Building opportunities

Master Entrepreneur of the year

John Rakolta, Jr. lives by the philosophy that entrepreneurs find value where others don’t.

As chairman and CEO of Walbridge, Rakolta has maintained an open mind to new opportunities, while holding tight to the company’s core values. It’s that thinking that has allowed the construction company to expand its services and client reach throughout the years.

That mentality was evident in 2000 when Walbridge took a hard look at its customer base. With most of its customers in car manufacturing, it decided to diversify into different industries.

By still maintaining its core values, Walbridge has picked up customers such as the federal government and others in infrastructure and manufacturing. Rakolta, whose first summer job was at the family company at the young age of 12, has seen Walbridge prosper through good and bad times. And he attributes the success of expanding its customer reach to the company’s ability to be lean, flexible, committed and liquid.

But Walbridge’s nimbleness doesn’t stop there.

Each year, the company takes a percentage of its profits and invests it in unrelated business ventures. The idea is to decrease stagnation, while looking for new opportunities.

With such an expansive scope of business, some may wonder how Walbridge has stayed true to its core values. To make sure a project is the right fit, it has implemented a three pressure point system, which helps eliminate new project risk. The pressure points include clients, geography and buildings. If one of the pressure points doesn’t match, the idea is simply scraped.

How to reach: Walbridge, (313) 963-8000 or