- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

Melissa Koehler, the new president and chief operating officer of B. Frank Joy LLC, has another distinction: She is the first president in the Hyattsville company’s 89-year history to come from outside the Joy family.

“It’s very humbling,” said Mrs. Koehler, who joined the underground-contracting company 10 years ago as an accounting manager. “I’m very proud to be part of such a rich heritage.”

The 200-employee company installs and maintains underground utility infrastructure, including power, sewer and gas lines.

Ken Joy, whose grandfather, Bernard Frank Joy, founded the company in 1917, will remain chairman and chief executive officer.

“Mrs. Koehler has been an integral part of the important growth and evolution this company has achieved over the last decade,” Mr. Joy said. “We look forward to new heights of success under her leadership.”

She will oversee the business development, operations and growth of the company, which has gone through several transformations since starting as a horse-and-buggy coal-hauling and feed-delivery business.

In 1946, B. Frank Joy became the first contractor to install underground manholes in the District. Four decades later, the company expanded into natural-gas pipeline work.

In the 1990s, it added fiber-optic cable contracting. Last year, B. Frank Joy posted more than $20 million in revenue, but the company would not disclose profit information.

“We don’t tend to enjoy long revenue streams. In the construction industry, you don’t have that kind of predictability,” Mrs. Koehler said.

She said contractors took a major hit when telecommunications companies suffered a downturn in 2001 and stopped expanding their networks. As a result, B. Frank Joy lost a third of its business, she said.

“That’s what makes the construction industry a challenge,” she said. “It’s very important that you understand where your business is and where it’s going.”

To overcome volatility and succeed, Mrs. Koehler said, it is important to continue to look for ways to expand, maintain a good relationship with the bank — her company deals with Bank of America — and attract repeat clients by treating customers well.

“We’ve been working with Pepco continuously since 1925,” she noted, referring to the year that B. Frank Joy began renting trucks to Potomac Electric Power Co.

Mrs. Koehler said she tries to make frequent visits to employees in the field.

“That’s really where the rubber meets the road; it’s very much a people business,” she said.

“I like to be out and understanding what’s happening in the business and thinking about ways to grow and improve. If I never had to sit with my hands strapped to this computer, I’d be the happiest.”

Mrs. Koehler lives with her husband, Rick, and their three children in Gambrills, Md.

—Kara Rowland

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