The Legacy of Bob Ketenbrink

MBCEA In the News ,

“The role of a contractor in the metal construction industry can be isolating and one where it's difficult to exert influence. Certainly, contractors can drive excellence and improvements within their own companies, but they need leverage to make changes on the national level.

Robert Ketenbrink, CEO of Spacemark Inc., Decatur, Ill., has used the leverage of association involvement to make a difference for everyone in the industry. For that, he earns a spot in the inaugural class of the Metal Construction Hall of Fame.”

Metal Construction News, November 2012 issue

This month, I am writing this column jointly with the Metal Building Contractor & Erectors Association’s (MBCEA) sister organization, the Metal Buildings Institute (MBI). We would like to update Bob’s story and how he continues to exert leverage for the good of everyone in the metal building industry.

Many know Bob was a successful metal building contractor committed to our industry and committed to the young people seeking a career in this trade. He knew long before there was a labor shortage that well-trained craftsmen were vital for the success of the industry, and that well-designed buildings assembled poorly reflect badly on the entire industry.

"The most important thing in the metal construction industry today is the training that is needed to safely and correctly install the material, so the end user gets the best quality for his investment."

Bob Ketenbrink

Bob was a generous benefactor to MBI and left a small trust earmarked for training initiatives that we continue to rely on for new offerings such as the Insulated Metal Panel video and the updates to the Quality and Craftsmanship Training series.

Unbeknownst to many, Bob and his wife Bev, also established a quite substantial trust that will drive excellence and leverage on the national level for many years to come. (Bob passed away in 2014, and Bev died in 2018.) The Ketenbrink Education Foundation is governed by five equal directors: one each from the MBCEA, MBI, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER). The fifth spot is reserved for a representative from Bob’s company, Spacemark.

The foundation's mission is to:

  • assist in improving the quality of metal building construction and the training available in the metal building industry
  • help metal building construction workers or aspiring workers acquire necessary job skills and understanding of metal building construction standards
  • improve overall technical and practical training available to metal building workers

Mike Reynolds, Systems Contractors Inc., Elizabeth, Colo., and Kelly Burk, Burk Erectors, Battlefield, Mo., were chosen to represent MBI and MBCEA respectively. Long-time employee, Wally Kemp, represents Spacemark. They take their assignment very seriously. They understand they are there to represent Bob and fulfill his vision.

Establishing the rules for the foundation and how to best use the funds is arduous work. Reynolds said, “The three of us knew Bob. We all have stories where he helped us out. He was our mentor and friend. This trust will continue indefinitely. Future trustees will have never met Bob. We have to get this right.” We know that they will. Although it is still early days in the formation of this foundation, we are very excited about the next chapter in Bob’s legacy.

For those who may be inspired by this story, we urge you to consider what you can do to drive lasting change for our industry and for workforce development. A great place to start is to re-evaluate your company’s commitment to safety and training. Are you using the MBI Quality and Craftsmanship Training series? Do you have a documented training plan? Safety plan? Have you considered our quality initiative, AC478 accreditation? If you need help or are unsure where to start, please check out our website for ideas or contact Sasha (sdemyan@mbcea.org).


Art Hance has been owner and president of Hance Construction, Washington, N.J., since 2000. Hance takes great pride in his work and the numerous awards for the quality and complexity of his design and construction. He has held multiple leadership roles in the MBCEA and actively served on many committees. He is a well-respected Butler builder, often called to add his voice and expertise to committees and/or subject matter. He is a passionate voice for quality, safety, training and excellence.

Tim Seyler is president of the Metal Building Institute, and a director and past president of the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association. He started S&S Structures, Fleetwood, Pa., in partnership with his late father in 1986.