A Business Built Amid Wars

In rural Ohio, Bogner Construction Company has stood strong for more than 100 years. “The reason we’ve been able to be successful is our diversity,” president Theodore “Ted” R. Bogner says. “In this part of Ohio, you have to be able to do a variety of different things and meet a variety of different challenges, primarily as a general contractor.”

The firm’s rich history includes construction of many of the area’s historic buildings, one of its founders became a mayor, and at the turn of the century, it progressively employed Italian artisans. “They didn’t speak any English, and my grandfather spoke no Italian—and you didn’t have withholding and tax reporting in those days, so he put them down as Italian No. 1, Italian No. 2, Italian No. 3, etc,” Ted says. Such stories evidence the firm’s long path into the present age.

Nowadays, Bogner Construction comprises 50 to 200 employees, depending on the season, and it takes on entire projects from start to completion, including manning and administration. It also remains embedded in the local business scene—still working with some of the same large clients that helped it launch four generations ago.

1897: Bogner Construction is founded

In Wooster, Ohio, Theodore I. Bogner (left), who specializes in carpentry and rigging, founds the construction company with his brothers, who are also carpenters. The Bogners at this time have already been in town for a generation. “My great-grandfather was a blacksmith and a rigger,” Ted says. “In the Civil War, he built pontoons.”

1901–1909: Key relationships formed

Partnered informally, Theodore and William Long enter into relationships with seven local organizations. Their company continues to work on projects annually for these and other key clients, including (listed here under their 2011 names) the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, the Gerstenslager Company, the Wooster Brush Company, Wayne County Commissioners, the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce, Wooster City Schools, the College of Wooster, the city of Wooster, and PNC Bank. “This is northeastern Ohio, where we have a strong rural business ethic driven by a strong Amish contingent,” Ted says. “Three of those companies are public firms, and for them we have to have a contract. For all the rest, all our work is done on a handshake.”

1913: A formalized partnership

Long, who specializes in masonry and concrete work, formally enters the business, creating Bogner and Long Construction Company. He and Theodore remain partners until 1929, when Long retires and is elected as mayor of Wooster, holding the position for about a decade. Theodore continues running the company as Theodore Bogner Carpenter and Builder until 1945.

Late 1944: A pact in Foggia, Italy

Richard Bogner (pictured right, on the right), a master sergeant with the 34th Infantry Division, is on the west side of the Apennine Mountains when he’s wounded near Bologna, Italy. Given a silver star and sent to Rome to recuperate, he hitches a ride to visit his brother, Pete, who is stationed on the east side of the Apennines, at Foggia, with the 8th Air Force. “In a local tavern they made a pact that if both made it through the war, they would come home and join their father in the construction business as the second generation,” Ted says. Later, happily, they both make it home, and Theodore Bogner and Sons, Inc. becomes a leading general contractor in central Ohio.

1966: Ted Bogner joins the firm

After graduating with a degree in construction from Arizona State University, Ted (left) almost goes another route. “I interviewed with one of the largest firms in the US, and they wanted to send me to Vietnam to rebuild bridges,” he says. While he’s contemplating that opportunity (which he admittedly “wasn’t real crazy about”), he gets a telegram from his uncle that reads: “Opening in this company. Please consider.”

1966–1979: The second generation grows up

“Putting my father and I together in the same office was like putting two wildcats in a gunny sack, so I worked out in the field as a project superintendant,” Ted says. “When my father retired in late 1979, I came into the office.” Ted Bogner manages projects ranging from hospitals to educational facilities to a series of grocery stores. In 1970, Bob Bogner also joins the firm after serving a 14-month tour of duty in Vietnam.

1979: Reclaiming a name

Ted’s cousin, Robert Bogner, becomes vice president and secretary-treasurer. The two take over management of the company and restore the original name: Bogner Construction Company.

1987–1989: A fourth generation, a new division

Tim Bogner (Ted’s son) and Brian, Mike, and Adam Bogner (Robert’s sons) begin working at the firm (all of them pictured right). And, in 1989, Bogner Construction Management Company, Inc. is added to the business. “We formed the construction management company in response to the marketplace,” Ted says. “That’s about the time construction management started to become more prevalent.”

1990–2011: New projects, an anniversary

Bogner Construction tackles a few hallmark projects, including, in 1990, the Allen County Justice Center—a six-story jail and courtroom facility in Lima, Ohio—and, in 1994, the Wooster High School—a 386,000-square-foot education space. In 2007, at a luncheon, the firm celebrates its 100th anniversary by honoring centennial relationships with eight clients, all of whom are still going strong and who’ve been Bogner’s partners since the beginning. ABQ