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Wendy Reuer, Published January 25 2013

Olaf Anderson and Son celebrating 100 years of building in F-M

FARGO - With hundreds of residential and commercial buildings designed and built by Fargo-based Olaf Anderson and Son dotting the area’s skyline, the company has cemented its place in the region’s history.

While the company now focuses on commercial buildings, including apartment complexes, its roots trace back 100 years to when Olaf Anderson began the company with home construction.

Founded in 1913 by Olaf, the son was added after Warren M. Bud Anderson joined his father after World War II.

Bud Anderson retired in 1985, leaving R. Tracy Myers at the helm of the company. In 1995, a third-generation Anderson – Robert W. “Bob” Anderson – was named president, according to Forum archives.

Then Jeff Furstenau took over as president. Furstenau, an engineer, started with the company in 1988. He now owns the company with vice presidents Jed Krieg and Troy Mallow.

The company has grown since the early days of Olaf to become one of the most prominent builders in the region, with projects in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Olaf Anderson and Son has constructed some of the area’s most well-known buildings such as the Scheels Arena, Cityscapes Plaza and Moorhead Sports Arena.

The company was recognized in 2011 by Ceco Building Systems for achieving $25 million in cumulative sales and as a Top Ten Builder of the Year for 2009 and 2010.

Furstenau said about two-thirds of the buildings in Fargo’s industrial park on the western edge of the city are products of Olaf Anderson and Son.

“Warehouses are our bread and butter,” he said.

Last year, the company filed for 54 commercial building permits in Fargo alone, city records show.

“That’s a lot of activity,” said Ron Strand, the city‘s building inspections administrator.

During its 100-year history, the company has built its high-quality reputation.

“I think they’ve been good to work with. My experience certainly has been good with them,” Strand said.

Olaf Anderson and Son worked with D&M Industries staff to design D&M’s warehouse building in Moorhead. The company was excellent to work with, said D&M President Tom Boyle.

“They did a real nice job on the building,” Boyle said. “We’re very pleased.”

About 90 staff members are employed by Olaf Anderson and Son. As a “design-build” firm, the company employs engineers and architects to work with clients from the design process through the final construction phases.

With more than 250 acres of buildings built, Furstenau said the company has many repeat customers.

That includes Eccumen Detroit Lakes, a senior-housing and assisted-living agency based in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“We’ve worked with them on a variety of projects, from small projects to large projects, and I have to say they are a pleasure to work with,” said Janet Green, executive director of Eccumen Detroit Lakes. “All of our projects were completed on time and on-budget. They’re a quality organization; it’s no wonder they’ve been around for 100 years.”

In a 1989 interview with The Forum, Myers said the biggest trend in the building industry at the time was “the need to conserve energy in the operation of all building systems and the building system’s impact on the environment.”

Furstenau said building green is still done today when possible, but it’s not always the most cost-effective measure. And while buildings may be designed today with the smallest environmental impact, there’s a big market for all types of projects.

“Buildings are getting bigger, heavier, more substantial,” he said.

Although the market can always slow or spurn changes in the construction industry, the labor market can sometimes pose its own challenges.

Furstenau said it can be hard for contractors and subcontractors to find employees passionate about construction labor.

“(Workers) are more interested in computers and technology,” he said. “Not as many want to work with their hands.”

As the company looks back on a century, Furstenau said he hopes to continue the company’s success with continued growth in and outside of the region.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530