With a dream to work for himself, some friendly advice and a $10,000 loan from a local banker, and the unqualified support of his wife Deloris, Paul "Corky" Malm started Malm Construction on June 19, 1964.
From humble beginnings consisting of one used bulldozer coupled with the drive to succeed, Malm has overseen the growth of his firm to a nationally recognized multi-million dollar operation headquartered in Lindsborg. "I worked for another contractor and as I drove to work each day, I'd think, I should be doing this for myself," stated Malm during a recent interview in his memento-filled office on East State Street.
"At first I would get discouraged when work slowed down, then Deloris would remind me I wasn't a quitter; that I had never quit anything in my life."
Malm prides himself on being a goal setter: "I wanted to get beyond doing farm ponds and secondary roads. I wanted to be a part of building large lakes and major highway projects." He accomplished those goals by winning contracts to build large watershed projects and lakes and by being selected as a subcontractor on both I-70 and I-135 highways. In one of their largest projects Malm Construction built a reservoir to store drinking water for the City of Amarillo, Texas. Malm encourages his employees, from laborers to managers, to set goals. He emphasizes goal setting will help them in their work and in their personal lives.
Malm has at times played the role of negotiator by bringing opposing sides together for a mutually agreeable solution so work can begin. "I work with various organizations with different interests, the good guys and the bad guys," is how he describes it.
The payroll at Malm Construction has been as high as 80 employees when the firm has a big contract. Once that work is done, however, Malm is not hesitant to cut back on staff. "We've had our bumps and bangs along the way," he says. He's a firm believer that if a company does not keep its staffing levels in line with the amount of work there is to do it won't survive long.
Many of Malm's employees have been with him for decades. Naturally Delores, who is now retired, was there in the beginning running the one-person office, keeping the books, answering the phone, sending out billing, estimating jobs and doing the bidding. Lyle Kelling, who Malm calls his "right hand man", is the company's estimator and has been there almost from the beginning, supervisor Stewart Crowther has 42 years of service, and office manager Betty Palmquist has been employed by Malm for more than 30 years.
While still the owners Corky and Deloris have turned the day-to-day operation of the company over to their sons Kenneth and Terry. "They've been around here since they were in diapers," says Corky.
In a pioneering move Malm Construction started using a computer system in 1984 for bookkeeping, payroll, accounts payable, job costing, work scheduling, and word processing. They soon added equipment maintenance and service records, equipment costing, and job estimating to the list of duties for their IBM computer.
Corky advises, "Don't fall in love with your equipment. Keep upgrading. We have a good shop; maintenance service is very important."
In addition to growing their company for 50 years and with Corky holding leadership positions in national trade and soil conservation organizations, he and Deloris have amassed a substantial collection of art, mostly by artists with Lindsborg connections. Corky's brother Norman was a noted wood carver and cartoonist and his great-uncle G. N. Malm was a well respected artist, businessman and Smoky Valley promoter. Another relative, G. N.'s daughter Alba, was a fine artist in her own right.
As natives of the area and of Swedish decent, Corky and Deloris have a love for the Smoky Valley and the history of its people. They are long-time supporters of the Smoky Valley Historical Association. Corky spearheaded the creation and installation of the over two dozen historic markers pointing out places of interest paralleling Lindsborg's Valkommen Trail as it winds its way through town.
For more information on Malm Construction, you can contact Corky at (785) 227-3190.