April 23, 2006 – From its office at the Marketplace shopping center on St. John, Carlson Construction juggles numerous building jobs at once. "We're busy," Dave Carlson said.
With Carlson keeping the 40-person construction crew on the job and Karen Radke running the office, the company tackles commercial and residential construction, renovations and more.
"We love renovations," Carlson said, proudly pointing out that the company has its own cabinet shop.
Carlson is a member of the Island Green Building Association, an affiliation he takes very seriously. He said he is careful about what he cuts when getting lots ready for building.
"They truly do love the trees," Radke, his life partner of 29 years, said.
Carlson said that by not clear-cutting the property, he keeps shade available for his crews to work more comfortably.
He said that he's linked up with St. Thomas architect Doug White to import natural lumber for use in houses.
Like all island construction companies, Carlson Construction faces numerous challenges. Currently, there is no sand to make concrete, which is tying up his five building jobs.
"It's never been this bad," Carlson said of the island's chronic concrete shortage.
To keep his crew employed, Carlson said he keeps some smaller jobs lined up to fill in when delays arise.
Carlson said that it's often difficult to get his stateside clients to understand the vagaries of shipping construction materials to St. John. He said Homeland Security regulations that came in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks now mean that cargo is slower leaving the states and slower going though procedures in the Virgin Islands.
"They don't understand we're a dot in the middle of the ocean," Carlson said of his clients.
Both Wisconsin natives, Carlson, 53, and Radke, 52, moved to St. John in 1992 after a sailing vacation in the nearby British Virgin Islands introduced them to the tropics.
Radke said they were sitting at the Greenhouse on St. Thomas the day before they left for home when they decided they'd like to make the move. Through her job at a Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C., Radke knew the company had a property on St. John.
"I called the regional manager and said 'What are the chances of moving to St. John?'" Radke recalled, adding that the two hadn't even visited St. John.
Six months later, she got the transfer. Carlson, who was working on construction projects at places like the White House, followed three months later.
Carlson worked at various construction companies, finally taking on the two-year Caneel Bay rebuilding project after Hurricane Marilyn hit in 1995.
Meanwhile, Radke was caught in the upheaval that happened when the Hyatt became the Westin Resort and Villas. She left, joining Carlson Construction in 2000.
The two started out with a home office, but as the company grew, they realized they needed to separate their home and business lives.
And when they're not on the job?
"We like to read and we love water sports," Carlson said.
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