Cobalt Construction Co.

For more than 60 years and three generations, Cobalt Construction Co. enjoys a rich family heritage deeply-rooted in the heavy civil construction industry. The post-WWII era found tunneling expert Harvey Kruse in the Southern California region, building a growing metropolitan area’s infrastructure.

Times and methods have changed, but Cobalt remains dedicated to its core mission to provide high quality services in an efficient and effective manner to meet their customer’s project goals. President Darin Kruse says his goal today is to continue recognizing new opportunities where the company can apply its extensive range of talents to satisfy deficiencies in the marketplace. “Our diversification and dynamic set of self performed skills are unique to our market and distinguish Cobalt in the industry,” Kruse said.

The Simi Valley, Calif.-based general contractor is especially active in both the affordable multi-family housing and heavy civil sectors of the construction market. Even as other markets are impacted by the slow economy, Cobalt’s affordable multifamily housing market remains healthy. “We have a very specialized niche in our general contracting business, and we’ve maintained some semblance of stability, as a result,” Kruse says. “We’re very client-driven and in this market accurate cost and construction schedule forecasting are paramount. Our continued partnership with many long-time customers and familiarity with this specialized market has resulted in an excellent reputation and repeat business. This work is providing a strong foundation for us.”

Although the company has remained sound during difficult times, Cobalt has not been immune to recent industry struggles. “Our heavy civil market has been significantly impacted by tight credit and contraction in the housing industry,” Kruse says.

In response, Kruse continues to stay informed of market trends and challenges and point the company toward customers who have unmet needs. “The market in some areas has completely dried up and disappeared, so the challenge to people like us who make a living in this industry is to remain flexible enough to modify our business plan in response to the changing markets and demands,” he remarks. “Our success is dictated by an ability to recognize a need and fill it.”

For example, in an effort to increase efficiencies in building underground parking structures in urban areas, Cobalt recently developed an innovative method to construct subterranean space called ShorWall. ShorWall is a system that applies many of the elements utilized in the tunnel industry such as pre-cast segments to create a subterranean struc­ture that maximizes usable space and reduces time and cost when compared to conventional methods. “The development of ShorWall was basically a ‘technology transfer,’” Kruse says. “We took tried and tested solutions that have been used for many years in the tunneling industry and applied them to a market need to cost effectively construct large underground spaces in urban settings.” ShorWall has been patented and is currently ready for introduction to the market.  

Standout Projects

Cobalt recently recognized an opportunity in the development of utility grade solar power fields. Capitalizing on this opportunity, Cobalt has successfully applied its expertise to provide design and construction management services to Europe’s largest photovoltaic electric power generating field cons­t­ructed to date. The $300 million project, located in Montalto, Italy, was completed in November 2010 after seven months of work. Cobalt provided a variety of services for the 45-megawatt project, from civil design and value engineering to onsite construction management of all civil activities. “On this project, we were able to take a number of different corporate skills that we have used for years here in the U.S., and apply them to a new and growing industry in Europe,” Kruse says. 

Although the photovoltaic industry has been around and growing for many years, the movement toward green energy has only fueled this growth. “In order to make these systems as efficient as possible, companies are working to find ways to take the systems off the roof, scale them up, and build them on the ground,” Kruse says. “The industry is grappling with how to build photovoltaic systems with a new founding element, which is soil. This need fits directly with what we know and have been practicing for years.”

Strategic Success

One of the most valuable ways the company has remained successful throughout the years is to simply stay true to its corporate mission of meeting customer needs through the vehicle of a team’s strengths and expertise. “As a manager, we must constantly remember that there are no Supermen and that every employee doesn’t have to be everything to everyone,” Kruse says. “The best way to staff a job is to understand the strengths of the in­di­vidual team members and combine them to efficiently meet all the pro­j­ect requirements.

“There’s a reason it’s called ‘human resource,’” Kruse adds. “Here at Cobalt, we stress the importance of recognizing employee strengths and applying that valuable resource to areas of the company where an individual can find success, both for themselves as well as the organization. There are people who are inclined toward the field, and others who would rather manage the work using a mouse and keyboard. It’s so important to properly align these skills and value each of them.”

Kruse is especially proud of the company’s ability to develop talented teams featuring a diversified staff with a strategic and dynamic set of skills. “Every employee who walks through our door is important to us and treated like family,” he adds. “They’re the ones who help us day in and day out to respond to the needs of our customers and make this company what it is. I’m just here to help.”

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