesses in the United States are currently owned by women.

Kari Karst, owner and president of BX Civil & Construction, is proud to be part of that eight percent.

“The company was founded in 1962 by the Buskerud family. They founded the company and ran the company for 20 years. Then the company was sold in 1982 to a company in Sioux Falls called Sweetman Construction. It was run as a wholly-owned subsidiary,” Karst tells Better Roads.

“In 1992 I was approached about purchasing the company. The reason I had the opportunity to do that is because I had a civil engineering background and I have a family history in highway construction. My father was actually the president of Sweetman Construction,” she says. “He was not an owner, but he was the president. He knew they were looking to potentially sell the company off to compete in the minority business enterprise world.”

Kari Karst

Kari Karst

At the time Karst was living in California working for Ingersoll Rand, a large industrial equipment manufacturer. The company she would soon acquire was small at the time, doing just $1.5 – $2 million worth of highway work as a subcontractor.

Under Karst’s leadership, the company has grown substantially. Since buying the company in 1992, it now has four times the workers and six times the revenue.

The administrative and project management staff at BX Civil & Construction does have more female workers than most highway construction companies, but Karst says that’s not on purpose.

“I have a lot of great males on my team too,” Karst says. “My vice president of field operations and vice president of internal operations are both young men who have come up through the ranks.”

Male or female, Karst wants her company to have the best workers possible. She would like to find a way to get more women interested in the industry though.

“My next goal is to figure out how to make that happen amongst the ranks because that’s not the case at all when you get into field supervision and below. In fact, right now we don’t have any women on the payroll who are field supervisors, laborers, truck drivers, etc.,” she says. “I want to figure out how to make road construction more favorable to women workers.”

Kari Karst and her female employees at BX Civil & Construction.

Kari Karst and her female employees at BX Civil & Construction.

 

Karst does see some advantages to being a woman in the industry. She says, in general, women are “more people oriented.” As the industry evolves, the ideal skillset for workers is starting to evolve as well.

“From a leadership standpoint they tend to empathize with employees and have those skills the workforce seems to look for today more than 20 years ago,” Karst says.

Karst does not like to focus on the fact that she’s a woman. Ideally, she would just like to be seen as a successful construction business owner, regardless of gender. She is extremely passionate about the industry and wants to see it continue to grow.

She shares the same concerns about the industry as anyone, including male construction business owners.

“A lot of people, not just woman, see highway construction as a temporary landing point,” Karst says, expressing her concern for the future of the industry. “They see it as something they can do temporary, but there’s a point they won’t be able to do it anymore because it’s physically too demanding. Not necessarily because of the physical strength standpoint but the time commitment and not being able to have another balanced life. We have to figure it out.”

Karst’s passion for the industry isn’t something she tries to hide. She loves her job and believes more people would fall in love with the industry too if they just gave it a chance.

“This is a really fun industry to be involved in,” she says. “It’s hard work and it has challenges just like any other industry does, but the rewards – and I don’t mean financial rewards, I mean the intangible rewards of building something that is going to have a legacy – is really a rare opportunity today. “

“The industry has to have the ability to change and to adapt to new cultures.”Unfortunately, the highway construction workforce is losing numbers, which isn’t a good sign for things to come. Karst doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but she does think it’s time for the industry to make some changes.

“The industry has to have the ability to change and to adapt to new cultures in the workforce, whether that be the Hispanic culture or males and females, it’s a big challenge and we have to be willing to step up to the plate,” Karst says.

As for the future BX Civil & Construction, Karst is hesitant to think too far ahead. Right now she’s focused on continuing to grow the company. She does have two boys though, one who is currently studying construction management in college.

She’d be lying if she said she hasn’t thought about her boys one day taking over the company, but she wants them to work their way up the ladder first.

“I want them to experience working for somebody else first. I think it’s essential they learn to succeed somewhere else first.”

Get 10 Years of weather data to help snow removal estimates

Photo: Go iLawn

Photo: Go iLawn

 

In the fall of 2011, Go iLawn released its Snow Proposal Builder to help people prepare snow and ice management estimates.

However, Go iLawn quickly discovered that estimates also need to be based on weather data as well.

To help with this problem, the company re-launched the second version of the Proposal Builder.

The builder now includes weather information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Canadian National Climate data archives.

The Proposal Builder accesses a decade’s worth of historical weather data to help people build snow and ice management proposals.

To learn about the weather, users can select an airport or weather station from the list available. The builder displays the average snowfalls totals for that airport or weather station from the past 10 years.

Here are some ideas about what to include in your diagrams:

  • Denote areas of interest and special instructions
  • Label snow storage areas
  • Color-code sidewalks, parking lots, entrances etc.
  • Include contact information for property contacts
  • List recommended equipment
  • Indicate direction to push snow
  • Highlight property obstacles and safety hazards

Although Go iLawn was originally designed for landscapers, there’s no reason it couldn’t be of use to road construction crews around the country.

This article was originally written by Patty Vaughan, Online Managing Editor of Total Landscape Care.

WisDOT issues deer warning

White-tailed_Deer_Crossing_a_Road_Kensington_Metropark_MichiganThe Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is worried that there will be an increase in deer and vehicle crashes this fall. WisDOT is asking drivers to be extra cautious of deer, especially during October and November which is mating season for deer.

Since it’s mating season, WisDOT expects deer to increase their activity, particularly at dusk and dawn. Deer could unexpectedly dart onto roads and into the path of vehicles as they roam back and forth between their bedding and feeding areas.

“To avoid hitting deer with your vehicle, you need to slow down whenever you see them nearby. If you see one deer, there are probably more in the area that could dash in front of your vehicle,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “If you can’t avoid a deer in the road, it’s safer to hit the brakes and hit the deer than to swerve suddenly and try to miss it. If you swerve, you risk losing control of your vehicle and hitting another car or a stationary object like a tree.”

Last year, Wisconsin reportedly had a total of 18,338 deer and vehicle crashes.

And it’s not just Wisconsin. Drivers in any states with deer population should be a little extra cautious this fall.

Gov. Scott Walker considers replacing Wisconsin's gas tax

governor scott walkerWisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is considering replacing the state’s gasoline tax with a sales tax on gas and alternative vehicle fuel sources to stabilize long-term transportation funding. However, Walker offered few specifics, and the impact of charging a sales tax to consumers at the pump is unclear in comparison to the existing tax on gasoline suppliers that gets built into the pump price.

In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Walker said “getting rid of the gas tax entirely” and replacing it with a sales tax is “a realistic thing for us to look at.”

“Not as a revenue upper, but as a neutral conversion,” Walker said. “With the idea being that that could be stable, versus something that’s based on gallons of gas, which continues to go down.”

Walker did stress that his idea is not a full-fledged proposal, but it’s obvious he understands the importance of transportation funding.

“You’re trying to get the most equitable way to say, ‘How do you cover the people who actually use our roads and bridges and highways?’” Walker said. “If there’s multiple ways that you charge up or fuel your vehicle, then there should be an equitable way to say it’s a sales tax on gas or it’s a sales tax on electricity or it’s a sales tax on natural gas.”

Wisconsin will be short $15.3 billion over the next decade.It has been reported that Wisconsin will be short $15.3 billion over the next decade if the state wants to maintain its current service, traffic flow and road condition levels under the existing funding system. That’s due to road construction costs, but also declining gas tax revenue from more fuel-efficient vehicles and fewer miles traveled.

Several ideas have been thrown around to fix Wisconson’s transportation funding, including raising the state’s gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, increasing driver’s license and commercial vehicle registration fees, eliminating the sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of a vehicle, and adopting a mileage-based registration fee system for passenger vehicles and light trucks.

Walker, however, opposes raising the gas tax and questions the logistics of a mileage-based registration system.

We’ve all heard the saying, “no idea is a bad idea.” That saying is certainly up for debate, but it’s good to hear that more politicians are looking for highway funding solutions.

“It’s a very positive thing that not only the governor but elected officials and candidates on both sides are talking about the shortfall in transportation,” Patrick Goss, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said.

Flagman caught boozing on the job

Road Work signRoad construction zones are already unsafe enough without bringing alcohol into the mix. Yet that’s exactly what the flagman of a crew near Omena, Michigan, was recently caught doing.

According to a report from UpNorthLive.com, a truck driver passing by a road work zone on North West Bay Shore Drive on Monday called the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office to report what he thought looked a flagman drinking on the job.

A deputy made his way out to the work zone and “quickly determined” that the flagman was drunk, according to the website’s report.

His demeanor was likely the first clue but the second one was helpful as well: the 30-year-old flagman showed the deputy a cooler next to him filled with 24 cans of beer.

The worker also admitted to drinking Schnapps which a second witness told deputies he saw the man buy from a nearby store.

Deputies said the man was immediately removed from his position by the foreman on the site. However, you’ve got to wonder how no one on working on the site saw this going on, considering that he made little attempt to cover it up keeping his stash right next to his post and that at least two passersby saw him doing it.

Somehow, no charges are being brought against the likely former flagman. Luckily, he didn’t cause any accidents or injuries.

This article was written by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor of Equipment World.

Frantz Filter bypass system has been reengineered

Frantz Filter

Purchased this year by Lubrication Specialties, Inc. (LSI), Frantz Filter has been rereleased with a superior filter media. LSI, the makers of Hot Shot’s Secret products, have reengineered the product’s filter media to better deliver an endless supply of pure, contaminate-free oil.

“Known for using the same ‘powered by science’ approach we take in developing Hot Shot’s Secret products, Frantz Filter was a strategic fit with our line of problem specific solutions,” stated Chris Gabrelcik, president of LSI. “Applying that mentality, we’ve reinvented the Frantz Filter media to now be the most efficient oil filter commercially available.”

While reengineering, LSI reviewed testing data from Frantz Filter, studied third-party lab reports and conducted internal baseline testing to develop the superior filtering media that uses dense, specially-engineered cellulose.

It now filters oil more than 10 times finer than an original equipment manufacturer’s filter, down to two microns.

Construction company called out for substandard concrete

bridge_construction_aheadThe state of Idaho is not happy with the construction company replacing two Interstate-90 bridges because it’s using substandard concrete in portions of the project.

Luckily routine quality controls by the Idaho Transportation Department discovered the problem before it’s late.

The columns holding up the bridge passed inspection, but the concrete being used to construct the driving deck has tested as marginal or failed stress tests altogether.

The contractor, Wadsworth Construction, is forfeiting 25-50 percent payment on those particular concrete pours.

Engineers don’t believe the new bridge will need to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch, but there’s a good possibility that some load bearing sections will have to be replaced.

“If [the concrete] falls below 90 percent, then we have to take a look at where the concrete is in the bridge,” said Transportation Engineer John Perfect. “If it’s structural, meaning it’s carrying weight, bearing the load, then we may have to do other things and potentially remove the concrete and replace it.”

The Idaho Transportation Department is awaiting the results of final testing to determine the durability of the concrete. Once the final testing is analyzed, it will be determined if any of the concrete needs to be replaced.

California to test feasibility of mileage tax

CaliforniaCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation into law that will allow the state to implement a pilot program to test whether charging a road usage fee — or mileage-based tax — could effectively replace fuel taxes as the primary means to fund highways and road projects.

The legislation calls for the pilot program to begin no later than Jan. 1, 2017. With Brown’s signature, California became the third West Coast state to implement testing of vehicle mileage tax’s ability to replace fuel taxes.

State governments — and the U.S. government — have seen road funding dry up in recent years as the fuel tax has become more and more ineffective at bringing in enough money to fund highways. As vehicles have become more fuel efficient and Americans drive less — and as fuel tax rates have failed to keep up with inflation — states have had to start looking elsewhere for money to fund transportation infrastructure.

This article was originally written by the staff of Overdrive Online.

A book worth buying: The Illustrated Route 66 Historical Atlas

image004There’s a new book out that may be of interest to anyone in the industry. The Illustrated Route 66 Historical Atlas, by Jim Hinckley, explores the highways’ long history and obscure and colorful aspects, adding depth and context to the Route 66 experience. Marketed as three books in one, The Illustrated Route 66 Historical Atlas is a reference book, traditional atlas and travel guide.

Route 66 changed immensely in the six decades between its opening in 1926 and its removal from the U.S. highway system in 1985. Since that time, Route 66 has enjoyed a renaissance, and interest in America’s Mother Road as both a historical byway and a travel destination continues to grow.

Jim Hinckley’s book explores the road’s history from its inception into the present day. It is highlighted by specially commissioned fold-out maps for each state along the highway. The maps include points of interest along or near Route 66, divided into seven categories:

  • Pre-1926 historic sites (such as Lincoln’s home and presidential library)
  • Noteworthy landmarks, including the locations of infamous crimes and disasters;
  • Parks of interest along or near Route 66
  • Key sites in Route 66′s evolution (such as Hooker’s Cut, Missouri, an engineering marvel when completed)
  • Military-specific sites (including Civil War battlefields and POW and internment camps)
  • Historic attractions from the road’s midcentury heyday (such as Little Beaver Town and Geronimo’s Trading Post) including crime, disaster and film-related sites
  • Locations important to Route 66′s transition and modern resurgence.

If you’re a Route 66 fan, this is a book likely worth checking out. Head over to Barnes and Noble or Amazon to check it out!

Boxer urges House Ways & Means Committee to save Highway Trust Fund

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee has made it clear that saving the Highway Trust Fund is among her top priorities. In a letter to Congressman Dave Camp, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and Congressman Sander Levin, she urges for help in finding a long-term solution.

“Although Congress passed a short-term Highway Trust Fund patch and an extension of our surface transportation programs in MAP-21 through May 31, 2015, the longer we wait to find a long-term funding solution for our critical infrastructure the worse it will be,” Boxer writes.

Boxer is not the only person who feels this way. Even though Congress passed a short-term patch to the Highway Trust Fund, many organizations have begun to push even harder for a long-term solution.

If Congress waits until the last second before trying to work out a long-term plan, chances are nothing will be solved. And doing so would only continue to hurt the country’s infrastructure.

“Congress needs to ‘keep the horse before the cart’ and address the trust fund’s long-term revenue problem as was done in the 1997 and 2004 tax bills.  Then it can develop and properly fund a six-year program bill early in 2015,” TCC Co-chair Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said earlier this month.  “And ‘status-quo’ funding levels would simply perpetuate worsening traffic congestion and the inadequate physical condition of the nation’s highway and transit network.”

“I will not stop working until we in Congress have the courage to do what is right…”Throughout this past year Congress has went back and forth on several different funding options for the Highway Trust Fund. Those options include a higher gas tax, a mileage tax and an increase in tolls.

Whatever the solution is, Boxer wants a long-term plan in place – sooner rather than later.

“There are many reasonable ways to continue a self-funded transportation program, and I will not stop working until we in Congress have the courage to do what is right for jobs and business and our nation,” Boxer writes as she concludes her letter. “I look forward to working with you to find a long-term, bipartisan solution for the Highway Trust Fund this year.”

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