Conlon Construction marks 100 years of Dubuque headquarters

For more than 100 years, Conlon Construction Co. has worked on projects throughout the U.S. and established decades-long relationships with local clients.

“Looking over the last 100 years, we’ve been brought on with or before the architect,” said Tim Conlon, president and CEO of Conlon Construction. “We start at the very moment of the project’s concept. … Doing projects like that versus public work in a bid marketplace, we think, is the best way to do it.”

Conlon has spent the past 100 years headquartered in Dubuque. In that time, four generations of the Conlon family have worked for the business.

The company’s history spans further back, however. Richard F. Conlon — Tim Conlon’s grandfather — founded Conlon Construction in 1903 in the Cuba City, Wis., area. The company focused on concrete work in its earliest days, paving Cuba City’s Main Street and roads going into Galena, Ill., Tim Conlon said.

Richard Conlon started working on buildings in the Cuba City area, including at St. Rose Parish.

“That sort of got him into religious work, and he expanded into Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 1920s and 1930s,” Tim Conlon said.

Conlon Construction moved to Dubuque in 1922. Richard Conlon’s sons, Orlin and Dell, later joined the business. Orlin is Tim Conlon’s father.

The company was sold to brothers Tim and Steve Conlon and their cousin Michael Conlon in 1984.

A fourth generation of the Conlon family now works for the business. Poppy Conlon, Tim’s daughter, is vice president and director of employee engagement. Becky Conlon, Steve’s daughter, is vice president and director of market and owner engagement.

Some of the company’s long-standing client relationships through the years have included crews spending 15 years straight working on projects at John Deere Dubuque Works, as well as work on 4,000 projects in 17 states for Target over the past 44 years, Tim Conlon said.

Conlon also has made a mark at multiple Dubuque colleges. Since the 1920s, the company has constructed more than 30 buildings at Loras College and all but three buildings at Clarke University, Tim Conlon said. The company also has completed work on more than 30 buildings at University of Dubuque since 1980.

Conlon Construction also has completed worked on both Dubuque hospitals, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, both Dubuque casinos, senior housing and properties that qualify for historic tax credits. The company has worked on facilities for local businesses, including Flexsteel Industries, Klauer Manufacturing Co., Morrison Bros. Co., Rite-Hite and A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co.

“I think we’ve built every parking ramp in town, just about (excluding the 10th Street ramp),” Poppy Conlon said.

Conlon Construction also has moved its office in Dubuque.

The company’s first Dubuque office was in the American Trust & Savings Bank building, now MidWestOne Bank, Tim Conlon said. The business later moved to a property on Railroad Avenue.

“Twenty-six years ago in April, we moved into the (1100) Rockdale Road property, and now this April, we moved into this building (at 501 Bell St.),” he said.

The company was at capacity in the Rockdale Road property, but the new location will allow for growth, Poppy Conlon said. Conlon Construction has about 265 employees working nationwide.

“We have 12 interns for this summer, and we have the space for them,” she said. “That we’re able to do that is pretty spectacular.”

The business has multiple staffers who are second-generation Conlon employees, as well as couples that travel together doing work for the company, Becky Conlon said.

“It’s a pretty interesting way of life, but they find ways to make it work,” she said. “It’s nice to have that family aspect.”

Looking ahead, Tim Conlon said he would like the company to expand further across the country, including in the types of projects it works on, such as more single-family housing developments.

Becky Conlon said the company is working on expanding its presence in the eastern Iowa corridor, which includes Linn, Johnson, Benton, Jones, Iowa, Cedar and Washington counties.

Conlon Construction has an office in Coralville, Iowa.

“We’re really cementing a hold in the region, not just Dubuque,” she said.

The company also will be part of a historic project in Dyersville. Tim Conlon said the company is the general contractor for the $80 million worth of planned projects at the iconic Field of Dreams movie site, which will include a sports complex and boutique hotel.

“We’re really proud to be part of that,” Becky Conlon said.

While Conlon Construction leaders look ahead to expanding their reach, Tim Conlon said the company is devoted to keeping its headquarters in Dubuque.

He noted that the company is one of several that have spanned decades and family generations in Dubuque.

“People are always asking, ‘What is the secret to Dubuque?” he said. “Dubuque has a good energy, and I think that’s important. … We’re very committed here. We support the community very, very strongly, and we serve on many boards. It’s like being part of the community more than just building buildings. (Dubuque) is sort of a model city for that reason.”