Growth strategies

Hooper Corp. president plans big despite the ongoing skills gap.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Crazy as it may seem, Steve Lindley, the relatively new president of Hooper Corp., and Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer, Jerry Kramer, share a common bond — despite their age differences. They both grew up in the small northern town of Sandpoint, Idaho, went to the same high school, and even graduated from the same college, the University of Idaho.

Kramer, of course, went on to a storied career in pro football, while Lindley chose a professional public accounting career, or so he thought. He worked for KPMG and then in internal audit before finding a job as a controller in the construction field.

Along the way, Lindley lived and worked all around the country, from the Cascade Mountains to the east and west coasts and countless places in between. He spent 26 years in the electric power industry, at one time running the transmission distribution work for most of the East Coast. He came to Madison in 2008.

But never did he foresee sitting at the helm of an electric power and mechanical contracting company with 300-plus employees and a 107-year history.

“I didn’t know anything about construction,” he admits, “but I’m here because others along the way helped me get here, and I’m honored that they believed in me.”

IB: Tell us about Hooper Corp.

Lindley: On the electric transmission side, we build power lines, substations, and all the infrastructure that brings power to buildings. We work with Madison Gas & Electric and also handle tree trimming for them, as well. We do plumbing, HVAC, and run fire-protection systems. There’s hardly a marquee project that we haven’t worked on around here, including Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, or the Kohl Center, The Spark/StartingBlock, or The Mead Witter School of Music’s Hamel Music Center.

In 1994 we purchased General Heating & Air Conditioning, so we do some residential work, as well.

IB: What’s your strategic growth plan?

Lindley: Managed growth, taking care of our people and our customers, and reinvesting in our community and our company. We’re looking to build an entirely new campus here in Dane County in the next couple of years — with a new office building and fabrication facility.

Growth is a constant. We recently purchased a gas-distribution company in Indiana, so we’ll be burying gas lines eventually, but not until we can do it right.

IB: Thoughts about the skills gap?

Lindley: Hooper Corp. is involved in a lot of projects, from hospitals, to high-tech, to manufacturing, and some residential. Building things is what we do. We need skilled tradespeople but finding them right is truly a challenge. Not everyone needs to go to college and rack up a mountain of student debt. Many people prefer to work with their hands, learn lifelong skills, and make darned good money.

IB: Is there a project you’re jazzed about?

Lindley: We’re involved in the Great Northern Transmission Line project in Minnesota and installing 220 miles of 550 kilovolt line through swampland. That involves building unique foundations and ice roads during the winter months. Structures are being flown in and most wire work is done by helicopter. It’s probably one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever been involved in. Projects like that don’t come along too often and take years and years of planning.

IB: Who most influenced your career?

Lindley: Years ago in Detroit, I worked for Richard “Dick” Miller who asked me to step out of my comfort zone and into operations in Cleveland. He’s in his 80s now and works for us, so it’s come full-circle. I simply would not be here without him.

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