How Jackrabbits are helping shape the Sioux Falls skyline

Behind a nearly $2 billion building year is a lot of yellow and blue.

The city of Sioux Falls set a record for building permit valuation in 2022 – and this year is off to a strong start, too, with permits totaling $377.5 million through April.

“The growth Sioux Falls has had in the last few years is unbelievable, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon either,” said Jake Weber, a project manager with Puetz Design + Build.

He’s one of hundreds of SDSU grads helping to create a new skyline in the fast-growing city.

Representing their fellow grads in this photo taken at Falls Park are Mike Ralston, class of 2009, pre-construction services manager, and Jerry Fromm, class of 2001, president, both at Henry Carlson Construction; Levi Pfeil, class of 2016 and 2018, and Brian Skrovig, class of 2014 or 2016, both architects with CO-OP Architecture; and Matt Hohn, class of 2008, vice president of construction services with Mammoth Sports Construction.

“Every project I’m involved in has SDSU grads, mainly in the management and design perspective,” said Aaron Eich, a senior project manager with Journey Construction.

“We don’t ever have a project that doesn’t have an SDSU grad on it.”

With thousands of new residents each year, Sioux Falls has become a magnet for those schooled in construction, engineering, design and virtually every other construction-related field – and SDSU is preparing them for those career opportunities.

“Everything that is coming to Sioux Falls is mind-boggling. There is something new in every area of Sioux Falls. One thing gets finished, and another is rolling,” said Weber, a 2019 construction management graduate who grew up in Parkston.

“What Sioux Falls is doing is wonderful, bringing in multiple franchises and local businesses as well as bringing people from all over the United States to this area.”

Creating the Sanford Sports Complex

Mammoth Sports Construction, which started as an artificial turf company and expanded to sports-related construction, is helping shape the face of the popular Sanford Sports Complex.

It helped build the latest addition to the complex, which opened late 2021 and includes 1.7 million square feet of artificial turf on five baseball fields, five softball fields and eight multipurpose soccer and lacrosse fields.

Mammoth also replaced the infield for the Sioux Falls Canaries, built new football and softball fields for Augustana University and has several high school projects under contract.

“They’re all unique, but the Sanford Sports Complex has a special place because of its complexity, and it’s one of a kind. It was the largest turf project in the nation at the time it was bid,” said Matt Hohn, vice president of construction operations for Mammoth and a 2008 construction management grad.

Hohn, a Tri-Valley High School graduate, noted that the site is 5 miles from where he grew up and where his parents still live.

“I know this project is going to affect my community; it is going to affect my kids (age 4 and 2) for years and years to come,” said Hohn, who also lives in that quadrant of Sioux Falls.

Hohn joined Mammoth in 2021 after working in large commercial construction in Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas.

“Hands down, one of the best parts of the job is having that pride, that sense of community. … You’re affecting a family, you’re affecting a group of students in a way they haven’t been affected before. There’s a tangible benefit to doing construction. There’s something to be seen when you’re all said and done.”

Sioux Falls in ‘unprecedented territory’

Jerry Fromm is president of Henry Carlson Construction, a position he has held for six years.

The 2001 construction management graduate said construction in Sioux Falls is in “unprecedented territory.”

“From residential projects to small commercial projects, to large projects, to mega projects like the Amazon distribution center. It’s not just one sector of the industry, but it’s up and down the spectrum that is seeing unprecedented growth. That brings labor challenges, and we have had to find different sources of people, different ways to attract talent. The laborer, journeymen and supervisors all have seen significant pay increases in the last 18 months.”

That’s reflected in the interest in the industry from students and the demand for them from employers.

Janet Merriam, a construction management faculty member at SDSU, said the program has seen 95 percent job placement in the past 10 years.

Fromm, who has experienced Sioux Falls’ growth for the past 22 years after growing up and going to school in New Ulm, Minnesota, said Henry Carlson has 170 employees, with 18 field leaders and project managers with construction management degrees from SDSU, which is more than 50 percent of its management positions.

An SDSU grad on every project

Eich, the Journey senior project manager, is a 2007 graduate from the manufacturing, engineering and technology program, which is not a curriculum designed to produce building contractors.

“I jumped into the construction industry without having a construction background, but the diversity of the different degree opportunities opens you up for several avenues,” said Eich, who met one of the vice presidents of Sioux Falls Construction — now Journey Construction — when he was a sophomore in college.

About six months before graduation, he reconnected with Journey, interviewed and was hired.

“Now more than ever, how manufacturing relates to construction is huge with lead time and understanding people’s manufacturing processes. We’re working with 30 to 40 vendors at any given project. Understanding that (manufacturing) side of things is important,” said Eich, who grew up on a farm near Epiphany and graduated from Hanson High School in Alexandria.

“Today with prefabrication, using manufactured pieces is becoming a more common construction practice. A lot more stuff is being built in the factory rather than being put together piece by piece in the field.”

Architects find success

While SDSU has been enrolling construction management graduates since 1994, it is relatively new at bringing architectural graduates into the construction industry.

Brian Skrovig, an architect with CO-OP Architecture in Sioux Falls, was in SDSU’s first class to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture — 2014 and 2016, respectively.

The Colton native and Tri-Valley High School graduate joined CO-OP in May after six years with a New Haven, Connecticut, firm that did a wide variety of international commercial work.

“I worked with people from Yale, Cornell, Penn State, schools with established architectural degrees,” Skrovig said. “I came from an architecture school that was brand-new. My education allowed me to collaborate with individuals in the architectural market and not be behind because I went to a small land-grant school in a relatively rural area.

“I was able to work at a design architecture firm that works around the world. I never ever felt like I was lacking because of my education. In fact, I kind of felt the opposite sometimes.”

The day Jacob Ricke started at JLG Architects, there hadn’t been a graduate from SDSU’s architecture program for him to look up to. The 2019 master’s graduate said that has now changed.

“The things that have happened at the SDSU architecture department have been really impressive and rewarding,” he said.

“The impact you can have in South Dakota is just as much as if not more than in other places because of the scale of our communities and the connections we all have toward South Dakota.” Read the story at Pigeon605.