File:Henry Carlson Jr.jpg
Induction Category & YearProfessional 2009
Home TownSioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls, SD

   Henry Carlson
Champion of Excellence



Henry Carlson Jr. has been an active leader in the South Dakota construction industry for nearly 60 years, playing a major part in helping build South Dakota. He has also made a significant contribution to making South Dakota a better place in which to live and raise a family through his active community, charitable and political service.

Familiar landmark structures throughout the state and region have been constructed by the Henry Carlson Company under the leadership of three generations of Carlsons. It all began when Henry Carlson, Sr. emigrated from Sweden to the United States in 1902. He started in the construction industry as a laborer and later worked as a skilled stonemason. With this construction knowledge, he joined William Snitkey to form the Carlson-Snitkey Construction Company in 1919. In 1924 Henry Sr. bought out his partner and the company became the Henry Carlson Company – now 85 years under that single banner. Under the leadership of Henry Sr. the company had begun constructing many of the landmark buildings throughout the state, including the original Washington High School (now the Washington Pavilion), all three original hospital buildings, the VA, McKennan and Sioux Valley in Sioux Falls, as well as the well-known Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City.

Henry Jr. officially joined the company after graduating from Washington High School in 1943. He then served during World War II (1943-1945) in the Army Air Force. Following his discharge he attended the University of Colorado until 1950 when he returned to the family firm. Like his father, he learned the business from the ground up and when his father passed away in 1961 he was ready to take over the leadership of the company. During his tenure as company president he oversaw the construction of numerous large projects throughout the state which were important to their communities and the state as well. Examples of which include the Sioux Falls Arena, the Sioux Falls Airport Terminal Building, both Minnehaha County Courthouses and the new Governor’s Residence in Pierre. At the same time the company has served as General Contractor on the expanding Sanford Health Campus for 37+ years and has been the General Contractor for 10 regional WalMart and Sam’s Clubs as well as completing numerous additions, renovations, and other new construction projects.

Henry Jr. is known for his innovative business practices, which include Henry Carlson Company’s affiliated companies – Asphalt Surfacing Company (ASCO) and Kyburz-Carlson Construction Company. ASCO is a wholly owned subsidiary, operating primarily as a subcontractor in maintenance, repair and construction of highways, streets and parking lots. Kyburz-Carlson is a sister company located in Aberdeen, SD. They are the predominant construction company throughout the northeastern region of South Dakota and provide a wide range of construction services to the public, industrial & commercial/retail establishments, including The Barnett Center at Northern State University, St. Luke’s Hospital, Aberdeen Central High School and Northeast Regional Health Center in Aberdeen, SD. Together these three companies form the largest firm of its kind in the state.

Henry Jr. has always taken a personal interest in each project. His general oversight and involvement assured that each project received the personal attention it deserved. His main objective was that every project would receive the highest priority in terms of attention to detail, service, quality, the right personnel and equipment resources. Henry Jr. has said, “The philosophy of finding the right people and doing everything you can to retain them has been a hallmark of the company.” Along those lines, he created a profit sharing plan for his employees in 1964 – the first such plan in the SD construction industry. Benefits like this, plus training, education and safety initiatives have resulted in a dedicated long-term workforce. His son Chip (Henry Carlson III) carries on those traditions today. Henry Jr. turned over the company presidency to Chip in 2006 and retired as Chairman of the Board at the end of 2007 at the age of 82.

Aside from his considerable professional accomplishments, which left their mark on South Dakota communities and the surrounding region, Henry Jr. has also made significant contributions as a leader in the South Dakota construction industry, community organizations and in public service.

His involvement in professional organizations and awards received include the following:

· American Institute of Constructors (AIC) – Past Director· AIC People-to-People Delegation – 1976· South Dakota National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – Past Chairman· NFIB Leadership Council and National Small Business Summit· First recipient of the NFIB/SD Small Business Champion Award - 2004· Corn Husker Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors (SD&NE) – Founding Member & Past President· South Dakota Associated General Contractors (AGC) – Past President· AGC of SD Education Foundation – Founding Member and Major Contributor· AGC of SD Construction Safety Excellence Award, Building Division, 1st Place – 2006· AGC/National Construction Safety Excellence Award, Building Division, 3rd Place – 2006· First Recipient of the AGC and OSHA “CHASE” Partnership Gold Level Award – 2006· Sales and Marketing Executives (SMEI of Sioux Falls) Executive of the Year Award – 20Henry Jr. served two terms as a State Senator, participated on the Streamlined Sales Tax Project Task Force in 2001 and was co-chairman of the Minnehaha Co. Republican Finance Committee.

In addition, Henry Jr. was a founding investor and board member of the Ramkota Inns and continues as a current board member. He has been an active member of the Lions Club (receiving their Helen Keller award in 2003), the Masons, the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, Forward Sioux Falls, and Calvary Cathedral (Episcopal) Church.

A list of Sioux Falls and South Dakota charities, too long to include here, have been generously supported by Henry Carlson Jr. and his family over the years. Three of the significant contributions were a Sanford Children’s Challenge Donation of $1 million in 2006, the Henry and Eleanor Carlson Family Scholarship Fund at Children’s Care Hospital and the Carlson Family Children’s Cancer Care Endowment Fund. The latter was established in 1994 following a granddaughter’s diagnosis with leukemia in gratitude for the outstanding care she and many children like her have received at Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford).

Henry Carlson, Jr.’s very proud family includes his wife, Eleanor and four children – Christie Risty, Linda Brooks, Kimberly Ela; and Henry (Chip) Carlson III. They have 10 grandchildren.

Home Town (Sioux Falls, SD)
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