David Business; Goliath Dreams

Staying small and spunky is how this builder keeps his edge

by Mary S. Landon

prof_con_lead_jc_36In 1994, David Bogue put his 16 years of construction scheduling, estimating, and project managing experience to work for himself when he opened Professional Construction Inc. Since then, he has created a niche for smaller commercial projects that can be completed without interfering with the clients’ activities.

What does a busy civil engineer and construction expert do to kick back? In the case of David M. Bogue, the owner and president of Professional Construction Inc., playing competitive league basketball for 40 years does the trick. “I stopped last year when it caught up with me,” the tall 54-year-old says with a chuckle.

That focus on teamwork is a common theme underlying Bogue’s long career as he has built a reputation as a hard-working and affable general contractor. Professional Construction is a general contracting, construction management, and design/build company. “We work primarily on commercial, corporate, industrial, and public construction projects, as well as multi-unit residential jobs,” explains Bogue.

Established in 1994, the company is located in South Burlington, but for his first eight years of business, Bogue worked out of a home office. “This situation was ideal for us,” he says. We had the room, and I was able to make my own schedule work around the plans of our kids. I loved being involved with so many aspects of their lives.”

Bogue grew up in Burlington, attending local schools and graduating from Burlington High School in 1974. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Vermont with a civil engineering degree.

“In college,” he says, “I collaborated with fellow student and close friend Denis Lambert on some independent study projects.”

Bogue’s first job out of college was in Concord, N.H., working for the state’s traffic engineering division. “Civil engineers work on the design of roads, wastewater plans, and structures of buildings, as well as all the necessary related permitting,” he says. “Much of the work is for municipalities, but also private and commercial ventures. In New Hampshire, I did traffic engineering, which involves signal lights, size of roads, car patterns, and traffic flow.”

Bogue returned to Burlington in 1979 to work two years at Traffic Engineering Associates, a company no longer in business. His college friend, Lambert, had gone to work for Pizzagalli Construction Co. — “at the time,” he says, “the 110th-largest company in the United States, and headquartered in Vermont.” Lambert was writing job estimation and scheduling software.

“Back then, you couldn’t go buy this stuff; you had to develop it,” says Bogue. “He basically recruited me to Pizzagalli, and we worked together developing a scheduling system for this huge, national company. I was there for several years and I loved it.

“There was a huge mainframe at the old Pizzagalli office. Somewhat by default, Denis and I became the ‘scheduling department’ because we were the best at putting this knowledge and data into a computer application.”

Still in their 20s, Bogue and Lambert didn’t know much about construction, says Bogue with a chuckle. “We had a basic grasp of it from our engineering studies. What we wanted to put together was a product that combined knowledge of construction practices with a scheduling program that worked.”

They worked many seven-day weeks with little rest, he says. “We produced results. When we got the system going, we’d take it out in the field and teach other team members how to use the program. We flew all over the country for Pizzagalli. They had projects in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, and Maryland.”

With this success under his belt and wanting to work closer to his family, Bogue went to work as a project manager in 1987 for Engelberth Construction Inc., which operated on a more regional basis.

One of his first jobs was to build a warehouse for Digital Equipment Corp. in South Burlington. This 65,000-square-foot project was completed in 12 weeks. He also worked on the headquarters for Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Berlin, as well as the renovation of the historic Fort Ethan Allen officer’s quarters, on Dalton Drive in Colchester, into condos.

“The last project I did for Engelberth was a $20 million open-air shopping center in Plattsburgh, N.Y.,” says Bogue. “It was certainly the biggest job Engelberth had done to that point. We completed most of the job in 10 months so that the retail center could open by Thanksgiving of 1993. In this business, all the deadlines are short!” The next year, he left Engelberth to launch his own company.

Bogue married fellow UVM student Lucy Gage in 1981. She had graduated from UVM with a degree in recreation management. These days, Lucy is an estimator for the company.

Their daughter, Emily, now 24, lives in New York City and works for the Spanish Institute, an organization promoting Spanish culture in the United States. She was a Presidential Scholar at the Gailer School and attended Wellesley College. Their son, Max, 20, was home-schooled and majors in computer science at Rochester Institute of Technology. Having completed an associate’s degree by age 18, he’ll graduate early with a fifth-year master’s degree in computer science.

Bogue and Lucy relax by kayaking and biking. They live in Colchester.

Professional Construction recently completed a renovation of the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Office, which included a 911-dispatch facility. It presented a particular challenge, which Bogue says he enjoys. “Their work can’t shut down to let us do our work. We proceed around their daily activities. We also did that in Montpelier, at the Department of Agriculture building. This was a major job that all took place while employees were working.”

He and his crew have worked on two public safety facilities for the Vermont State Police, in New Haven and St. Albans; an office building for DuBois and King in Randolph; and several projects at Maple Tree Place in Williston.

The company’s office in South Burlington is comfortable and no-nonsense, much like Bogue. Staff members include project assistant Judy Senesac, who was Bogue’s assistant when he worked at Engelberth; Art Keppelman, estimator and superintendent; and Joe Stumpo, superintendent. Also on staff is one carpenter. The crew can be supplemented when needed.

“We’re well-positioned,” says Bogue. “Since we’re smaller, we have a tight organizational structure. When I went off on my own, I knew I could offer a different, more personal type of service, more responsive to our clients. I know my jobs back to front; I go to the meetings and the sites. I know how the whole job is going to go together. And if there’s ever a problem, clients know they’ll talk to me on the phone.”

In a good year, Bogue does $5 million to $7 million in business. “We are surviving quite well, but the construction business has been hit very hard in the last year,” he says. “We’re seeing much more activity this month.”

Bogue takes his job seriously, and aims to make the construction process easier for everyone involved, says architect Tom Hengelsberg of Dore & Whittier Architects Inc. in South Burlington. They worked together on a project when Hengelsberg was at TruexCullins in Burlington.

“Dave was able to do two things that are almost unheard of in the commercial building industry,” says Hengelsberg. “He proposed a schedule that was shorter than the one being considered up to that time, and he built the building for less money than our estimates had indicated we’d need to spend.

“He and his staff were extremely personable to deal with and operated with a high amount of integrity. He is a rare find among commercial contractors. He knew just how to walk the line between the architect and the building owner, providing ample information so that we were fully informed, but not swamping us with too many details.”

In 2003 and 2004, Professional Construction received Outstanding Achievement awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for having constructed more than 50 Energy Star–qualified homes within the year. “Efficiency Vermont nominated us for this special award,” Bogue says.

“We can do a wide range of projects, ranging from a $15,000 office renovation to an $8 million commercial job. We’ve built a number of LEED-qualified buildings that meet specific environmental criteria.”

He confesses he enjoys the training aspect of his job. “Most of the guys that run construction jobs haven’t been exposed to scheduling techniques. I’ve worked with top project managers, superintendents, and subcontractors all over the country. During the course of a job, schedules often have to be updated.”

He’s also a guest teacher at Vermont Technical College. “I’ve trained a lot of people, and I get so much out of that,” he says. “I especially like to work with younger folks just coming into the field.” They might inspire him to take up basketball again. •