As kid, Mark Helm played with toy backhoes in a sandbox and built rivers and roads in his mom’s garden after he tilled it. So it seems only natural that Helm today heads Dolese Bros. Co., the state’s largest supplier of ready-mix concrete, crushed stone, gravel and sand.
“The products we supply are what we use to build everything around us,” Helm said, “from our roads to the concrete that runs the full height of the Devon Tower.”
Dolese employs roughly 1,100, including about 80 at its downtown Oklahoma City offices at 13 NW 13.
Helm, 53, sat down recently with The Oklahoman to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, where my parents still live in a retirement community. I’m the fourth of their five children. My oldest sibling, a brother, is nine years older and lives in Ohio, and my youngest, a sister, is four years younger and lives in Denver. I’ve remained closest to that sister, but we all get along; only we don’t see each other a lot. I get back about twice a year — in the spring, summer or fall, to avoid the brutal winters. My father was a carpenter and, later, a construction superintendent. When I was in high school, my mother was a cook for the school cafeteria, so I got to eat her good cooking — including breaded pork cutlets and hamburger, gravy and mashed potatoes — at school and at home. I was an above average student. I played offensive guard on the football team and threw the shot put in track. From the time I was 6 or 7, my parents had a place on a lake in northern Minnesota, where we fished, hunted, canoed, boated, hiked and cross-country skied.
Q: And college?
A: I lived at home and commuted to the University of Minnesota. I started out in architecture, but I wasn’t artsy enough. So, I switched to civil engineering, which I think was an outgrowth of going with my dad to construction projects growing up.
Q: Where did you work before Dolese?
A: Jobs were in short supply when I graduated from college in 1984, so I took a job with a private aggregates and ready-mix construction company in Moline, Ill., which launched my career in this industry. Within three and half years, I was back in Minnesota working for a similar company — which started out as a family business, went through numerous acquisitions, mergers and de-mergers, and today is a piece of an international company. I worked in Minneapolis from 1987 to 1994, and in business development in Denver from 1994 to 2001. In 14 years, I had 14 different bosses, and the company and its values changed a lot.
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•Position: Dolese Bros. Co., president and chief executive
•Birth date and childhood home: May 2, 1961; Minneapolis suburb
•Family: Roxanne, married 32 years (They graduated high school together, started dating in college and married Helm’s sophomore year.); children, Anna, 24, of Waco, and Nick, 20, of Stillwater
•Residence: Southeast Edmond
•Education: University of Minnesota, bachelor’s in civil engineering; University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., master of business administration
•Civic and professional contributions: He serves on the boards of The State Chamber of Oklahoma, The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, and Oklahoma Aggregates Association; and by gubernatorial appointment, on the Water for 2060 Advisory Council
•For fun: Spending time with family, reading and working