Goulds still ‘digging’ Glenwood after 37 years
Having completed more than 20 construction projects in and around Glenwood Springs, many of them underground, Mark Gould figures it’s probably a good idea for him to stick around for a little while longer anyway.
“You really need a historian in the company, because when it’s time to dig something up you need someone who knows where things are,” Gould said.
The longtime owner and current CEO of Gould Construction in Glenwood Springs has been gradually passing the day-to-day operations of the family business over to his sons, Mark Jr. and Evan, same as his dad, Norm Gould, did more than a quarter century ago.
“I’m not retiring,” Mark Sr., who will be 57 in May, is quick to add. “I look at it as I’m more like the head coach and they’re the ones who put the ball in the end zone.”
Mark Jr., who will be 32 in March, is president and chief operating officer, while Evan, 30, is head of human resources, safety and compliance for the company.
The Grand Avenue bridge project, which is kicking into high gear, is a prime example of that historian role Mark Sr. talks about, as Gould Construction takes lead as a subcontractor on much of the utility work that’s part of the larger bridge replacement.
Just this week, work is starting in earnest to dig beneath the pedestrian plaza in the 700 block of Grand Avenue to begin replacing water and sewer lines that are some 20 or 30 years old. Gould Construction did the original utility work in that area, and has been called upon to do the new work.
“We know what the dirt is like, so it’s good to have a heads up on what they can expect to run into,” Gould said.
Of course, Gould Construction’s work is most visible above ground, including numerous pedestrian bridges spanning local waterways, as well as the Grizzly Creek water diversion and other infrastructure that’s part of the city of Glenwood Springs’ water system, and all of the newer facilities that were part of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Bus Rapid Transit system.
Perhaps most famously, Gould Construction was the main contractor on the Ziegler Reservoir project in Snowmass Village in October 2010 when workers unearthed one of the biggest fossil finds in recent memory. Ultimately, paleontologists recovered some 4,826 bones from 26 different Ice Age species, including mammoths, mastodons and bisons, dating to between 130,000 and 150,000 years ago.
Most of the company’s $15 million to $20 million worth of work annually is done within a 90-mile radius of Glenwood Springs, including projects in Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose, Craig, Rangely and in the Vail Valley.
“It’s nice to get the work done and get our guys home at night,” Mark Sr. said. “Our ace in the hole is definitely the Roaring Fork Valley, though.”
DIRT IN THEIR BLOOD
The Gould family, including Mark, his parents Norm and Nancy, and two brothers, Brett and Eric, were vegetable farmers in upstate New York when the boys were growing up in the 1960s and ’70s. But Norm was also trained and worked full time as a mechanical engineer.
“We lost two years of tomato crops due to hail storms, and it was our mom’s idea to turn the farm into a trailer park,” Mark Sr. said.
In doing so, they decided to do their own dirt work, and thus was born Norm Gould & Sons Excavating.
“I was out on a backhoe and 13, and drove my first tractor at 9,” he said.
A Boy Scout trip to New Mexico and Colorado in 1975 was Mark’s first visit to the Rocky Mountains, and he said he pretty much fell in love with it.
Ironically, the Goulds ended up buying a backhoe from future Glenwood Springs residents John and Barb Sherman back in New York and got to know them just before they moved out west.
“They suggested we come out and visit,” Mark said. But he and the rest of the family had its sights set on more than just a visit.
“We moved to Colorado the day after I graduated from high school in 1977,” he said.
The family bought the Ponderosa Lodge in West Glenwood and Nancy ran it for several years. In 1979, Norm Gould & Sons Construction was formed, providing excavation services mostly for housing developments and individual homes.
After graduating from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1982 with a bachelor’s in structural engineering and a master’s in geotechnical engineering, Mark joined the company. He was named president of the company in 1985, a year after his mother died, and in 1990 he purchased the company after his dad had a heart attack and couldn’t work anymore.
“The doctor told him to take it easy, or he wouldn’t see his grand kids grow up,” Mark said. “Now he’s getting to see his great grand kids grow up.”
The company name was changed to Gould Construction in 1991, and Mark’s brother, Brett, also put in 20-plus years with the company. In recent years both Mark Jr. and Evan decided to join the family business after they graduated from CU-Boulder and CU-Colorado Springs, respectively.
Mark Sr. said the ancient proverb, “Shirt Sleeves to Shirt Sleeves in Three Generations,” where a family’s livelihood and wealth is passed down through the generations, is probably more alive in the construction trades than anywhere else these days.
“You have to focus on the leadership side before the financial side,” he said. “It’s not by chance that a company gets passed on through the family, you have to have leadership and training in place. For us, we want to make sure someone can run the company after me.”
He said one of the “most fun” things about being a prominent builder was when his sons were young and hearing stories about them riding the bus and pointing out to the other kids all of the things around town that their dad had helped build.
Evan and Mark Jr. said it just seemed natural to follow in the family business.
“My dad’s one of my biggest heroes,” Evan said. “He’s been successful, and I want the same for my family. I think we’re all passionate in that way.
“When I was in high school and college I brainstormed a lot about what I would do with my life, and I kept coming back to this,” he said, adding he hopes to instill that same passion in his own young children.
Mark Jr. agreed.
“I had a lot of discussions about it with my (then) fiancée just before I graduated from college,” he said. “We decided this was our best opportunity.
“I just felt that with my education and my upbringing it was where I could make an impact, not just with the business, but in the community and in the industry as a whole,” Mark Jr. said.
One ethic that’s certainly strong in the Gould family is giving back to the community that’s supported them over the years. That’s how Norm Gould, now 78, wanted to raise his family.
After moving to Glenwood Springs, he and Nancy became involved ministering to the inmates at the Rifle Correctional Facility and at other prisons in the state.
“It was the right thing to do,” the elder Gould said. “We were so blessed to be able to help them out, and there was never any judgment about why they were there.
“Love is the answer, no matter the question,” he says, adding he made a point to involve himself in the community in different ways, including playing Taps at area Memorial Day services every year.
Mark and his sons have given back as well, from Mark Sr.’s many years serving on the Valley View Hospital board and Colorado Mountain College’s board of advisors, to Mark Jr.’s work with Rotary and the Aspen Community Foundation’s Cradle to Career business roundtable.
“Mark is very generous, and not only that he’s a great son,” Norm said. “And his boys are wonderful kids, and are always willing to help other people.”
Mark Sr. and his wife, Mary Gould, were named Citizens of the Year in 2014 as part of the annual Glenwood Springs Chamber awards for their longtime community involvement. Mark is also actively involved in the Colorado Contractors Association.
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