“Construction is a team sport,” Ken Funk said. “We perform best when we make great connections.”
He would know well. Funk has been in the family construction business, Arthur Funk & Sons Inc., since 1996.
In 2021 he became president, succeeding his brother Bob, the longtime chief executive of Funk & Sons who is retiring from the firm at the end of this year.
“We’re committed to being a locally owned, community-focused construction company,” Ken Funk said.
He and Bob are the third generation to be involved in the business founded in 1939 by their grandfather Arthur. A third brother, Dave, is vice president and project manager.
Ken Funk said he never expected to join the family enterprise when he left for Clarkson University to study electrical engineering. But after working in Syracuse, New York, and earning a master’s in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech, he was asked by Bob in the mid-1990s to come onboard as a project manager.
He agreed, and now he leads the approximately 50-employee firm with annual revenue now approaching $40 million.
Growing into a full-service commercial construction company
When his granddad took over what was an existing business, the focus was mostly on agricultural construction, like barns, Funk said.
The company then moved to its present home in South Lebanon Township. Its headquarters are still at the small farm where Arthur lived with his family.
After Ken, Bob and Dave’s father, Henry, a World War II vet, graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering from Penn State, he joined the family construction firm in 1948.
Ken Funk said two of his uncles also worked in the family business.
Funk & Sons started doing more commercial projects then, including for local doctors, he said. “They did a fair amount of work for Agway” as well.
The company completed its first church project in 1952, for Midway Church of the Brethren.
Today, the full-service commercial construction company does about a third of its work with churches, Funk said, whether that’s building a new place of worship, putting on an addition or installing an elevator for handicapped access.
Funk & Sons won the 2021 C. Emlen Urban Award for Renovation from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County for a project it did in collaboration with Hammel Architects at Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church in southern Lancaster County.
The renovation of the 1765 church’s sanctuary included opening up the balcony; re-appointing the artistic painting of the ceiling; removing and re-installing the original stained and lead glass windows in new thermally broken frames; and creating an accessible chancel.
Funk said the church jobs have led to other construction opportunities, including with retirement communities, as many senior living campuses are affiliated with particular churches or denominations. For example, Funk & Sons is presently renovating an apartment building at Cornwall Manor.
The company also does a lot of work with medical buildings, he said.
Plenty of projects fall into the miscellaneous category, too.
Currently, Funk & Sons is erecting offices and 120 apartments at North Cornwall Commons, a multi-phase mixed-use community that also includes townhouses, restaurants, a hotel and retail. In addition, the company is building townhouses at Fox Run at Londonderry Village.
The general contractor is also working at Annville Free Library and Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library, Funk said.
The renovation and expansion of the Bethel library, in Berks County, is Funk & Sons’ second construction project with that building, he said. A former gas station, it was renovated by Funk & Sons into the library’s new home years ago.
Another ongoing project is an expansion of the social hall at Elstonville Sportsman’s Club in northern Lancaster County.
Not every job is a makeover. Funk said the company is installing an entrance elevator at Mount Gretna United Methodist Church, one of a number of church jobs it has done to improve handicapped access.
The Funk & Sons website said it will build structures ranging from 1,000 square feet to more than 150,000 square feet. A recent major project was the conversion of the former HACC building in downtown Lebanon to the new headquarters of city government and the police department.
Looking to the future
Ken Funk said the company tries to stay within an hour and a half of its office when taking on jobs. A map of some of the churches Funk & Sons worked on covers quite a few counties in central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley, including York, Lancaster, Cumberland, Lehigh and Carbon.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the same challenges everybody in the industry was facing, said Funk, a board member of Associated Builders and Contractors, Keystone Chapter.
A third of its workforce was laid off, but the company “brought everybody back that we could.”
Now the focus is managing this presidential transition, and to be ready for further transitions, with assistance from the North Group consulting firm, Funk said.
“We have great employees,” he said. “Many joined us out of high school.”
The company sponsors the Henry Funk Memorial Scholarship given to high school seniors who plan to pursue an occupation in the construction trades, construction-related fields or construction management field.
Funk said the business is guided by this mission statement: We exist to connect, collaborate and construct – “finding those subtle ways we affect each other.”
The company’s website elaborates on this management philosophy:
- We listen to our customers to understand their needs;
- We accommodate each customer’s unique goals;
- We collaborate by building a quality team of professionals;
- We create thoughtful solutions;
- We deliver projects where all involved succeed and thrive.
Funk’s short-term goals are “developing our employees, continuing to hire, and putting a structure in place to weather a recession and transitions so we make good decisions.”
Long term, the aim is to “continue to be growing at or above the rate of the economy,” he said.
And all the while, focus on the community. “We’re very intentional about getting local suppliers and subcontractors involved,” he said. “Honoring the local community where you are working.”