Union Family Business: Jay Fortune Construction
BUTTE, MT – Like many of our members who become career carpenters, Jay Fortune’s interest in carpentry began as a summer job while he was a teenager in high school. Working side by side with the owner of Pascoe Construction, Ben Pascoe, a union employer, he learned to love the craft of carpentry. So much so that after that first summer, he enrolled in his high school’s SkillsUSA (formerly VICA) program (Shop) to further his skills and knowledge of the craft.
After graduating from high school, Fortune left Butte to go to Colorado where he was able to get into the apprenticeship program. He went to work for Saunders Construction. He tested out of the apprenticeship in three years and continued working for Saunders building King Sooper Grocery stores and hospitals around the Denver area.
“At Saunders, union carpenter Butch Zimzly took me under his wing and taught me how to be successful as a superintendent,” said Fortune. “He showed me how to run a crew and respect a crew.”
It is a lesson Fortune never forgot. Eventually working his way up, he became a foreman and then a superintendent for Saunders, but he missed his hometown. So after three years he moved back to Butte and joined LU 112 (now LU 82). After a couple years working construction in Montana, he decided to start his own construction business: Jay Fortune Construction, which 28 years later continues to thrive throughout the Butte area and beyond.
“My wife, Keli, deserves a lot of the credit for our success,” Fortune said. “She runs the construction office and three other businesses we own.”
Fortune maintained his union membership, and as a construction company owner works closely with the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC). He takes an active part in contract negotiations, never forgetting his roots in apprenticeship and how important the union has been for him and his family.
“We believe in the union and how being a union member makes things better for our workers and their families,” said Fortune. “My brother, Joe, is a superintendent with the company and is currently running the work we are doing at Saint James Hospital.”
Over the years Fortune has mentored many young adults looking for a career in the industry. His own son, Justin, was on the job site at a young age and recently graduated from Montana State University with a degree in Construction Engineering. Justin, a project and manpower manager for the company, also works closely with the JATC.
“Right now, business is good for us,” said Justin Fortune. “We employ about 15 carpenters on jobs in Butte, Great Falls, and Bozeman. We build health care clinics, airport hangars, warehouses, industrial projects, and hospitals, including infectious control (ICRA) work in hospitals.”
Justin’s own son, Axel, is just two years old, but he can’t wait to be on the job site on weekends and holidays with dad and grandpa–a third-generation carpenter waiting in the wings.