In Person: Calhoun Construction's John Hinshaw tackles multimillion-dollar projects, back-country hiking and family in measured steps

May 17, 2017, 3:00pm EDT

The $238 million KFC Yum Center has become a fixture in downtown Louisville, and it also stands prominent in the mind of one of the people behind the construction of the 721,000-square-foot home to University of Louisville basketball, concerts and other events.

John Hinshaw was the was senior project manager for M. A. Mortenson Co., the general contractor for the Yum Center, when the arena was built about a decade ago.

Hinshaw says it is his favorite project, beating out other major sports arenas he helped oversee.

Despite the pressures of building a huge and intricate structure with a fixed deadline, Hinshaw wouldn’t do anything else, fueled by his sports fandom and love for creating.

“I just think building buildings is fun,” Hinshaw said in an interview.

Now, Hinshaw is the president of Louisville-based Calhoun Construction Services Inc.

He joined the company in September 2013 as the operations manager under then-president Kevin Harpring. Hinshaw became the president of the company in January 2016.

An Indianapolis native and big Indiana Pacers fan, Hinshaw jumped at the opportunity to work for Hunt Construction Group in 1997 to help build the Pacers’ then-new arena, Conseco Fieldhouse (now Bankers Life Fieldhouse). He’d graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in structures and a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management.

That appears to have set a precedent for Hinshaw’s early career and time with Hunt Construction.

He would go on to work on the building of Great American Ball Park for the Cincinnati Reds as a project engineer from fall 1999 to spring 2003.

He then went to work on the construction of the then-named Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., for the Charlotte Bobcats as a project manager.

He was lured away from Hunt Construction to Louisville by developer Steve Poe to work for Poe Cos. LLC in January 2006.

In 2008, Hinshaw was let go.

It was the height of the Great Recession of 2008 and construction companies were hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

But Hinshaw had hope despite losing his job.

The Yum Center project broke ground in 2006, but news of the big project had broken much earlier.

With his background in building sports facilities, Hinshaw wanted to be a part of the project when he first heard about the new arena coming to Louisville. It was an obvious opportunity.

To add to the desire to get on-board with the local project, Hinshaw had gotten married to a Louisville native while at working at Poe.

Hinshaw said he knew that he needed a job that would keep him here.

“Louisville had become my adopted hometown,” he said.

As luck would have it, Hinshaw was hired by Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson and joined as senior project manager for the Yum Center in 2008.

While all the major projects Hinshaw has worked on have been unique, he said there were some special factors involved with Yum Center.

He said the people he worked with on the project were very talented and that they stuck together in the years since the Yum Center opened in October 2010.

“We had a great team of people on the (Yum Center) project … and a lot of the same people are here at Calhoun,” Hinshaw said.

After the Yum Center work, Hinshaw was approached by Wilhelm Construction Co. Inc. with the prospect of opening and managing a business in Louisville.

Wilhelm had been the concrete contractor on several of the arena projects he had helped to manage. He joined and helped to start Calhoun Construction — which has an office off Poplar Level Road just south of the Watterson Expressway — in 2013.

Of his work on arenas, Hinshaw said, “There is always a tight timeline with an opening event scheduled. That always makes it a pressure situation from start to finish.”

A delay in work on a multimillion dollar project that’s received a great deal of media attention could be catastrophic.

“You set up a project, design a schedule that will allow you to hit the construction milestone and have intermittent milestones to help you know if you are going to make your end goal on time and on budget,” he said.

For fun, Hinshaw takes a hiking trip with his friends from college once a year, every year.

This is no day trip with a picnic. These excursions are often six- to eight-day adventures in the back country that cover anywhere from 40 to 60 miles of wilderness.

This year, Hinshaw and his friends are planning a hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

He said that approaching a quest of this magnitude takes the same kind of disciplined planning and goal setting that a multimillion dollar project does.

“You break it down into smaller pieces that you can get your head around and manage it,” Hinshaw said. “A lot of times (while hiking), you have to get from A to B because there is water at B, and no water in between.

“It’s always a huge sense of accomplishment when you’re done. That first beer (after the trip) is very satisfying.”

Even as a parent, Hinshaw takes a similar approach and recognizes that every day presents its own challenges, but that identifying and reaching key milestones helps life make sense and helps establish the pace of where things stand. John and his wife Susan have three children under the age of 10.

“It’s a part of life everyone should experience,” Hinshaw said of being a parent. “It’s your chance to create, to be part of the next generations and hopefully influence people to be good people and be contributing members of the next generation.”

He took some time to answer a few more of our questions:

What is your favorite place for lunch?

Frank’s Meat & Produce on Preston Highway

What advice would you give young or new business leaders?

Pick a field and try to learn every aspect of the field.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Stay positive

What is your go-to outdoor spot?

Parklands of Floyds Fork

Is there any one project that you would consider yourself most proud of?

The KFC Yum Center

Biggest pet peeve?

Hearing someone say, “That is not my job.”

What do you listen to while in the car?

Talk radio or the Lithium station on satellite radio.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Walk in my house, and my three kids attack me with all of their energy.


John Hinshaw

President, Calhoun Construction Services Inc.

Age: 42

Hometown: Indianapolis

Resides: East Middletown

Career history: President, Calhoun Construction Services Inc., 2016-present and operations manager, 2013-16; senior project manager, M. A. Mortenson Co., 2008-13; Poe Cos. LLC, 2008-08; Hunt Construction Group, 1997-2006.

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering with an emphasis in structures and a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management from Purdue University, graduated 1997

Family: Susan Hinshaw, wife of 10 years; an 8-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.

Hobbies: Back-country hiking


With growth of 575% in two years, how is this company still under the radar?

Feb 18, 2016, 2:51pm EST

There is a chance you have never heard of this local construction firm, but it has its hands on some of the biggest projects in Louisville, including two major renovations at Churchill Downs Racetrack and the blockbuster Omni hotel project in downtown Louisville.

Louisville-based Calhoun Construction Services Inc. was formed in 2012, and its revenue grew 575 percent in two years — from $4 million in 2013 to $27 million last year.

John Hinshaw is the new president of Louisville-based Calhoun Construction Services.

Calhoun Construction Services Inc.

The company ranked No. 14 on our list of the Louisville area’s largest general contractors, with $25.8 million in work billed out of local offices in 2014.

Calhoun specializes in construction management, general contracting and trade contracting. Employment at the company has grown from two salaried employees to 25. It also employs about 100 contractors, such as carpenters, laborers, construction workers and other specialty positions.

President John Hinshaw credits Calhoun’s growth to the company’s flexibility — it specializes in all forms of commercial construction but also has expertise in construction management. And, he said, the company’s skilled workforce leads to a lot of repeat customers.

About 100 of Calhoun’s employees and contractors are based in the Louisville area, but the company is active across Kentucky, including Lexington and Owensboro, and in Tennessee, particularly the Nashville area.

As I previously mentioned, Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc. (NASDAQ: CHDN) is well-acquainted with Calhoun’s work. The construction firm was the general contractor for the construction of 20 private, open-air owners suites near Churchill Downs Racetrack’s trackside Winner’s Circle last year, a roughly $4 million project

And Calhoun has returned to the track this year to lead the $18 million renovation of the Turf Club, Stakes Room and other premium seating areas — a project that is slated to be finished before the start of the Spring Meet on April 30.

Hinshaw said a lot of the company’s repeat customers are public institutions, with the company having done work for the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. Currently, Calhoun is the drywall contractor for a new training facility for the UK football team, a roughly $2.5 million project,

Hinshaw said the company also has done the general contracting work on multiple Blaze Pizza locations in Louisville, Lexington and Brentwood,Tenn.

According to the company’s website, Calhoun has been a trade contractor for the Speed Art Museum renovation and expansion, is an ongoing maintenance contractor for General Electric Co.’s (NYSE: GE) Appliance Park in Louisville and was a trade contractor on a 53,808-square-foot bourbon warehouse in Shelbyville for global alcoholic beverage giant London-based Diageo PLC. (You can find a full list of the company’s projects here.)

And the company’s profile should only grow — it is working with Birmingham, Ala.-based general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie on construction management of the nearly $300 million Omni Louisville Hotel project that just broke ground in downtown Louisville.

New leadership team

In the midst of this growth, the leadership team has changed for the company.

Calhoun was founded by multiple investors in 2012 who serve as silent partners and remain active in the company, said Calhoun marketing manager Shannon Haste. She declined to identify the investors.

Kevin Harpring led the company as president until he retired last month, turning over the reins to Hinshaw, who joined Calhoun in 2013 as director of operations, where he specialized in managing projects from start to finish.

Harpring was out of the state on Thursday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hinshaw also became a co-owner in the company in January, along with two other new co-owners, Mike Williams, Calhoun’s operations manager, and Kurt Meadors, vice president and senior estimator.

When I spoke to Hinshaw earlier this week, he confirmed the ownership change but declined to disclose any further details about the ownership structure of the company.

Hinshaw, an Indiana native, has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial construction industry and has worked on numerous projects, including hotels and apartment complexes.

“We’ve built an elite team of professionals here in our community that have the experience and ability to build almost anything,” Hinshaw said.

This article originally ran in the February 18th edition of Business First.