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Jan. 7, 2021
This paid piece is sponsored by Journey Group.
Rewind a year, and most of Randy’s Knecht’s to-do list consisted of key projects Journey Group planned to tackle in 2020.
Then came “a year unlike any other I’ve experienced in my career or history with Journey,” the CEO said.
“I was proud of how our team reacted, responded and pulled together. Amazingly, we did really well.”
Journey quickly formed a COVID response team and established new and ongoing procedures for keeping projects moving forward while minimizing risk to all involved.
“That was a challenge that hit us in mid-March, and up until that point, we probably had more work and backlog than anytime in our history, so we were expecting a really, really strong 2020,” Knecht said.
“And fortunately, none of the projects we had already started building were shut down, so we continued to work through it.”
The year brought some significant projects to completion too, including a trio of impactful additions to downtown Sioux Falls.
“We’ve really enjoyed being able to play a role in so many projects that are going to serve downtown for decades,” Knecht said. “Our teams are proud of this work and enjoy showing the completed projects to their family and friends.”
Journey’s SFC Civil Constructors division finished an extensive rehabilitation of the Eighth Street bridge, including eliminating the center turn lane and adding a widened pedestrian area along both the north and south sides of the bridge.
Finishing touches included new street lighting, along with accent lights under the new balustrade and uplighting under each archway.
“Having the opportunity to rebuild this bridge after our enhancements years ago was very rewarding to our team,” Knecht said. “It was really fun to see the excitement from the downtown community and the 8th & Railroad businesses when this bridge opened up again, reconnecting downtown again.”
Journey also delivered the new city-owned, seven-story downtown parking ramp on Mall Avenue, adding 500 spaces to downtown with the potential for future mixed-use development.
And the year ended on an especially high note with the reopening of the historic State Theatre. Journey began the project in the fall of 2019, blending construction with art and historic preservation.
The modern movie house has been restored to its original grandeur and already is serving as a destination for downtown visitors.
“We were absolutely honored to reconstruct this iconic building that will provide entertainment in downtown Sioux Falls for families and friends for years and years to come,” Knecht said.
The coming year will bring more new additions and more stories to tell about building community. Journey is on track to wrap up construction of the new Jefferson High School in the spring and turn it over to the Sioux Falls School District in May.
“They’re already starting to install interior furnishes, but the turnover will be around May or June, and it will be opening up for the start of school in 2021.”
Railyard Flats, the first new mixed-use project on part of the former downtown rail yard site, also is on track to begin moving in residents this summer.
“And we’re working on The First National Bank in Sioux Falls renovation. The exterior skin of the building is coming off nicely, and that will continue into 2021,” Knecht said.
“Following the exterior, we’ll begin an interior renovation, so our presence downtown is continuing. We’ve been really fortunate to be doing work for First National Bank down there for the last several years.”
An unexpected boost to the 2021 plan came from the recently announced $28 million expansion of Avera Behavioral Health Center in southwest Sioux Falls.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” Knecht said. “The Helmsley Trust came through with a gift that really propelled that project to start, and it was a great one to help us carry through the winter. This will be a tremendous addition for filling a need for care focused on our youth population.”
The Avera Behavioral Health project will be one of many continuing in 2021 with a 2022 opening. Journey also will start a three-story, 45,000-square-foot facility at USD in the spring that will serve as its new health sciences center.
And spring will bring the start of a major warehouse and office expansion at the Sioux Falls headquarters of Furniture Mart USA.
“We just learned on Christmas Eve we’d be building that project, so it was a great Christmas gift for us,” Knecht said. “It’s a great organization that does work all over the Upper Midwest, and hopefully it’s a relationship we’ll be able to build and continue to work with them in the future.”
Journey also feels fortunate to have a hand in the city’s largest-ever construction project, he said. The company is working with Gage Brothers Concrete Products to erect the precast panels needed for Amazon’s new fulfillment center.
“We’ll have some roles out there, and there’s opportunity to be involved further because it’s just such a large project. It’s great for the local construction economy as a whole to have Amazon starting that project,” Knecht said.
SFC Civil Constructors is building on a strong backlog of exciting bridge improvements heading into 2021 and will be starting with a bridge project on Interstate 90 near Salem as a subcontractor, along with a significant bridge project in Brookings County.
“We also had a really good year in our Black-Top Paving division in 2020, and that continues to grow with being able to offer full-service solutions,” Knecht said. “We added three concrete crews, and that division has been doing work all over the city.”
“Our Black-Top team has really created an awesome culture. They have a cohesive work environment, they work hard, they watch out for one another and are really proud of their work. It’s been fun to see this team thriving.”
Strategically, Journey has been working on plans to expand geographically and into new market sectors. “We are excited to share more as this unfolds in the coming months,” he added.
“One of the challenges that’s been a result of our success is that some of our divisions are seasonal work, and historically that has meant annual layoffs, and then restarting in the spring can be difficult, so one thing we’re working on is what we can do to keep our people employed through the winter months,” Knecht said.
“We have some great people, and there’s always the risk they may not come back.”
Culturally and operationally, the company is building on its lean construction initiative in the coming year.
“2020 was such an anomaly that it put a lot of things on hold, and we couldn’t get our teams together as we have in the past, so we’re looking forward to regrouping in 2021 with the vaccine being distributed,” Knecht said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of leadership development and work, and that’s another initiative that doesn’t work very well through virtual meetings, so we’re looking excited to reignite that in 2021.”
Career and development manager Anna Leisa Sauser is leading the effort from a talent perspective, helping Journey rethink the way it invests in people.
“I honestly believe the work we’ve done around leadership development is the initiative that has really changed the culture of the organization for the better, and that ROI we’ve got on that investment — and training and developing our leaders to be better leaders and managers — is starting to show results,” Knecht said.
“It’s one of those things you can’t just do once and think magic happens. You have to continue to invest in it. Here’s to reigniting efforts and working together to improve our businesses and communities in 2021!”
For information on Journey Group, visit JourneyConstruction.com.
His to-do list includes some of the biggest projects shaping the future of Sioux Falls. We checked in with Journey’s CEO for a look at the year ahead.