Henson successful in construction business

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
01/25/2017 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Kuruks LLC workers install an access floor on Oct. 12, 2016, at the new Cherokee casino in Grove, Oklahoma. Kuruks, which is owned by Cherokee Nation citizen Mike Henson, has worked with the CN on several facilities. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Kuruks LLC employees work on an expansion project on the Stone Wolf Casino for the Pawnee Nation on Dec. 27, 2016, in Pawnee, Oklahoma. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Mike Henson
PAWNEE, Okla. – At a young age, Cherokee Nation citizen Mike Henson followed in his stepfather’s footsteps working in construction. That eventually led him to create his own construction company in 2010.

After finishing a project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers they offered him a $4 million contract.

“So that was really predicated on my past performance working for the Army Corps of Engineers, working on multiple projects in different states. So that’s why I created my company. I never really thought that I would be an entrepreneur, and it has since then just ballooned,” he said.

Henson said he has worked in construction since he was 15.

“As I got into college, it was a means for me to make ends meet. Our family didn’t have a lot of money, so I was responsible for everything that I had to do to make it through school,” he said.

Henson graduated in 2002 from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in construction management technology.

“I had five internships at that point in time. So when I graduated, I had a lot of opportunities to go anywhere in the world…doing construction,” he said.

He chose to stay in Oklahoma because of family and built his company in Pawnee.

With a new company, he said getting capital to grow the business was difficult and he needed a backer to get access to larger contracts.

“I caught wind of the Pawnee Nation’s interest in diversifying their business portfolio. So I basically negotiated with the Pawnee Tribal Development Corporation for a year. We finally came to terms last February, and they acquired the majority interest of my company, and with that allowed the company to grow. We had access to more capital. We had more resources,” he said.

Originally, Henson’s company was called Elohi LLC. Elohi in the Cherokee language means earth. But since the Pawnee Nation acquired the majority interest, he said the company went through a rebranding process to reflect the change in tribal affiliation, and the company name was changed to Kuruks LLC. Kuruks is a Pawnee word meaning bear.

Kuruks performs a plethora of construction-based work, including construction management, general construction and specialty construction.

“We have strategic partners on the sub-contracting side. We currently partner with three different sub-contractors because we bring to the table a skillset that they don’t necessarily have, and they also bring a skillset that we don’t have so it’s a perfect union for us because we’re a small company. We’re able to help one another get access to contracts, but we also focus as a prime contractor on doing work on our own,” Henson said.

He said the company focuses on Native preference when it comes to skilled labor, technical trades and hiring Native-owned subcontracting businesses.

Kuruks has worked with the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses on projects such as the Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, the gaming and access floor for the Cherokee Casino Roland and the access floor for the new Cherokee Casino Grove.

He said there are opportunities in the construction trade and roughly 8 million construction jobs are not going to be filled in 2017.

“We really do focus on trying to find the best top Native talent. There’s not a big pool...for all of construction,” he said.

Henson said Native Americans have always been building their lodging and things they need. He refers to it as “brown building” and encourages young Native Americans to look at the construction trade.

“There’s a movement on the environmental side called ‘green building,’ but we’ve been green building all along, and I call it ‘brown building.’ So it’s in us. It’s innate in us to be builders and to work with our hands and do those things. For those young people who aren’t interested in going to college, there’s many opportunities to go to a technical trade school and have a great career doing construction,” Henson said.

For more information, visit www.kuruks.com, email mike.henson@kuruks.com or call 405-481-5001.
About the Author
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to ...

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