Outstanding Directors 2023: John Himle
Other Board Service
Canterbury Park Holding Corp. (2019-present)
Public Affairs Council (2002-present)
Gustavus Adolphus College (1991-1999, 2022-present)
Norway House (2020-23)
Minneapolis Institute of Art/Mia (1995-2014)
The Nature Conservancy, Regional Chapter (2001-08)
Metropolitan Airports Commission (1991-2000)
George W. Bush was in the first year of his presidency when Bruce Engelsma and John Himle forged their business relationship.
Engelsma and Himle have strengthened their working partnership at Kraus-Anderson Cos. through four presidential administrations and wide swings in the economy.
“John brings a really calming perspective to our board,” says Bruce Engelsma, Kraus-Anderson Cos. chairman and CEO. “John’s been just an invaluable resource.” Himle joined the board of the family-owned company in 2001 as an outside board director.
Himle, who founded his first Twin Cities-based public relations firm in 1982, has spent four decades advising clients. In recent years, Himle says, he’s focused on “services around providing corporate strategy and advice when companies were facing big challenges.”
Bruce Engelsma succeeded his father, Lloyd, as CEO of Kraus-Anderson in 1997 upon Lloyd’s death. “My father really built the company,” Engelsma says, which is well-known for its construction business. “My dad would describe himself as a benevolent dictator,” he says with a laugh. His father didn’t hold board meetings, but “as leadership transitioned to me and my brother [Dan] and our generation, we really felt it was time to formalize our board,” he says.
When Engelsma was contemplating the selection of an outside board member, a Kraus-Anderson executive recommended Himle because of his business and political experience.
Himle already knew a lot about Kraus-Anderson when he joined the board 22 years ago. In the 1980s, Himle served in the Minnesota House as a legislator from Bloomington, where Kraus-Anderson’s real estate business was based. In the 1990s, he was on the Gustavus Adolphus College board, and Kraus-Anderson constructed several buildings on the St. Peter campus.
“When I was on the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Kraus-Anderson was selected to do the overall construction management of the major expansion at MSP,” Himle says. Based on the complexity of that public infrastructure project, he says, “I came away with a very high regard of the company and its capabilities.”
Describing how Himle operates on the board, Engelsma says that he often is “gently prodding us or helping to moderate the pace of change” on business issues. “I don’t know where we’d be without his leadership,” Engelsma says. “He really brings a great perspective of what’s going on in the world, what the trends are, what you need to be aware of in business, and he has a strong business sense, too.”
Brothers Bruce and Dan Engelsma serve on the board alongside third-generation family members, Himle, and Susan Bachman West, an outside director and president of Bachman’s.
Kraus-Anderson is headquartered at 501 S. Eighth St. in Minneapolis. Its lines of business are construction, development, realty and leasing, finance, and risk and insurance.
“Succession planning at Kraus-Anderson has been going on for the last several years,” Himle says. “It’s been a very intentional process of putting the next generation [of family members] into various roles and evaluating how they are performing.”
As a board member, Himle says, he raises questions about future challenges and opportunities, which are designed to help envision how the company needs to change.
“One of the things that can be really hard in closely held family companies is the balance between respecting the culture, the success, the philosophy of the founder, while at the same time understanding that the future is changing around you,” Himle says.
“Bruce and the team have been open to looking at the world through a different lens,” Himle says, noting changes the business made around the Great Recession of 2007-09.
Lloyd Engelsma offered construction services in several locations. “It wasn’t a very efficient operation,” Bruce says, so the board and management decided to “modernize the structure of the company” through consolidation.
Engelsma sought Himle’s counsel on diversity issues. Kraus-Anderson is “trying to bring more diversity into their workforce and into their management ranks,” Himle says. “It’s not perfect. It takes a while, but they are committed to it.”