Kelley Construction has come a long way since 1978 when Joe Kelley Sr., started the business out of his Louisville, Kentucky basement. Back then, Kelley and his wife, Joy, focused on small jobs for large local companies such as GE, Phillip Morris and Dupont, often doing the heavy industrial work that bigger firms didn’t want. When Joe Sr. retired in 1995, his sons, Joe and Mark, took the helm as co-owners. Serving in different roles, they are two distinct parts of a unified whole.

They both went to work for their father right out of high school, literally learning the business from the ground up. Joe remembers that from the beginning it wasn’t about getting paid by clients, it was about getting called back. That emphasis on building relationships is among several of their father’s values that still drives the company’s success today.

A focus on relationships

Joe Kelley Sr.’s vision was about more than growing his company; he had a passion for providing high-quality work that exceeded client expectations. Kelley Construction’s continued growth is based on that commitment to excellence and building strong relationships so customers continue to come back to Kelley. “We cut our teeth on making sure we did a great job and we learned how to service the customer,” explains company president Joe Kelley. Vice president Mark Kelley echoes his brother’s sentiments, noting that the foundation and culture of Kelley Construction remains a priority.

“The emphasis on people is what sets us apart. Whether it’s a customer or an employee, we value relationships,” notes Mark.

The relationships they have fostered locally have carried them a long way. Kelley Construction boasts an impressive 80 percent repeat business rate. In fact, many of their clients trust Kelley as they expand outside the city or state. “We work with many of our local clients on national growth,” Joe said, “That’s something the we are very proud of.” The large majority of Kelley’s presence in other states has stemmed from relationships built with local companies. Outside of the oil and gas industry, 90 percent of their national work starts locally.

A commitment to quality

The Kelleys have been bold and innovative, taking a small construction company and transforming it into the national brand it is today. Their work now extends across a diverse range of industries.

Tiffany Kelley Jenkins is one of four third-generation employees currently working at Kelley Construction. Jenkins, Executive Vice President of the Commercial, Healthcare and Food Service division, says Kelley Construction maintains their edge by staying sharp and abreast of the latest technologies to keep the business moving forward.

Like Jenkins, each of the third-generation Kelleys has embraced the business. “They are all truly dedicated to the company,” says Mark Kelley, with each one bringing in their own talents and expertise.

But the emphasis on family goes beyond those who share the family name. “When I think of the business, I think of the Kelley Construction family, not just the Kelley family,” Jenkins says. “That includes every one of the people who work here. Each member of the extended Kelley family has played a part in the success of the company in Louisville and beyond.”

A drive for excellence

Kelley Construction is currently licensed in 49 states and has more than 200 employees. With offices in Louisville and Houston, Texas, it averages 40 to 50 active projects in around 35 states at any given time. Although the company has expanded well beyond its modest beginnings, the core principles that led to its success haven’t changed in the 40 years Kelley Construction has been in business. A continued commitment to exceeding customer expectations through high-quality, value-driven work not only keeps their clients coming back for more, it has earned them accolades on the local and national level.

For a second year, the company was ranked number one general contractor in the Book of Lists published by Business First. In addition, they were honored with a national industry recognition as a Top 400 General Contractor for the Engineering News-Record. But their goal is never about being number one. “We want to be known as best in class and if that happens to wind us up at number one, even better,” said Joe.

At present, the company’s success means they are building for their future. In fact, Kelley Construction has outgrown their current space in Blankenbaker Station. “By September of this year, one of our divisions will temporarily relocate to a leased location nearby,” said Joe Kelley. “That will allow us to continue to grow with the market demand.” In the meantime, the company plans to work with an architect on a new headquarters in Louisville to increase capacity, allowing all divisions to be back in one location, something that is very important to them.

Kelley Construction operates today with as much drive for the future as it did in 1978. Joe Kelley said he gets up every day just as passionate as the day he started. And though the company just celebrated its 40th Anniversary, Mark Kelley said, “in many ways it feels like we are just getting started.”