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Construction giant Webcor has been responsible for some of San Francisco’s largest and highest-profile projects, like the Salesforce Transit Center, the California Academy of Sciences and the SFMOMA expansion.
Jes Pedersen has been the man guiding those and other projects, although Webcor might have a different CEO if not for an excursion gone horribly wrong.
“I had an accident with my hang glider, and basically severed my left foot,’’ Pedersen said. “After I did that, I couldn’t work standing on my feet, and it’s actually what caused me to go back to college,” he said. “I don’t know when I would have gone back to school, or if I would have.”
The son of a Danish immigrant who worked in construction, Pedersen was “picking up loose nails with a magnet’’ at the age of five. He learned to install ceilings as a teenager, got his welder’s license at 17, and after two years at one college began working in construction. He went back to school again and graduated in 1985 with a degree in construction engineering technologies.
The hang-glider accident also caused Pedersen to rethink risk-taking. “When you start to get too close to the edge, you always have to understand where is that line that if you cross it, you’re out of control,” he said. “As much as I liked the adventure side of trying something different, you don’t want to be doing that on the business side, because of how catastrophic the result can be.”
Webcor’s results under Pedersen have been anything but. Revenue for 2017 is projected to pass the $2 billion mark, up from $560 million in 2011, the year before Pedersen became CEO. As CEO, Pedersen has won praise from developers.
“He takes a deep interest in your project,” said Oz Erickson, chairman of the Emerald Fund, who has worked with Webcor on several projects, including the 326-unit Rincon Green. “He has a diligent, careful approach to construction. He runs an excellent company. He sets a very high moral and ethical standard.”
Webcor is also trying to address the construction labor shortage, working with San Francisco’s CityBuild program to provide skills training.
“Jes is passionate about construction,” said Joshua Arce, director of CityBuild. “He is very hands-on, which you don’t often see for the CEO of a company as large as Webcor.”
Name: Jes Pedersen
What it does: Construction company
HQ: San Francisco
2016 Revenue: $1.59 billion
Recent business highlight: Construction of $708 million San Francisco General Hospital
Philanthropy: Webcor gave $389,000 in donations last year to 50 organizations, according to Pedersen. The groups that Webcor gives to, including CityBuild Academy, Rebuilding Together, and Helmets to Hardhats, often have a focus in giving “people pathways to construction.”
“They have a really impressive pro bono team, and a nice ethos of pro bono work,’’ said Rebuilding Together San Francisco Executive Director Karen Nemsick. Jes Pedersen “comes out to the projects and gets really involved. He’s been able to authorize a good amount of resources to give back to the community.’’
Management style: Pedersen aims for an “ultra-collaborative’’ work environment and is an advocate of the open office plan. Mei Lin Wolff, a Webcor vice president of human resources, says Pedersen pushes “decision making and accountability to the lowest levels possible to allow individuals the autonomy and developmental opportunities to succeed in their jobs.’’