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ife moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could

miss it. The famous counsel given to Generation X by Farris Buhler in 1986 always

seems to take a minute to settle in, but that’s the point. Fifty years from GE Johnson

Construction Co.’s 1967 founding, Chief Executive Officer Jim Johnson also finds ben-

efit in reflection.

“My father’s original vision for the company was to simply provide for a family

and chase the American dream,” says Johnson, elaborating that, by founder Gil Johnson’s math,

$8 million in annual revenue was the magic number. Established at about the beginning of

a Colorado Springs’ population boom, the business exceeded the $8 million goal in just its

fourth year, initially thriving in the hard-bid K-12 market while picking up office and manu-

facturing facility projects regionally. GE Johnson quickly earned a reputation for quality and

integrity while gaining confidence on larger public projects like the Colorado Springs Fine

Arts Center in 1970 and Pikes Peak Community College in 1975.

As Gil Johnson’s business and children grew, Jim, the third of four children in the family,

recalled that though construction was in his blood he wasn’t always sure he was destined

to take over the family business.

“My father wasn’t the first in our family to start a construction company,” continues

Johnson. “Many of my ancestors were contractors, but history shows that when they died,

their businesses died, and nothing was ever passed on.” Jim, however, had a natural pas-

sion for construction – enjoying the physical nature and comradery of hard work, out-

doors in Colorado. Most importantly, even as a teenager, through construction Jim was

able to measure the progress made in each day’s work with a sense of accomplishment.

By the mid-1970s, GE Johnson’s portfolio had grown to include strong practices in

health care, high-tech environments and hospitality. One notable early accomplish-

ment was the 150-room, $8.6 million Broadmoor West Hotel, the largest project in the

firm’s history to that point. That relationship extended a full 40 years forward, when

the Broadmoor selected GE Johnson to complete a 27-week, ultrafast renovation and

addition of the West Complex in 2014.

Jimgraduated with a degree in construction science fromKansas State University

while spending summers and holiday breaks on projects in the field. He invest-

ed his early 20s gaining independent professional experience working for a large

general contractor doing projects across Texas and Louisiana before coming back

to the family business in 1986. Joining the firm as an estimator, Jim saw a lot of

different jobs in a short period of time. Yet, as he learned the intricacies of pricing

the work, he yearned rather to spend his time in the field building it. Eventually,

he was put in charge of overseeing concrete pours and tilt-up construction on

an RTD job as an assistant superintendent. From there Jimmanaged to spend a

few quality years simply building work alongside subcontractors and laborers

before his natural project management abilities and engineering degree even-

tually dragged him back to the office. GE Johnson’s work in the ’80s includes

the iconic One DTC office building completed in 1985 and The Park Hyatt


Sean O’Keefe

Life Moves Pretty Fast Jim Johnson, CEO of GE Johnson Construction, reflects on the firm’s 50 years of successful evolution through changing tides and building a business