McKenzie’s Next Move

by Beth Hester

For more than four decades, McKenzie Construction Corporation (MCC) has been an industry leader in the mid-major company size category. Their reputation for excellence is exemplified by the consistently high ethical standards they set for themselves and by the build quality of the numerous commercial, municipal, health care and educational projects in their portfolio. One would be hard-pressed to travel anywhere in Coastal Virginia or northeastern North Carolina without encountering one of their beautifully constructed buildings.

A brief client list reads like a Who’s Who compilation: Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Cape Henry Collegiate School, Checkered Flag Auto Group, Tidewater Community College, City of Chesapeake, Lynnhaven Mall, NASA Langley, Wycliffe Presbyterian Church, Old Donation School’s Brickell Academy for Advanced Academics and Arts and the Department of Defense.

“When we embark on a construction project, it’s always with an eye toward the future and a desire to elevate the surrounding community,” Company President Robert H. McKenzie Jr. explains. “It’s a school that will educate future creators, engineers or perhaps a future senator. It’s a 911 facility that supports first responders, training classes and municipal disaster mobilization. It’s a library where people can study or a commercial destination that will grow the local economy. We take pride in the fact that we’re not just in the business of building structures—we want our buildings to support generational growth. We want our buildings to last.”

It’s that attitude that caught the eye of South Carolina-based company M.B. Kahn Construction Company’s leadership in the mid-’90s when they were involved in a joint project with MCC in North Carolina. Some two decades hence, when Kahn began to seriously explore expanding their capabilities in the mid-Atlantic region via an acquisition, they approached MCC. McKenzie had been contacted by other companies over the years, but none of those acquisition offers resonated.

“I knew that if I were to take that step, the acquiring company would have to have a similar business philosophy and culture, a quality benefits package for employees and high safety standards,” McKenzie relates. “I have long-time employees who are like family, and I needed to know that they would experience a smooth transition, and that the acquiring company would deliver a stable working environment. Because of our positive relationship with M.B. Kahn, and my knowledge of their business practices and track record, I was confident they’d be good partners.”

Kahn provides construction services for all market sectors and has been in business since 1927. Their work in the industry has garnered numerous awards, and their support of public education and community partnerships in the Southeast is noteworthy. Kahn’s president, Bob Chisholm, weighed in on their reasons joining forces with MCC.

“There were multiple reasons we felt motivated to reach out to MCC,” Chisholm explains. “There’s an attention to detail and build quality during all phases of the construction process that is exceptional. They have a strong work ethic, a great safety record, and similar core beliefs. Our areas of proficiency are complementary. Also, we’ve been thrilled with MCC’s staff of professionals, project managers, field supervisors, skilled crafts people, and administrative support, all of whom will stay on with us if they desire. MCC’s best assets are their people. So far, the transition has been seamless.”

McKenzie will remain a full-time senior vice president through summer 2023, after which he’ll take on an advisory role. Projects currently in progress will be transitioned to Kahn, and MCC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—accredited professionals with expertise in the area of green construction techniques—will be a boon to the new organization. The office will remain in its current Virginia Beach location.

What’s kept McKenzie motivated over the years, and what has he enjoyed most about being in the construction and engineering industry? “From my earliest days in engineering, I’ve always liked problem solving and the wide variety that construction projects offer,” McKenzie shares. “Each one has its own set of challenges and opportunities. Construction is tangible, and I enjoy seeing an idea develop and come to fruition.

“Something about the way we’ve always operated remained in the minds of Kahn’s leadership all those years. That’s no small feat. We’ve always done things with integrity, and I love how my role in the industry has grown. When I started in the business, the projects were in the $100,000 range, now, I’ve overseen projects in the range of $85 million. At MCC, our role was to build something that was more than mere structural ‘products.’ We’ve created buildings that will serve people who are not yet born. There’s great satisfaction in that.”

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