Mark Fuglevand was born to work in the construction industry. Fuglevand is a fourth-generation contractor whose roots in the business can be traced back to Norway, from which his grandfather emigrated. As a child growing up in Montana, Fuglevand’s father owned a general contracting company, and Mark, the youngest of nine children, would spend time on weekends with his father visiting jobsites. They spent time checking progress on job sites and Mark learned how projects were built and how each piece of equipment was used. The main element he inherited was his father’s love of construction and respect for the people performing the work.
After pursuing an engineering degree in college – he earned a BS in Civil Engineering from Montana State University-Bozeman – Fuglevand migrated west to Seattle, Washington, where he began his career as a consulting engineer, not knowing he was destined to be a contractor.
Thirty-three years later – and after a few career twists and turns – Fuglevand, now a project manager with KBA Inc., is putting his construction experience to good use as the incoming chairman of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). Fuglevand officially accepted the gavel from outgoing chairperson Kara Habrock of L.G. Roloff Construction at the 2018 NUCA Annual Convention and Exhibit, March 6-9, in San Antonio, Texas.
Habrock says that Fuglevand is a good fit for his new role as NUCA chairman. “What makes Mark a good leader is that he doesn’t have a ‘defined’ leadership style,” she said. “He uses his many strengths to adapt his leadership to what the situation calls for. I admire his ability to be direct while being supportive and empowering, and he is very team-oriented.
“As I have worked with Mark on the Executive Committee over the last four years, I’ve appreciated the fact that he is always prepared and informed. He is a very good listener and he’s analytical – this means he asks great questions and is a good problem solver.”
Coming out of college, Fuglevand settled in Seattle where he had friends and family, and secured a job with the consulting firm HNTB Inc. After nearly five years working as a consultant, and hearing repeatedly to his question “how are they going to build that” and receiving the answer that “it is the contractor’s problem” he decided he would move to his true calling, contracting, to work to solve those problems. His desire to find solutions prompted his move to Spokane to work for Max J. Kuney to manage the I-90 Lid Structure, which he had helped design at HNTB, finally having the opportunity of solving “the contractor’s problems.”
After seven years in Spokane, Fuglevand decided to move his family back to Seattle where he worked briefly for Mowat Construction before taking on a new challenge as vice president of Marshbank Construction, headquartered in Lake Stevens. As lead project manager, Fuglevand directed the small earthwork, excavation, and utilities company, and was introduced to NUCA.
Eighteen years later, while contemplating his future, Fuglevand desired a new challenge and decided to explore the construction management field. He signed on with KBA in July of 2017. “It was a difficult decision to leave Marshbank, but I felt the timing was right,” he said. “I got to know KBA over the years from their work as a construction manager on some of my past projects, and they were always a fair organization that was interested in solving problems and helping the project get built.”
As mentioned, Fuglevand’s roots with NUCA trace back to his early days with Marshbank. “At the time I joined Marshbank we were a small, growing company, and we knew that we needed to get more involved in the contracting community,” he said. “At the suggestion of friends, we decided to get involved with NUCA of Washington. Almost immediately, I became part of the board and eventually reached the position of chapter president. It was at that point that I got involved with national NUCA. I felt like a bit of an outsider at first, but was intentional about meeting people and learning more about this organization, filled with great people working together to solve common problems in construction.”
His involvement with NUCA has been an important part of his professional and personal development, Fuglevand said. “I have developed friends all over the country who are just a phone call away if I need some advice – that is a big benefit,” he said. “I developed leadership skills over time enabling me to speak in front of a crowd, which play out nicely while working with contractors and owners. From a business development standpoint, the exposure and opportunities to meet owners and clients is invaluable. It gives me a chance to build trust and relationships, which go a long way in obtaining new projects to work on.”
As incoming chairman, Fuglevand sees workforce development as the top priority. “The workforce situation is scary,” he said. “At Marshbank, the crews were all in their 40s and 50s, and you wonder where the next generation of craftsmen is going to come from. There is a severe shortage of people coming into the industry. We were limited in our ability to grow simply because we could not find qualified operators, pipe layers, etc.
“We definitely need to push workforce development. We need to work with the high schools and vocational and technical training, to let students know that there are high-paying jobs available that do not depend on a college education and the debt that comes with it. I think we are slowly seeing some positive signs, but it is going to require continued effort.”
In addition to workforce development, Fuglevand cites advocacy and membership as priorities. “As a group, it is important to make sure that regulations affecting contractors are not onerous and that we are able to conduct our business without being over-regulated,” he said. “One way to achieve this is by strengthening our membership. The more members we have, the louder our voice.”
Once again working as a consultant, a role in which he began his career, Fuglevand says his experience in contracting will be a benefit. “My experience on the contracting side is already helping me as a consultant,” he said. “One of the first tasks I had was performing a constructability review, and working from the construction side for nearly 30 years I could quickly see the potential issues between design and construction. Finding those problems early on can help save time and money further down the road.”
But, no matter what the role, the key to successfully completing projects is managing people. “Construction is a people business – the construction itself is sometimes the easy part,” Fuglevand said. “For any project, you need to make sure you have the right team and everyone needs to understand their role. If you have a good plan and can keep your crews motivated and happy, that goes a long way toward successfully completing a job.”
Additionally, it is the people that stand out when the job is done. “Most of the time when you look back at a job, you remember the people,” he said. “That is why I believe it is important to know the people who are working for you – no matter what their position is. You won’t be able to accomplish anything if everyone is not pulling in the same direction.”
Who is KBA Inc.?
For more than 24 years, KBA Inc., headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, has successfully managed public and private construction projects, earning the trust and respect of clients. KBA is small enough to be flexible and responsive, yet big enough to manage large and complex projects. The firm’s staff is unique in that most have worked in multiple segments of the industry, including representing the engineer, contractor, and/or owner.
KBA Inc. has worked on over $7 billion of some of the Puget Sound area’s most technically challenging and complex construction projects, including roads, bridges, highways, transit, water, wastewater, buildings, land development and port facilities. Services include construction management, project and program management, and value-added specialty services.
The employee-owned firm was founded in 1994 by Kristen A. Betty, P.E., and is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and a Small Business Enterprise (SBE).
Jim Rush is editor of Utility Contractor.