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Fort Collins business leader David Neenan dies

FORT COLLINS — A longtime business leader, icon of the construction industry and creator of the “archistruction” concept has died.

David Neenan, founder of Neenan Co. LLLP, which grew into one of the largest construction companies in the nation, died this week. He was 80.

“We are saddened to share that our founder David Neenan passed away earlier this week,” the company posted on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. “His innovative mindset and kind spirit are the foundation of the work we do. We are forever grateful for the trailblazing he has done in his life, both professionally and personally. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this time.”

Neenan founded his company after buying out Burton Builders in 1973. A few years later, he began to integrate the design/build concept into his operation. Prior to that point, most contractors worked in a design-bid-build world where architectural design was separate from the construction phase of new building creation. 

He was well known around the globe for presentations that he would deliver not only on construction but on management. He wrote a book in 2008 called “No Excuses: Be the Hero of Your Own Life.”

He headed his company twice. He stepped aside in 1998 to let Jim Neenan lead the firm but returned to the helm in 2004 when his cousin wanted to return to sales.

He earned numerous awards over the 50-year tenure of his business, including Entrepreneur of the Year in Fort Collins in 1990, Colorado Business of the Year in 1995 and BizWest’s Bravo! Entrepreneur Award in 2002.

The BizWest story announcing the award that year started this way:

“If it were not already in existence, David Neenan might have invented the box, just so he could step out of it.”

Thinking outside the box was standard David Neenan protocol.

A devastating construction job in Casper, in which architect and contractor disagreed over who was at fault, resulted in the marriage of architecture and construction into archistruction within his firm. He trademarked the term in 1997.

When work within a volatile industry resulted in a major downturn for the company, he shifted gears and changed his specialty to more evergreen industries such as health-care facilities and school structures. At one time, the company reported, about 80% of revenue was coming from those areas of expertise.

The company built notable structures in the region and throughout the country, including the Budweiser Events Center, the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, buildings at UCHealth’s Harmony campus, the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, expansion of New Belgium Brewery, and an ice rink at Fort Collins Epic Center.

Neenan’s company was also noted for building internally among its employees using both professional and personal development techniques.

He was known for applying the adage that the learner survives times of change “while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists,” a quote attributed to Eric Hoffer.

Learning from others was mainstream in his world. Arjuna Ardagh posted on Facebook that, “He was one of the most innovative and inspiring people I have met in my life. I originally met David because Fred Koffman, David, and a couple of other people booked me and the Awakening Coaching team for a private intensive in Nevada City. There were four participants and eight staff! I did a process with David in that intensive called ‘Radical Releasing.’ In just a few minutes, he recognized and let go of a drive that has dominated his life’s choices for decades. Obviously, rather like being present for a birth or a wedding or a death, that kind of moment creates a bond.

“Subsequently, David invited me to teach in Fort Collins, Colorado, at his company. … I’ve always felt so inspired by David’s dedication to making a massive difference.

“He leaves behind a powerful legacy, not only with his wife and four daughters, but with thousands and thousands of people he has impacted. We will all be missing him in his death, but I think we all celebrate him for living a thoroughly well-lived life.”

Source: BizWest

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