Proud to be a Vogel
As the fourth-generation leader of a large construction firm, Pete Vogel shares thoughts on his family’s company and a challenging job market.
Pete Vogel at Vogel Bros. Building Co. in Madison. Behind him, over 100 antique tools are on display, including some his great-grandfather George C. Vogel created for a horse-and-buggy business.
Photograph by Shawn Harper
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Pete Vogel, president/CEO at Vogel Bros. Building Co., represents the fourth generation of a family business that continues to change the southern Wisconsin landscape.
The company incorporated in 1928. A year later, the stock market crashed, but Vogel Bros. and other area businesses persevered. “We’re just one of many great Madison companies that were around in 1928, but yes, we’re very proud of our longevity and the projects we’re involved in,” he says.
Soon after incorporating, the company built its first large commercial project, the Eastwood Theater, now known as the Barrymore Theatre. In the 1980s, Pete’s dad, David, opened an office in Florida that is now being run by Darren Vogel, Pete’s nephew who represents the company’s fifth generation. Following are snippets of our recent conversation about the family business.
IB: 30-second elevator pitch?
Vogel: Vogel Bros. is a full-service general contractor that specializes in construction management/design-build work. We serve a wide range of markets with a large focus on science, technology, and corporate facilities. We also do community facility work, like the Goodman Community Center, the Willy St. Co-op., and tenant improvement projects, as well. We’re also very excited to be a part of an improvement project at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. In Florida, we’ve worked on a state fish hatchery, and we build wastewater treatment plants.
IB: What do you love about construction?
Vogel: What we do enhances the life and the people in the communities we serve. Whether it’s a house of worship, an education facility, a community center, or building Stratatech’s new lab at University Research Park, it’s all impacting the future.
I never want anyone on our job sites to think they’re just building buildings. They have to understand the vision of what that client will be doing with the building, because the client sees a much bigger picture down the road.
IB: How would you characterize the industry right now?
Vogel: It’s very robust. We’re fortunate in this area because the economic base has always been strong with the public and private sectors, but I think the real gem is the connection between the university and the private sector, especially with technology transfer and life sciences.
IB: What, in your opinion, is the secret to Vogel Bros.’ longevity?
Vogel: I firmly believe it’s having a strong and well-defined culture. That’s what has provided for our multigenerational stability and why we have the people we have. They believe in it, too.
IB: Speaking of labor, how’s the market?
Vogel: I don’t think there’s an industry out there that’s not feeling the strains of a challenging jobs market and a robust economy. We’re all trying to attract talent, but there’s a demographic economy working against us with the baby boomers moving out and a population that isn’t growing quickly enough on the opposite end.
IB: How does the industry adjust?
Vogel: We work smarter and leaner. We’ll continue to see innovations in how buildings are put together — improvements in materials, automation, and prefabrication will definitely come into play.
IB: As workforces become more mobile, will large office buildings be justified?
Vogel: We work with many clients who do a lot of telecommuting or have remote workforces. Personally, I think human interaction and teamwork is tough to replace with Skype or some other technology.