Alumna celebrates a decade of her woman-owned construction company

imageKellie Bell ‘02

This year marks the 10th year anniversary for Forrest Construction Group, Inc., of Huntley, Ill. This decade milestone for the woman-owned design/build construction management company has its president and Upper Iowa University alumna Kellie Bell, smiling.

Forrest Construction Group (FCG) is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise in the City of Chicago, Cook County and nationwide.

Bell leads a team of experienced construction professionals, and is the third generation of her family to do so. 

FCG recent project examples include light industrial at Handifoil in Naperville, Ill., and retail store build-outs such as a Puma store in Woodfield Mall among others. Crabtree & Evelyn contracted FCG for their store in a Michigan mall which was so successful that it evolved into the renovation of the Woodfield Mall location as well.

A new high-profile project for Forrest Construction is working with Plote Construction to supply the toll plaza control buildings at the new Route 47 and I-90 interchange expansion.

"Business ownership is a very difficult road to take," Bell said. "It is not for the faint of heart. I have experienced the highs - growing my business from nothing to a $6 million a year company - and the lows when the economy took a huge toll."

Bell, a 2002 UIU graduate with a degree in marketing said, “I loved the intimate feel of the Fayette campus. It is a place where everyone becomes like family. You even found yourself familiar with professors and administrators alike. It truly is a different experience than that of a larger university. At UIU, no student gets left behind. You always had the ability and comfort level with your professors to reach out for help of guidance.”

Bell initially came to Upper Iowa to visit her brother who played baseball for the Peacocks. She instantly fell in love with campus and made the decision to attend.

Bell said her education had a definite impact on her goal to become president of her own construction company. “As a business owner, I wear all hats. You have to be able to dive into all aspects of your business. I believe that UIU prepared me for this by ensuring that our course work was well-rounded. I had majored in marketing. All of the tools I learned at UIU, I use on a daily basis.

"Expanding my business is 99 percent marketing, understanding your client and their needs, and how you can achieve this for them. Obviously, accounting is a must. And let me tell you, I was NOT happy about it at the time. But clearly, you never know where life is going to take you and sometimes those "required" courses are the ones that are going to take you the furthest."

She continued, “At 18-years-old we certainly do not know what is best for us. I would never taken the courses that helped me the most. Thank you UIU for your excellent program and for being such a wonderful part of my life!”