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Moving beyond survival to growth.


Herbert Construction, established in 1938 as a small, family-owned business, has today become one of the largest specialized contractors and construction management companies in the country.

Ted Kohl, the president of the company, is carrying on his father's tradition by ensuring that Herbert continues to grow while maintaining a reputation for personalized, quality service.

Acting as general contractor, construction manager or consultant, Herbert completed more than $325 million worth of work last year and expects that figure to approach $350 million this year.

"What makes us special, what ! sell, really, is only one product, people," said Kohl, 51, who graduated from New York University with a degree in civil engineering. "We employ quality people, and I think their longevity and loyalty proves it. That's what keeps you in business, it's how you're perceived."

According to Kohl, Herbert completes assignments for virtually every kind of corporate and service organization in the United States and England, whether it's building out tenant space, participating from the outset in the renovation of an office tower, or mobilizing a team overnight to rescue a troubled project.

"There are three ingredients to a job: Time, quality and money," Kohl said. "Any one will have an impact on the other two. If a client wants you to do a job quick and spend the same amount of money, you sacrifice quality. You have to balance. that's what makes a successful contractor. Don't use a Rolls Royce when you can use a Chevy."

Some of Herbert's current projects include an $18 million Asphalt Aquicenter at 555 East 90th Street; $4 million rooftop addition and new cooling towers for American Express Company at Three Financial Center: a $935,000 reconstruction of chemistry laboratories at Baruch College on Lexington Avenue; a $6.5 million relocation of a 23,000-square-foot, fixed income trading floor for Goldman Sachs & Co. at 85 Broad Street; a new 180,000-square-foot headquarters office for Scholastic. Inc. at 555 Broadway; and a $1 million construction of a 200-seat high-end restaurant for Sfuzzi Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I don't think for a minute I thought I'd be doing something else," Kohl said. "It just seemed to happen, and I always assumed I'd be doing this."

Kohl remembers riding in his father's pick-up truck when he was younger and helping out on construction sites. The company, however, is named after his older brother, Herbert, who is a teacher today and never showed any interest in the family business.

"When my brother was born, my father got his first job and named the company after Herbert because it seemed like a good omen," Kohl said. "The company grew little by little, doing mostly banks and restaurants, and an occasional office building."

In 1981, Kohl sold the company to American Express and then turned around 10 years later and bought it back, today employing approximately 350 employees.

"The truth is the business just worked for me, I don't know why," Kohl said. "It's just something I enjoy. I'm probably a frustrated architect but I can't draw a straight line. I can't design but I can execute and our claim to fame is execution."

Herbert Construction, located at 115 West 18th Street, has experience and expertise in constructing a building out of ground, adding floors to an existing one, or making structural improvements to create a new tower. The company, under Kohl's stewardship, has also built entire floors in hospitals without compromising patient care and has converted aging structures into modern classrooms or laboratories for universities.

"I wake up in the morning and everyday I expect something good to come of it." said Kohl who is known to arrive at his office while the rest of the city is just beginning to head to work.

Although Kohl believes that business in the 90's has not yet been defined, he feels optimistic and confident about New York's future, though he doesn't expect an immediate turn around in the construction industry.

"So far it has simply meant survival," said Kohl. "I don't know what's in store for New York. We are really a product of the economy. If the economy gets good, the market expands, you've got to do construction. It's really a matter of degrees."

Kohl noted that if one looks around Manhattan the sight of cranes is conspicuously absent today, signifying that new construction has decreased.

"If there's no new construction, a good segment is out of work." Kohl said.. "It's a tough period of time. I see it continuing this way into '94 and '95 but I do see light at the end of the tunnel."

Kohl stated that Herbert has been expanding its operations and has been doing a number of projects for the New York State School Construction Authority.

For the SCA, Herbert is currently doing a $14.6 million modernization and upgrading project at Junior High School 117 on Morris Avenue in the Bronx: a $4.6 million alteration and conversion of a 25,000-square-foot building at Intermediate School 528 at 182nd Street and Wadsworth Avenue: and a $16.2 million out of ground construction of a four-story building, Public School 176, at 4862 Broadway.

"We do our best on every assignment, regardless of its size and scope." said Kohl. "We serve as a client's eyes and ears, guiding them every step of the way and making sure that the work is completed according to their schedule, budget, and quality goals."

Kohl and his wife, Leslye, a professional photographer, have four children. two boys and two girls. Kohl has accompanied his wife on a number of photo assignments, traveling to Nepal, Russia, China, India, and a number of countries in Africa, all of which he says helps him to keep perspective during the demands of his busy professional life.
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Title Annotation:Herbert Construction Co.
Author:Alger, Derek
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 30, 1993
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