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Morrison-Knudsen Company, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Morrison-Knudsen Company, Inc.

List of Deals

Morrison Knudsen Corporation originated in Idaho when Morris Hans Knudsen and Harry W. Morrison joined together to take advantage of the business opportunities presented by the National Reclamation Act of 1902. The U.S. government was subsidizing projects to irrigate vast areas of desert. In 1912 Knudsen and Morrison's first job, a subcontract for $14,000 worth of work at a pumping station along the Snake River, generated little profit. The men's first financially successful job was the 1914 construction of Three-Mile Falls Dam in Oregon. This job established the company as a legitimate player in dam construction, which became one of the company's hallmarks.

One of the most significant milestones in the growth of Morrison-Knudsen Company was the construction of the Hoover (Boulder) Dam, which was contracted in 1931. The magnitude of the job led to the incorporation of Morrison-Knudsen Company in 1932. Morrison brought together a consortium of different companies, Six Companies, Inc., thus introducing the now-commonplace practice of joint-venture construction. The dam was completed ahead of schedule, in 1935. The company was able to survive the Depression, due in part to its success with the Hoover Dam.

During World War II, Morrison-Knudsen joined other contractors in a joint venture known as Contractors, Pacific Naval Air Bases. Building airfield facilities on Midway and Wake islands in late 1941, more than 1,200 company workers were captured by the Japanese. On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the company was engaged in the construction of twenty huge naval fuel-storage vaults. Morrison-Knudsen launched its company magazine, the eMKayan, in March 1942, a strategic time to reinforce public relations. These and other World War II projects established ties that have kept the company entrenched in military contracting. In addition to extensive building contracts in Vietnam, the company procured a substantial amount of business outside of active battle zones. The Distant Early Warning Line, a chain of bases and radar installations, was constructed and maintained across northern Canada, as was the "White Alice" communications system in Alaska. In the 1960s Morrison-Knudsen became a leading builder of missile facilities, including the first U.S. underground Titan missile installation at the Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado.

While World War II initiated new business, the war's end also brought reconstruction projects and expansion opportunities in new domains. In 1950 the company bought the Cleveland-based industrial builder H.K. Ferguson Company, which aided greatly in the trend toward rebuilding the American infrastructure. The 1950s also marked the establishment of the company's engineering subsidiary, International Engineering Company, Inc., which was designed primarily to implement public works in less-industrialized nations.

Morrison-Knudsen further diversified in the 1960s, establishing itself as one of the major contractors for the developing space program. In addition to contracts for the American space program, in 1966 the company contracted the Vehicle Assembly Building in Florida. The world's largest building at the time, it was used to assemble the Apollo and Saturn V rockets, for which the company also constructed launching pads. The Vietnam War also stimulated business, as the U.S. government engaged the company as the sponsor of a joint venture, called RMK-BRJ, which consisted of Morrison-Knudsen International, Raymond International, Brown & Root, and J.A. Jones Construction Company. Under the command of the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, RMK-BRJ constructed bridges, highways, jet airfields, hospitals, deep-water ports, communications facilities, water supply systems, power plants, supply depots, and other facilities.

The company expanded into mining in the 1970s, a logical offshoot of its heavy civil engineering operations. Morrison-Knudsen explored for precious metals, coal, lignite, and limestone mines throughout the United States and in various foreign countries. One notable example is the Rio Blanco Copper mine in Chile.

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