Gary Leapley got hooked on construction early in life.
The small-town Iowa boy discovered the joys that come with a job well done at the side of his father, a carpenter from Onawa, Iowa, who spent his days remodeling or building homes. One of the best perks of the trade, Leapley says, is that it offers concrete job satisfaction. "When you are done, there's an accomplishment that you can see. You can drive by and you can see it," says Leapley, who sports a boyish smile and a crew-top haircut at the age of 59.
Leapley is the "L" in MCL Construction. He joined the company in 1996, after he purchased the interests of Jim Meyers, one of the company's original founders. Leapley is the firm's quiet, problem-solving engineer who says he's happy keeping his feet planted on the company's job sites and leaving the marketing to his fellow co-owner Bob Carlisle. "Bob absolutely enjoys the marketing, the business deals, and the networking, while I enjoy the engineering and the problem-solving end of it," said Leapley.
MCL Construction is celebrating its 30th year in business this year. The company started in 1987 when Carlisle and Meyers left one construction company together in 1987 to start their own business, bringing along three other associates from Hicks Construction.
Today, it employs more than 120 people and routinely bids on some of Omaha's most competitive and largest construction jobs.
For Leapley, the company has grown bigger and faster than he ever imagined when his talks with Carlisle began in the summer of 1996 and he decided to leave one construction firm and buy into another, effectively donning an ownership hard hat. "This is nothing, not even close to anything I thought we could do or imagine," said Leapley. "Some people set goals. They're going to be this in five years or this in 10 years. We never did that. If we had a goal, it would be to see a challenge and accept it."
"It's not, 'Why do we want to do this? It's like, 'why not?' " says Leapley, summing up the company's business approach.
Leapley came to MCL Construction by the way of his father and through the state of Iowa and the country of Saudi Arabia. Leapley's father may not have earned a college degree but the blue-collar laborer who worked with his hands insisted that his son go to college, even though Leapley wanted to follow in his father's work boots.
"He said to me, more than once, you're going to college. He saw college as an avenue to success," Leapley recalls. The dutiful son landed at Iowa State University where he quickly found his calling and his own pathway to a job site, when he enrolled into the college's Construction Engineering program. "That seemed like a logical major," he smiled.
After college, Leapley landed a job with a company building and working on gas refineries in Saudi Arabia. He spent about four years living in a tent city in the desert. It was a great place to save money and make friends, he said. He would work about four months at a time and then get several weeks off. "It was somewhat like being in the military. You lived in a camp," he said.
In 1984, he returned to the United States, settling in Omaha and finding work with one of the area's largest construction firms, where he learned the ins and outs of building and remodeling hospitals. There are extensive federal regulations and building codes that need to be followed when working on medical facilities, he says. For example, Leapley says when remodeling parts of a hospital, contractors have to take specific steps to ensure that they are not spreading viruses or bacteria through their work activity. "We have to build containers for our work and make sure it's airtight," said Leapley.
He's worked on numerous medical projects for MCL Construction but one of his proudest accomplishments was helping to land the bid for the Methodist Women's Hospital in west Omaha. "It was a big effort to get that and we won that contract based on our past experience (with Methodist)," said Leapley.
"We believe in good client relationships."
Although he's still a few years from retiring, Leapley is already thinking about the future. He said he and his wife are looking forward to spending more time with their children and doing some traveling. He will also have time to spend on his hobby, remodeling and restoring old cars. He has seven vehicles in his workshop, many of them restored to their former glory, including a 1964 El Camino and a 1965 Corvette Roadster.
"It's my hobby, my getaway, to go out to the shop and work on the cars," he says. "If something needs to be refixed, rebuilt and restored, the challenge is doing the research to find out what I need and how to accomplish it."
Although he does plan to retire some day, Leapley doubts he will ever really leave MCL completely behind.
"I told Paul, one of the guys here, that I'm just going to hang out around here and be the Construction Emeritus," Leapley says, cocking his head and flashing a shy smile.
His dad would be proud.
Part 1-Jim Meyers
Part 2-First In The Field
Part 3-Nancy Benson
Part 4-Building Relationships
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