One of the most satisfying moments for anyone in construction is being able to take your family to a completed project site, look up and say, “I had a part in building that.” It’s with that same sense of awe and humility that M. A. “Mort” Mortenson, Jr., reflects on his career—and how he constructed something grand from a relatively modest foundation: namely, the firm his father began.
Revenues: $2.4 billion (2009)
What It Does: Large-scale commercial construction and engineering.
At the same time, Mortenson says that “I look at it as having [just] a part in building it, because we have so many wonderful people who have contributed to building this organization.”
Mortenson remembers regularly visiting his father’s company’s job sites at a very young age; later, he worked summers as a laborer. He left to earn a civil engineering degree at the University of Colorado, then spent two years in the Navy before joining the family company in 1960. He was working as an estimator and project manager when his father decided to retire; Mortenson succeeded him as president in 1969.
The company back then had only 15 nontrade employees. In taking charge, Mort Mortenson sought bigger challenges. “I always had this desire to have our company be involved with larger buildings, with project types that we hadn’t done before,” he recalls.
M. A. Mortenson Company had been involved in the health care industry since 1956, with its construction of the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis. Mort Mortenson built upon that with work for United-Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Fairview Southdale Hospital, and Hennepin County Medical Center.
By the 1980s, M. A. Mortenson Company had become a top builder in downtown Minneapolis. Among its most notable projects are the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Minneapolis Public Library, and Wells Fargo Center. M. A. Mortenson Company also is now one of the nation’s largest sports-facilities builders, and has engineered and constructed all of the Twin Cities’ newest stadiums: Target Center, Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium, and Target Field. Outside of Minnesota, the company’s sports projects include Coors Field in Denver.