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Bold move builds future for leader

(Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

 

Kevin Bragg is not someone who wastes time.

Just a year after joining Chrisanntha Inc.—and two years out of college—Bragg approached the company’s owner and said he was interested in buying into the business.

“I’d always wanted to run my own business,” Bragg says.

The deal came together and Bragg became a part owner in 1985, overseeing what is now Chrisanntha Construction Corp.

Bragg, 52, also serves as president of the Gorham, Ontario County-based firm. The construction company employs about 40 workers and works for commercial and industrial customers on jobs in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions.

After more than 30 years in the field, Bragg still gets excited about the job.

“After all these years, I still get a kick out of seeing things I’ve helped build,” he says.

Bragg grew up in Waterloo, Seneca County, and was exposed to the construction industry from an early age. His grandfather and father both worked in the field; his dad actually worked at Chrisanntha.

Bragg originally dreamed of being a pilot, but plans changed when he went to meet with an Air Force recruiter in high school and was told he could work on planes—but not fly them—because he did not have 20/20 vision.

So, Bragg took another route. He studied construction management at SUNY College of Technology at Alfred and earned his applied associate degree in 1983.

During his college years, he honed his construction skills working as a carpenter building homes during the summer.

After college, Bragg took a job with a construction company in Geneva, but left after one year. He then began working as an estimator and project manager at Chrisanntha.

Chrisanntha was launched in 1962 and focused on residential and multifamily housing projects.

Buying in
Bragg took the opportunity when a chance arose to buy a stake in the business. When he approached owner Chris Iversen and asked about an ownership role, Iversen obliged.

The business split into two operations after Bragg started his new role. Bragg led the design-build market, which was a good fit for his detail-oriented skills. Iversen focused on residential and hospitality projects, and he continues to focus on that side of the business.

Chrisanntha Construction specializes in planning, designing and building. In addition to building, the business does steel and concrete work and carpentry.

Chrisanntha Construction also is doing more jobs in project management. Growth is being driven by Bragg’s son, Matthew, who recently joined the business.

Matthew Bragg previously worked as a project engineer for a firm in Salt Lake City, where he worked on the development of a $1.2 billion data center.

The office is thoroughly unpretentious. Located in one of the smallest Ontario County towns, it is tucked along a side street with hardly any indication of its presence. Upon entering, one may mistake the building for a warehouse rather than a business.

The firm runs its operation on the upper floors, and Bragg says it is not at all unusual to have a client call asking where they are located.

While the company keeps a low profile, it works with some of the region’s larger firms, including Constellation Brands Inc. and Simmons-Rockwell Inc. in the Southern Tier.

Kevin Bragg’s primary duties include the firm’s day-to-day operations, along with new business development.

The company employs three project managers, a general supervisor, two employees in payroll and accounts receivable and roughly 35 workers in the field.

Bragg works closely with his project managers, yet his management style offers each of them the flexibility to make individual financial decisions on their respective projects.

He leads by example and does not shy away from doing whatever job needs to be done, Bragg says.

The walls of Bragg’s office are lined with family photos mixed in with renderings of projects both completed and in process. A large work area gives him the space to review construction documents.

He is the hands-on type as well. If a customer calls and he answers the phone, for example, Bragg will most likely be the point person for that project moving forward.

“We really believe in relationships,” Bragg says, noting project managers work closely with customers as there are no sales or estimating departments. “We work with them from start to finish.”

Spencer Mickelsen, Chrisanntha Construction’s general supervisor, has worked with Bragg since Bragg joined the company.

Mickelsen could tell from the beginning that Bragg would have a positive impact on the business.

“He was hungry right from the beginning,” Mickelsen says.

One of Bragg’s best qualities on the job is his ability to forecast what is coming—and then act on it.

“He really knows what’s going on in the business,” Mickelsen says. “His ability to think ahead is unbelievable.”

Bragg begins his day at the office around 7 a.m. and normally works until 6 p.m.

He enjoys the diversity of the job.

“You are never bored,” he says. “You’re always working on something new.”

He enjoys driving around the area and seeing the work his firm has completed over the years. “The older I get, the more places there are to see,” he says.

Memorable projects
Some of his most memorable projects include the Dixon Schwabl Inc. building in Victor, which includes a center atrium with a glass roof and a scream room. He also enjoyed the challenge of creating, on budget, an elevator at Bristol Harbor that takes people down the cliff to the lake.

The most challenging part of the job is acquiring all the regulatory approvals needed to get a project off the ground. Bragg is a regular at planning and zoning board meetings and is involved with getting those federal and state agency approvals.

That is a contrast from years ago when a trip to a building inspector was mainly all that was required, he says.

“Today, it can take longer to get the approvals in place than it takes to build the building,” he says.

The business is cyclical, Bragg notes. When he began, the firm built a lot of churches and then went through a period of building smaller machine shops. For the past five years or so, the business has done a lot of work with car dealerships.

Bragg declined to provide sales figures, but expects revenues to grow 10 percent this year.

The company has new, or soon to begin, projects in the works, including an eye-care center in Geneva, a manufacturing business in Lyons and dormitories at Keuka College.

Chrisanntha Construction is constructing a building in Clyde, Wayne County, for Advanced Automation Technologies LLC. The firm is a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Parker Hannifin Corp.

Chrisanntha Construction broke ground on the 26,000-square-foot building roughly a month ago. It is an expansion at the site where Advanced Automation Technologies already operates. Randall Farnsworth, president of the Canandaigua-based Randall Farnsworth Auto Group, has worked with Bragg from the beginning of his career at Chrisanntha.

The two have collaborated on projects at Farnsworth’s dealerships. Chrisanntha Construction is building Farnsworth’s new Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership in Canandaigua.

Bragg has the right disposition for a business leader, Farnsworth says.

“He understands the importance of effective communication,” Farnsworth says, adding that Bragg is accessible even when he is on vacation.

Farnsworth describes Bragg as someone who is upfront, honest and pays attention to details.

“If you define leaders by their ability to lead people and manage things, then Kevin is the ultimate leader,” Farnsworth says. “I respect Kevin’s ability to lead his team and love his availability on demand.”

Bragg lives in Canandaigua. He and his wife, Meg, have four children: sons Matthew, 26, Alex, 23, and Nicholas, 20; and daughter, Meghan, 25.

A licensed private pilot, Bragg has ownership in a four-seat single-engine Cirrus plane, which he often flies to visit some of his children who live in Florida and Nebraska. He also has a residence in Fort Meyers, Fla.

On the job, Bragg says he will continue to grow Chrisanntha Construction in a field he has long been familiar with.

“I’ve always been around it,” Bragg says. “It’s in my blood.”

Kevin Bragg
Title: President, Chrisanntha Construction Corp.
Age: 52
Education: AAS degree in construction management from SUNY College of Technology at Alfred, 1983
Residence: Canandaigua, Ontario County
Family: Wife, Meg; sons Matthew, 26, Alex, 23, and Nicholas, 20; daughter, Meghan, 25
Interests: Private pilot, spending time with family
Quote: “After all these years, I still get a kick out of seeing things I’ve helped build.”

12/12/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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