The season of the orange cones is upon us, as drivers on Johnson County interstates know. Road construction is about to go into high gear as spring approaches, and detours, traffic lane changes and overnight closures on road projects are a certainty.
But ever wondered whose job it is to put out all those cones, signs and stripes that announce the driving misery to come? In many cases, it’s not the city or even the general contractor, but Gun-Ko Traffic Control, Inc., an Olathe business owned by Jim Gould and Rocky Gunter.
Q: What does your business do?
“We put down, maintain and pick up the orange signs, barrels and cones around construction projects,” said co-owner Jim Gould. The company also lays out the temporary lines and puts on the permanent lane lines after a project is completed. In addition, some street signs and stop signs may be built in to a general contract, and Gun-Ko handles that as well, he said.
Q: How does your business work, exactly?
Gun-Ko, like other businesses of its type, is an independent contractor, Gould said. Most of the work is as a subcontractor to the general contractor on a road project. Gun-Ko competitively bids for the work to the general contractor, and gets the work if the city, county or state government awards it.
The company buys its own equipment and hires its own people to do the work.
Q: Where does the name come from?
The company is named after its two original owners, David Gunter and Bob Kudelko.
Q: What territory do you cover?
Gun-Ko mainly does business in the Kansas City metro area, but occasionally will go a little ways out of town, as far as Topeka, Gould said.
Q: How did you get into this business?
“I was living in Omaha, Neb., when I first got involved,” Gould said. “I was out of the military, working construction at night and going to school during the day.”
But in 1974, a strike put Gould temporarily out of work. “My wife and I lived 30 miles north of Omaha. She was a teacher and home during the summer. She told me to go find something to do,” Gould said.
So Gould contacted a friend who was working for a traffic control company, and he went to work sweeping floors. Instead of going back to his old job when the strike ended, Gould decided to stay on and get to know the business.
He eventually made the connection with owner David Gunter, who invited him to come to Kansas City and help out when the other company founder suffered some health setbacks.
Gould learned his trade by doing. “This isn’t a business you can go to college or trade school for,” he said. There are some courses offered by a training and certification association for traffic controllers, he said, but most people have to learn the business from working in it.
Q: What are your biggest challenges?
As in many other industries, keeping good employees is the biggest challenge, Gould said. The company also must keep up with the technical advances as well, he said.
Q: Are you doing the traffic control for the big Gateway project?
The Johnson County Gateway project encompasses numerous interchanges near the intersection of Interstates 35 and 435. Most recently, road builders closed the 95th Street overpass in Lenexa over I-35.
Gun-Ko is not involved in the Gateway contract, but does benefit indirectly, Gould said. The huge size of the Gateway project has kept those contractors very busy, leaving a lot of the other road projects open for Gun-Ko and others, he said.
“It’s a good industry for everybody. You’ll always need road construction,” he said.
Roxie Hammill: firstname.lastname@example.org
IN A NUTSHELL
Company: Gun-Ko Traffic Control Inc.
Address: 901 Ironwood Drive, Olathe, Kan., 66061
Telephone: 913 764-4540