2024 Milestones: Corporate Anniversaries


Vision, Determination Make All the Difference

The onset of the 2020 pandemic signaled the death knell for more than 200,000 U.S. businesses in the first year alone, and many tens of thousands more since.

This isn’t about them.

With the 2024 Milestones installment, we celebrate those who pushed through one of the greatest economic calamities in the nation’s history. How’d they do it? With the same type of grit, determination, tenacity and entrepreneurship that saw them enter the business world 50 … 100 … even 175 years ago.

What sets these companies and organizations apart is their ability to continue defying the odds: Typically, three out of four small businesses are gone within 15 years, and only 5 percent will survive to see a golden anniversary: 50 years in business.

What distinguishes those who reach that milestone, and go on to surpass it? A common thread is innovation. In many cases, these companies today have business models that differ sharply from their founders’ vision.

Acquisition may drive corporate growth in the short term, but if you don’t innovate, if you don’t fine-tune your business model, if you don’t embrace change, chances are you’ll not be making major milestones in the decades to come.

Our Milestones feature pays tribute to companies that have taken the full measure of the marketplace and come out on top. Included in this roster in 2024 are several public companies, some employee-owned enterprises, and many  family-owned ventures. 

For the most part, though, they share a common bond with their vision and their determination to realize it. 

Please join us in saluting them for their continued success, and for their example.

175 years (founded 1849)
William Jewell College
Like those hardy souls who headed west and settled in the Liberty area in the 1800s, William Jewell College’s founder and namesake sought to maximize the many possibilities of life in an expanding nation. The settlers’ shared dream of a college lives on today as a nonsectarian institution that helps nearly 900 graduate and undergraduate students start their own path to seize life’s possibilities. It’s ranked as the second-best higher-education value in Missouri by U.S. News & World Report and No. 8 among colleges in the Midwest. It has expanded from its traditional liberal-arts programming to include nearly 55 majors and degree offerings, many in key 21st-century disciplines like biochemistry, civil engineering, cybersecurity, data science, digital media communications, and entrepreneurial leadership. In 2016, Elizabeth MacLeod Walls became the 15th president of the college.

150 years (founded 1874)
Bowersock Mills & Power Co.
Hydroelectric power in … Kansas? Yes, indeed, and it’s been flowing from the Kansas River in Lawrence for a century and a half, thanks to the Bowersock Mills & Power Co. The power is generated by water flowing from a dammed river just north of downtown Lawrence at a site where one Orlando Darling sought a power source for various businesses he ran; wood for burning had largely been depleted by settlers in that area. His business eventually failed and was acquired by J.D. Bowersock, and today, it continues operations as the only hydroelectric power generator in the Sunflower State, with a family member, Sarah Hill-Nelson, as CEO. A new power plant went online in 2012, and today, the company’s 11 turbines throw off 7 megawatts of electricity.

Kessinger Hunter
Kansas City’s oldest commercial real-estate company started as a small partnership but today boasts 200 associates and a property portfolio valued at more than $2 billion. It went through several corporate iterations over the decades since its founding as Lawrence F. Rieger Real Estate Broker, assuming the Kessinger Hunter brand in 1982. No longer confined to operations here, the company has been at work across the U.S. and even Europe, manages more than 21 million square feet of property, and has developed more than 13 million square feet of projects. Its brokerage services cover industrial, office, and retail sites, along with investment sales, and the staff also delivers site management, financial support, and project-management services. 

145 years (founded 1879)
Spencer Fane
Once upon a time, the west-central Missouri burg of Osceola was envisioned as an emerging metropolis, but a bridge over the Missouri River shifted the axis of development northwest to Kansas City. In 1879, William Tell Johnson and John Lucas followed the trend, relocating their law practice from Osceola to here. Nearly 75  years would pass before the practice began to take on its modern form, with the merger of what was then Johnson, Lucas, Graves & Fane and the firm of Spencer Britt & Browne in 1952, leading to the official name of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, but popularly known by its Spence Fane brand. Today, it has nearly two dozen offices nationwide, from California to Florida, and from its Kansas City headquarters is led by Pat Whalen, managing partner.

140 years (founded 1884)
Stormont-Vail Health
The legacy and focus of two women who founded the hospitals leading to the Stormont Vail Health of today have been instrumental in sustaining the organization for decades, says current CEO Robert Kenagy. “Ellen Vail was pivotal in the development of Topeka’s Christ Hospital 140 years ago as a means to provide access to medical care at a time when that was limited for most,” he says. “During her own illness, she had experienced amazing care and wanted to ensure the same for others.” A decade later, Jane C. Stormont founded a hospital and nursing school in her name, with the hospital initially serving women and those who could not pay for care. The two hospitals merged in 1949, bringing together the visions of the two women—one around the culture of care and the other of nursing excellence. Today, the anchors care across northeast Kansas, and as the third-largest in the region, admits roughly 20,000 patients a year. 

135 years (founded 1889)
Shook Hardy & Bacon
“Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s nearly 135 years of litigation and trial success has evolved as society has advanced,” says Madeleine McDonough, now in her second term as chair of the Kansas City firm. “In addition to our well-known reputation in the consumer-products space, Shook has secured wins in cutting-edge technology, intellectual property, complex commercial litigation, and privacy and data security services, and recently expanded our corporate and M&A capabilities.” The focus, she says, is on substantive excellence and professional development, and on her watch, it has added offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, raising its national footprint to 19 cities. “None of this would have happened without our dedicated team of professional staff, and together, we work to serve communities and customers in a sustainable manner,” she says. 

110 years (founded 1914)
HNTB: How did it get here? “First, you must have a strong corporate mission and culture,” says President Tom O’Grady. “As we reflect on our history, we can easily see where elements of our culture today have been in place for decades. For example, integrity and technical excellence have been hallmarks of HNTB since our founding in 1914 and continue to be paramount today. The same is true for enduring, lasting relationships. We have enjoyed relationships with clients that we are still faithfully serving today for 60, 70 … even 80 years. These are relationships built on trust and a shared vision of success. So, while we have been able to successfully adapt to changing market conditions and other external influences throughout our 110 years, most importantly, we have remained true to who we are.”

100 years (founded 1924)
Associated Wholesale Grocers
The nation’s oldest grocery cooperative, Associated Wholesale Grocers, was founded in 1924 and incorporated in 1926 and has grown into one of the largest grocery wholesalers in the United States. It all began when a score of independent grocers in Kansas City concluded that they could flex more buying power working together if they were to successfully compete with large national brands. AWG serves 3,400 locations and 1,100 member companies in 31 states, and its 11 distribution centers feed nine wholesale divisions. The region’s second-largest private enterprise has annual revenues that exceed $12.3 billion.

Curry Real Estate Services
An obsession with service, says CEO Ellen Todd, has helped this real-estate company reach a second century in business—service that pays off for clients, tenants and entire communities. “To meet our standard for service, we invest in the properties we have throughout the greater Kansas City metropolitan area so that we offer the best work and living experience possible for our tenants,” she says. “We mentor and empower our people to pursue training and the highest professional designations so that they are equipped to give our clients the best care. We also free them to give back to their profession and our communities as servant leaders.” Todd says the firm is called to help advance thoughtful growth in communities it serves, carrying on standards set by founder Charles F. Curry, followed in succession by Charles E. Curry, Raymond R. Brock, Jr., and now his daughter, Ellen Todd. 

JE Dunn Construction
If only Ernie Dunn could see what would become of his one-man construction company the day he started it a century ago. Today, employee-owned JE Dunn has offices in more than 20 U.S. cities, more than $5 billion in revenues, and a legacy as one of the Kansas City region’s most philanthropic companies. “I give so much credit to the three generations of the Dunn family for building and growing such a unique place based on the values of putting people and families first—something our company continues to live by today,” says current CEO Gordon Lansford III. “We also wouldn’t be here today without employees past and present who have shared their intelligence and dedication to our clients, partners, communities, and projects.” 

Wald & Co.
Backyard fireworks enthusiasts and the parks department pros who put on the big July 4 aerial displays can all find what they need to add a little extra pop to their summer holiday at Wald & Co., based in the tiny suburb of Greenwood, near Lee’s Summit. But, as the company likes to point out on its Web site, “Fireworks are not just for the 4th of July!” as it encourages their use at various celebrations, from birthdays to anniversaries to weddings to expectant parents’ gender-reveal parties. It also offers safety courses in pyrotechnics handling and use for the Class C fireworks it sells in both Missouri and Texas. If you’ve been out and about in Kansas City at pro sports venues, parades, or holiday gatherings, you’ve likely ooohed and ahhhed to colors bursting overhead, thanks to Wald & Co. 

85 years (founded 1939)
Haas and Wilkerson
Ryan Wilkerson represents the third generation of leadership at a Mission based insurance and benefits consultancy Haas & Wilkerson. “We are so fortunate to celebrate our 85th anniversary and 3 generations of family ownership all here in Kansas City,” he says. “To me, the secret to our success is simply great people. We measure the tenure of our staff by decades. During the annual Haas & Wilkerson Thanksgiving luncheon, we give out awards for employees celebrating milestones, and I am always amazed at how many great teammates have been with us for 10, 20, 30, or more years. That continuity is an amazing foundation for our culture and our growth. We are also blessed to have clients with similar tenure.” The firm writes coverage in each of the 50 states, partnering with major insurors.

Charles D. Jones Co.
Based in Riverside, this employee-owned company is a longtime vendor of HVAC and refrigeration equipment in the Kansas City region, offering more than 25,000 separate products from more than 300 manufacturers. It operates from 21 locations in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. In addition to equipment sales, Charles D. Jones provides some of the know-how to install and maintain various commercial, industrial, and residential systems, with a series of vendor webinars that customers can sign up for, presented by manufacturers like Siemans, Emerson/White-Rodgers, Nu-Calgon, Belimo, Taco, and Resideo. Last year, trade publication ACHR News ranked Charles D. Jones among the Top 25 nationwide in HVACR sales. 

75 years (founded 1949)
Dick Ray Master Plumber, Heating & Cooling
He left the University of Washington in Seattle after Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy, then headed to the Pacific in World War II. When Dick Ray came back to the States, he started his own plumbing company in his hometown, using the family car to make service calls because he couldn’t yet afford a truck. But he steadily grew the business and its reputation, retired in 2003 after more than half a century’s work, and handed the company off to his son, Dick II. Both are gone now; Dick died in 2013 and Dick II in 2020, but the family-owned company is still providing services in heating, air conditioning, and plumbing, along with line-rooter drain-clearing.

IBT Industrial Solutions
With all due respect to Calvin Coolidge, a better argument can be made that the business of America is not business; it’s industry—manufacturing, in particular. And as part of an Ingram’s 100 company—parent Cloud Companies—IBT Industrial Solutions has been making industry run safer, faster, and more efficiently for three-quarters of a century. A longtime specialist in comparatively static systems like conveyors, motors, belts, and hoses, it’s not positioning itself to be a force in more active manufacturing systems like robotics. It also offers industrial engineering, maintenance, gearing, machining, and other services. 

Kansas City National Security Campus
Managed by Honeywell’s Federal Manufacturing & Technologies division, this south Kansas City operation has been a fixture in national defense production for decades, but only in recent years has it rocketed to near the top of the region’s list of biggest private-sector employers. The plant, which produces non-nuclear components for nuclear deterrence, recently surpassed the 7,000-employee mark, up nearly a third in the past five years. In 2013, it began a years-long transition from its old headquarters on Bannister Road to a massive 275,000-square-foot production facility on Botts Road and has already targeted nearby land for further expansion.

Cascone’s Italian Restaurant
Yes, you can order up a serving of Old Sicily right off the menu at Cascone’s, but you’re getting something else in the deal: “a homecoming of sorts,” the restaurant declares, “where guests can relax, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate life’s big moments and small rituals.” Four generations after its founding, the family still clings fast to values it traces from Ragusa, near the southern coast of that Mediterranean island, including the wall plaque promoting Sempre Famiglia—”Family Forever.” General manager Jimmy Cascone says, “We’ve seen restaurants come and go. People depend on us. Customers want real people and a real environment.” The organizational endurance, then, “is a testament to the family’s hard work,” Cascone’s says.

65 years (founded 1959)
Berkel & Co. Contractors
Some contractors look at a finished building with the pride of workmanship; at Berkel & Co. Contractors, the source of construction pride runs a little deeper. Founded by namesake Charles Berkel in 1959, the employee-owned Bonner Springs company is one of the nation’s largest piling contractors—prepping the ground and installing the sunken columns that provide a base for foundations of large structures. Operating with six regional offices around the country, in Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Louisville, Orlando, and San Francisco, it generates annual revenues of roughly $175 million.

CoreFirst Bank & Trust
With more than $1.2 billion in assets, CoreFirst Bank & Trust is the second-largest bank in Kansas’ capital city, commanding a nearly 15 percent share of deposits in that market. In addition to internet banking and bill-paying, it operates 11 offices providing traditional banking services with personal and commercial accounts, installment and real-estate loans, Visa credit cards, and financial-management tools that include investment management, trust services, lock boxes, and merchant card services. In 2007, after nearly half a century of fighting the good fight against a multi-state behemoth, the bank rebranded as CoreFirst (it was originally founded as Commerce State Bank, then became Commerce Bank & Trust, unrelated to the Kansas City institution).

60 years (founded 1964)
Bernstein Rein Advertising
It’s now the stuff of corporate legend: Bob Bernstein had the princely sum of $100 in the bank when he and Skip Rein launched this Kansas City advertising agency in 1964. Tip of the hat, then, for the firm’s ability to land the right clients: Just three years later, it added a fast-growing hamburger chain to the fold and became part of McDonald’s marketing history. Now under the leadership of second-generation CEO Steve Bernstein, the firm pitches its competencies to clients and prospects with its three pillars of success: The right message, at the right place and time, grounded in the right data and insights, providing branding services, competitive audits, market research, data analytics, and segmentation. 

Hunt Midwest Real Estate Development
One of the region’s biggest players in the logistics and distribution space, Hunt Midwest is just one pillar of the Hunt family’s business holdings—you might know another one hereabouts as the Chiefs. One of the more interesting corporate-origination stories, it was inspired as a business solution to the limestone-excavation efforts of successor Midwest Precote, with Pilsbury and Russell Stover taking advantage of the underground storage space. Today, SubTroplis covers an astonishing 55 million square feet of underground storage. Above ground, the company has additional acreage, and its new KCI 29 Logistics Center in Platte County could become the largest in the region at build-out.

55 years (founded 1969)
Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services
Modern urban planners preach a gospel of density over sprawl, but long before those became buzzwords, Cohen-Esrey was showing the world that higher-density development was possible—even preferable—in suburban settings, too. Since its inception, it has acquired, developed, and managed more than 525 apartment sites with a combined total of 78,000 units. Assuming the national average of 1.7 residents per unit, that accounts for roughly 110,000 area residents from the Mountain West to the Atlantic/Gulf coasts. 

What started as an architectural services firm has blossomed into a national enterprise that GBA provides not just design services but engineering, construction, and advanced technology services in multiple sectors—industrial, life sciences, mission-critical, municipal, site development, transportation, water environment, and federal. “Our enduring success and longevity can be attributed to a steadfast commitment to our founding principles and an adaptable strategic approach to diversifying markets and services to navigate economic challenges proactively,” says Dan Abitz, president of the holding company. It comprises seven affiliates—Alynix, Compli, George Butler Associates, GBA Builders (celebrating an anniversary of its own at 20 years in 2024), I-Solutions, Systems Integrators, and ViroCon. Services range from engineering, construction management, design-build, infrastructure, systems integration, site development, commissioning, validation, and technology development.

Herzog Enterprises
This St. Joseph company is a national powerhouse in rail construction, services, and technology and is one of North America’s leading contractors in the transportation infrastructure space. In addition to laying the rail as a contractor, the firm offers specialty maintenance equipment through its Herzog Railroad Services division, ultrasonic rail testing, wayside and grade-crossing systems, commuter and municipal rail construction—it was a contractor on Kansas City’s Downtown streetcar system—and an environmental-services company serving industrial customers like landfills and industrial parks. Under CEO Brad Lager, 2023 was also a milestone year for the enterprise with 2,700 employees overall, as it crashed past the $1 billion revenue threshold.

50 years (founded 1974)
Custom Engineering
Joe Davis doesn’t want to jump the gun on the party; while it’s true that the mechanical and electrical engineering firm will celebrate half a century in business in 2024, “July 14 is the actual birthday,” he says. So figure a mid-summer celebration coming for a company that is among the highest-profile minority-owned businesses in the region. It was incorporated by Marion Burgess in 1974, acquired by the late Clarence Mabin in 1993 as a partnership, and is now under the leadership of Davis as CEO, who joined the firm in 1999 and whose body of work includes leading design projects for the Kansas City’s school district, and its parks, water and aviation departments. In addition to the original work in electrical and mechanical engineering, the firm offers plumbing, lighting, and commissioning services.

Evans & Mullinix
The Unified Government of Wyandotte County, the Board of Public Utilities in Kansas City, Kan., Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Intouch Solutions—prominent names all and but a few of the corporate clients that have turned to this Shawnee boutique law firm for counsel and legal services since its founding half a century ago. Founders Timothy Evans and Thomas Mullinix continue to actively practice law with a team of seven other legal eagles who specialize in bankruptcy cases, business and tax law, real estate, probate, and litigation, serving business clients in cities on both sides of the state line. 

Liberty Hospital
When they approved a bond issue for new hospital construction back in 1972, residents of Liberty probably couldn’t have imagined where that journey would take their community. In 1974, the doors of a 101,000-square-foot hospital opened, creating an economic anchor for the community that today generates nearly $1 billion in patient revenues, admits close to 8,000 patients a year, and employs nearly 1,400 people. The 200-bed facility, now with a surrounding medical office campus, has undergone multiple expansions as the workforce has mushroomed nearly 10-fold since Day One. In October, the hospital’s board voted to pursue a partnership with The University of Kansas Health System as a strategic growth partner. 

Mark One Electric 
When Red Privitera’s four children marked their 14th birthdays, they started clocking in at Mark One Electric, the enterprise he and Josephine took on in 1974. The kids are still there today—Rosie, as company president and vice presidents Tony, Carl Jr., and Joe. Rosie became president 30 years ago and continues to this day to draw on what was handed down in the family. They have turned it into one of the largest electrical contractors in the region, with revenues in recent years surpassing $85 million and roughly 350 employees. The corporate resume includes work on some of the best-known office buildings and signature cultural facilities in the region—the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, T-Mobile Arena, both stadiums at the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, and headquarters buildings for J.E. Dunn Construction, Ameristar and Argosy casinos, and soon the south Kansas City campus built by Cerner Corp. before the Oracle acquisition. 

Seigfreid Bingham 
Half a century ago, law firms might not have been the first place people looked to for a trusted adviser. Larry Bingham, Jim Seigfreid, and Bill Burrell set out to change that. They created a new model and started the search for others who shared they’re vision. It was good enough to attract big-name clients like JE Dunn Construction and the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as another whole law firm, merging with Rich, Granoff, Levy & Gee. The legal profession’s branding gurus love those two-word constructs, so Seigfreid, Bingham, Levy, Selzer & Gee is now known popularly as Seigfreid Bingham, primarily serving the construction, heavy equipment, real estate, health care, hospitality, and transportation markets.

Ingram’s 2024 edition of Milestones-Corporate Anniversaries is a data dive that requires deep and intensive research by our team. But we can only work with data as it exists, and frankly, the states of Missouri and Kansas have business databases shot through with inaccuracies. Even after years of refinement, there’s still a chance we’ve missed some companies celebrating a milestone anniversary this year. If yours is one of them, please let us know by emailing Editorial@Ingrams.com, calling us at 816.842.9994. 

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