Third Generation Joins Horst & Son

May 13th, 2013 | Post a comment

The Horsts

Gerry, class ’72, and Kyle Horst ’02 of Horst & Son Construction. (Photo by Bonnie Price Lofton)

Many certified public accountants (CPAs) dream of working in one of the Big Four accounting firms. Kyle Horst ’02 got to live that dream, working at KPMG in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for seven years.

Two years ago, though, he left big-time accounting and became the third generation to work in his family’s construction and development business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Why? For Avery. That’s the simplest answer.

Kyle and his wife, Marta (also an accountant), had their first child two years ago, Avery.

“When I left KPMG I was a manager, putting in a lot of hours,” says Kyle. “I wanted to be around when Avery was growing up. I didn’t want to sell my soul to the company.”

He also wanted to support his father, Gerry Horst, class of ’72, whose company had been hit by the construction downturn.

“A lot of people said I was crazy to come in when times were tough,” says Kyle. His father jokingly chimes in, “It was equivalent to buying the last ticket on the Titanic.”

The two pose comfortably, one’s arm around the other, for a photo. “He and I get along well working together,” says Kyle.

“Grandpa started the business in 1955 as a small custom home builder, with Dad joining him in 1976. With Grandpa retiring in 1989, Dad continued on, riding the building boom up to doing 250 houses per year.”

Given the impact of the Great Recession, Horst & Son are building fewer than half that number per year now. On the plus, there is built-up demand for starter homes and first-time “move-up” buyers, which Kyle calls their “niche.” This year the company is doing 25% better than it did a year previously.

The father focuses on being “the big picture guy,” setting the direction of the company, while the son is “more of a detail guy, which fits my accounting background well,” says Kyle.

Gerry grouses good-humoredly, “Before banks begged me to take money, and now we have to prove that we don’t need it, and then they give it to us.”

Despite the challenges of returning the family business to its former level of production, Gerry has been chairing the Suter Science Campaign steering committee, charged with raising the $7 million for this major renovation project. Gerry is a long-time member of EMU’s board of trustees. — BPL

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