About Empire Building Construction

Valuing people over profit for more than 35 years.

Quality Commercial Construction in Sioux Falls & Surrounding Areas

Our History

Back in 1966 a 16 year old kid named Ercell Fortney took a job erecting metal buildings in a small town in Iowa. After spending years laboring on a crew and operating cranes for multiple companies, he wound up in Sioux Falls, SD selling and drafting buildings. After a short time with the company, he learned that he did not agree with the core values of the company and its ownership. In 1983, he decided to start his own business.

In a little more than a decade, Ercell grew Empire Building Construction to more than 30 people doing primarily steel erection, concrete, and general contracting. Since the beginning, Ercell has etched two main principles into the DNA of his company. Take care of the people, and deliver an outstanding level of quality for the customer.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Ercell’s son Luke got more involved with the company working on crews during the summers. After tech school, he worked as a mechanic and equipment hauler before coming into the office to manage projects. He then moved into an Operations Manager role for a short time, before eventually becoming Vice President/General Manager in 2014. In 2019, Luke Fortney purchased the company.

The leadership and ownership transition has been almost seamless. There is definitely a crystal clear alignment between Ercell and Luke when it comes to personal and company values. Luke has a passion for improving the lives of everyone on the team. This passion, which is shared by senior leadership, is the basis of our company’s Mission Statement. He knows that caring for the team this way cultivates an awesome company culture. That culture is what enables the company to deliver spectacular quality and do it more efficiently than the competition.

Ercell, though mostly retired, still makes an appearance once in awhile as an advisor and mentor. He even jumps in a crane once in a while when needed. While his physical presence may be less frequent, the culture he built from a lifetime of sweat and tears lives on and is appreciated by everyone on our team.

If you want your building built by people who love what they do, give us a call. We’d love to chat with you.

– Luke Fortney, President

Our Mission

Empowering People To Grow.

Empire Building Construction empowers ambitious, hungry team members with the tools and knowledge to grow themselves personally and professionally. This results in an awesome company culture that leads to outstanding construction quality and an over-the-top experience for our customers empowering them to grow their businesses.

Our Core Values

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1. Team Member Personal Growth

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

We believe that if you’re not growing, you won’t be fulfilled. That is why we want everyone on our team to be growing personally and professionally. It may be through books, podcasts, classes, seminars, or training. If there is a person on our team who is not growing themselves, then we are not fulfilling our mission, and that person is taking the spot of another person who we could be empowering.


2. Ownership Mentality

We expect our team members to act like owners. In return, we place expectations on ourselves to treat them like owners. We believe that if a person has direct control over his or her income he or she will be more fulfilled and more productive while delivering an outstanding product. This is why we pay out job productivity bonuses which are calculated directly by the profitability of the company AND the person’s performance score. This allows team members to be 100% accountable for their efficiency or lack thereof. It also opens their eyes to the importance of quality. Without top notch quality, our customers and profits disappear. Part of our mission includes paying every team member well above the industry standard. This mentality enables us to do that.

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3. Treat others like you want to be treated.

This one is pretty self explanatory. When we are faced with a difficult decision or situation, we simply ask ourselves how would we want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot. More often than not, it makes decisions pretty simple.

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4. Excellence

We have a passion for excellence. We believe that if you can’t be great at something, then you shouldn’t be in that business. That is why we strive to improve every day, week, month, and year. We work perpetually toward becoming more efficient, improving quality, increasing communication, and creating a better experience for our customers. Team members who have a “that’s good enough” attitude don’t work here long, because if they aren’t able to change their attitude we release them back into the wild where they fit in better.

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5. Rhinoceros Mentality

This concept is derived from the book ‘Rhinoceros Success’. Most people are like cows standing in the field, chewing their cud. They spend their days watching T.V., wasting time, and complaining about opportunities that pass them by. Rhinoceroses charge down opportunities and tenaciously pursue their goals and dreams. Their determination and thick skin allows them to brush off obstacles and power through whatever stands in their way. This attitude is required for us to succeed and achieve our mission, and is also required for anyone to become a successful part of our company.

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6. Family Culture

We operate this company like a big family. We pick each other up when one of us gets down. We don’t bad mouth each other or the company. We are honest with each other, even when the truth is unpleasant. We are focused on solutions, not problems. We will certainly have disagreements, but at the end of the day we are still family. We also have each others back. When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

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7. Customer Experience

Our customers must be thrilled with the products we build and the service they receive. Every single person in the company is responsible for making sure the customer’s experience with us is AWESOME.

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8. Why

It is easy to wander through life just reacting to things that happen to you. It is also very easy to get distracted and lose focus. We will not. We have declared our mission to help our team members live happy and fulfilling lives. We operate everyday to fulfill our mission. When someone strays from that mission, we remind them of why we are in business.

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9. Innovation

In every area of our company, and in all tasks that we do, we must continually ask ourselves why we are doing it this way. Is this the most efficient way? Is this way best for the customer? We don’t do things a certain way just because we’ve always done them that way. This does not mean that we are constantly trying new things just for the sake of trying new things. If we try something new it must make sense to do so, and there must be a potential benefit in doing so.

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