No matter how simple or complex your construction project may be, you want Garic Abendroth involved. He’s a seasoned engineer with rock-solid credentials, and we’d put him up against anyone when it comes to making the best use of your time, money, and resources.
“I can bring a lot to the table,” says Abendroth quietly and confidently in a conversation at one of his favorite rooftop bars in Kansas City. “I’m a geotechnical engineer, but my understanding of construction goes way beyond that. I’ve seen projects from many perspectives both in private and public arenas and on many different levels. I understand what my partners need.”
Abendroth is known for drawing on all resources available and running down every possibility to find a better way. He has a gift for seeing the opportunity in everything from materials, tools, and skills to processes, partnerships, and changing circumstances. He works intelligently and absorbs like a sponge, from the office to the field.
“There’s a time for work behind a computer and there’s a time for getting your hands dirty and seeing things up-close, in-person. I make the most of both. I want to do all I can and know all I can to push myself and my abilities.”
If you’re okay with engineers who cut corners and beat around the bush, Abendroth is not a good match. Ask anyone who’s worked with him and they’ll confirm his honesty and integrity are non-negotiable. It’s his nature, not just his priorities. He’s genuine, and when he looks you in the eye, you know he’s being straight with you. “I’m going to put you in the best position to make the smartest decisions whether you’re a contractor or a project owner. That’s where I set my bar.”
Most of our geotechnical projects come down to Abendroth’s signature as the engineer of record. A lot goes into that signature. Careful analysis, strategic coordination, painstaking validation down to the details, plus years of frontline experience owning what he touches.
“When I take responsibility, it’s full responsibility and I’m going to make sure I deliver on the integrity of my license. I fully invest myself and my crew in our work. That’s the only way to go about it.”
AOG President Allan Bush, one of the other licensed engineers at our firm, describes Abendroth as nothing less than a rock anchoring what makes us valuable to partners and customers. “He’s directly involved from start to finish on everything. Nothing falls through the cracks,” says Bush. “Garic sees the possibilities through the thick of it and works closely with project teams to create solutions, not just identify problems. He strives for a worry-free experience every single time and it shows.”
Problem Solver and Partner
Many of us in construction tend to be early risers, but you’ll find Abendroth on the job at the crack of dawn like clockwork. He’s all business before sunrise, loading up the day to do more than time seems to allow through tight planning and scheduling. He’s often in the field doing his most important engineering work through the morning and then following up with timely emails and phone calls through the afternoon.
He’ll jump out of routine in a heartbeat to tackle surprises and thrives on solving them. When key conditions change, he quickly gets to the bottom of what’s going on and pivots to what can be done about it. Abendroth isn’t easily deterred, especially when he’s working with a strong project team.
“When projects run smoothly, that’s just great, but coming up against something you’ve never seen before is even better. Building at a fresh site can always be tricky, and matching the old with the new at a previously developed site can get extremely complex. I enjoy collaborating on custom solutions that push our skills.”
Many say they’re passionate about collaboration, but it’s truly in Abendroth’s DNA. He looks at collaboration as the ability to work both with others and for others, seeing the project through their eyes, connecting with their pain and priorities, and making solutions work all the way around. It’s being able to deeply appreciate the bigger project picture, and it’s a hallmark of Abendroth’s thinking.
“There are engineers doing work that’s textbook black and white, and that’s exactly what some projects need. But for most projects, you need someone who understands the realities of how construction develops, and those realities include things like budgets and schedules. You can’t stick your head in the sand and work in isolation.”
Abendroth can parachute into project planning and immediately recognize the roles of everyone at the table, the value of each role, and how exactly he fits in. He’s constantly rubbing elbows with people charged with delivering a project; the general contractor, the structural and civil engineers, and all the subcontractors. His mind easily keeps up with all the complexity, continually reconfiguring around shifting realities and preferences to solve problems and keep things moving.
“We all have a certain level of risk. I want to understand everyone’s risk and have them understand my risk, not just come to the table and say I’m the senior engineer, I’m going to tell you how to do it. We all have to find a way that works collectively for the best results.”
Collective achievement in construction speaks for itself and Abendroth emphasizes that efficient coordination makes it even better. “That’s the big one,” he says. “Making the most of every single piece. Every trade is hired for a reason. And then you’ve got the general contractor managing it all and the owner paying for it. Everyone has a voice, some louder than others, but everyone has a voice. You have to listen closely and synthesize all of that into a streamlined approach that delivers high quality.”
Developing that kind of broad understanding requires especially strong communication skills and Abendorth is a natural. He speaks clearly in precise terms while keeping his ears open with heightened empathy. Talk to him and you’ll see how easily he adjusts for his audience. A flow of technical jargon for engineers shifts to layman’s terms for project owners and more general terms for public officials.
“I think it’s important that I communicate in a way that connects to those I’m working with, regardless of who they are. Being very clear with each other is the most efficient and effective way to do things right and get the most from everyone’s contribution.”
Throughout his career, Abendroth has kept all kinds of people on the same page, from subcontractors to city managers. It’s not uncommon to see him at a job site standing between a field technician and an executive manager. “It might be the guy with the shovel, it might be the crane operator, or maybe the guy signing the check to pay for it all. I speak their different languages.”
Who wouldn’t prefer to work with such a straight shooter who’s easy to talk to? Dealing with Abendroth means not having to deal with a phony, a difficult personality, or someone you have to second guess. He’s devoted to the truth and his grip on it is pretty much all you’ll ever get.
“I didn’t make the job site. Mother Nature and other people made the job site. I’m just going to tell you how the subgrade is going to perform, how your project is going to perform, and the risks that are involved to help everyone understand how it’s all going to work.”
Don’t expect him to sugarcoat hard facts, but you can definitely expect him to work through them with you. “I’ll be honest with you if something doesn’t work. If the schedule isn’t realistic, for example. However, I’ll also tell you what’s possible within that schedule. The goal is always to figure out how to get things done.”
Custom Built for AOG
Abendroth’s trademark discipline, expertise, and understanding of construction come as no surprise when you consider his path. He grew up in El Dorado, Kansas near Wichita with two older siblings and a mother who still lives in the same house where she raised him. His father was a Vietnam War veteran and a professional carpenter who owned a construction business.
“That’s where it started, you know, I was five years old on job sites pulling nails out of wood for my Dad. Everything I saw growing up was related to construction. I walked around in the footsteps of plumbers, electricians, concrete guys, and others. Seeing earth moving and the smell of sawdust are my earliest memories. I didn’t see it as work. I saw it as fun.”
He kept having ‘fun’ all the way through Kansas State University. While others partied on spring breaks, he was on job sites and spending summers on public projects like highways, roads, and bridges. He moved into heavy civil engineering and construction and supervised water and wastewater plant job sites. He advanced from constructing to inspecting, and his work stretched across the Great Plains, eventually landing him in Minnesota. That’s where Allan Bush found him and convinced him to move back to Kansas.
“From the first time that I met Garic, I knew we had found the right Engineer to join our team,” says Bush, recalling one of his best decisions. “Garic is the type of engineer who can’t just sit in an office, and that’s the right chemistry for a nimble, agile firm like ours. He has developed skills and experience into all reaches of commercial and industrial projects throughout the Greater Kansas City area and is now known for shaping the right approach to the right solutions.”
The timing of Abendroth’s arrival over a decade ago couldn’t have been better. AOG was starting to take off on our current growth trajectory, and he was just what we needed to build momentum. He fits right into our firm’s diverse personalities and has a knack for pinpointing individual strengths and plugging them into situations where they can shine. As a leader, he’s someone we’re proud to follow, and with Chuck Valenta as his right hand, we feel like our engineering work is at its best.
“Chuck and I make such a good team. I’m an introvert, he’s the extrovert, and we share the same sense of urgency. We’re just built to get things done and do them right. That’s really, really valuable in construction and rarer than you might think.”
Abendroth is also a good fit for our team culture and shares our appreciation for knowing when to turn work off and kickback. He enjoys spending time with his long-term girlfriend and her three kids, loves animals, hits the open road on a motorcycle when time allows and takes in music — lots and lots of music.
“I can’t get enough of music, all kinds of music. I love live music and if it’s happening at a rooftop bar, it’s even better. I played just about anything with three valves while growing up. French horn, flugelhorn, trumpet. I was in the marching band and orchestra at K-State, and if I wasn’t an engineer I’d probably be in a philharmonic somewhere.”
Maybe that helps explain why Abendroth is so good at conducting all the complexities of construction. He’s turned his work into his high art, continually exploring its potential and living for the persistent thrill of seeing where it can lead him, AOG, and project teams across Kansas City.
“If we can work together in a way that brings out the best in us and show bravery and creativity in taking on every new challenge, we can do great things that make a meaningful difference for our businesses and our community. Look at what’s been achieved so far. This is a strong industry with good people. It’ll be exciting to see what else we can build together.”
Garic Abendroth, P.E.
Engineering Department Mgr.