RocketGardenRace to Space Started from the Ground Up… and W&J Construction Began With It
When the Space Race began in the late 1950s, few would have been able to predict the long-term technological and economic advances that it brought with it. From commercial communications satellites to photo sensitive glasses, we use space-related technology every day. But, how did we get from the creation of the space program in 1958 (National Aeronautics and Space Act) to the Kennedy Space Center we see today? One answer is with the help of construction companies like W & J Construction.

Established in the mid-1960s, W & J Construction was heavily involved in space-related construction from the get-go. The company worked on launch pads 36A, 40, 41 and 37, as well as on support buildings and cafeterias – bringing in over $1.5 million in revenue their first year alone.

“We have had our NASA badges a lot longer than any other area contractor,” said Nick Witek, president and owner of W & J Construction. “The Rockwell Collins’ and Harris’s of the world did not start working at the Cape until after we did. In fact, we have completed over 400 projects to date at the Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral Air Force Station.”

Witek himself has had his own NASA badge almost as long as the company. An electrical engineer at NASA’s offices outside of Washington, D.C. in the 1970s, Witek transitioned into construction at the behest of his father-in-law, Ed Wike, founder of W & J Construction. After working in the business for 18 years, Witek bought the company in 1999 when Wike retired.

“He [Wike] got started in space-related construction because he was genuinely interested in it … he brought me on because I already knew the ins and outs of government protocol,” Witek explained. “However, W & J has diversified over the years and does more than just government contract work. I would say that today we are at about 60% government contract work and 40% commercial.”

W & J Construction’s commercial project roster is just as impressive as their government one. They have worked for Brevard Community College, the Canaveral Port Authority, Grumman Allied and Florida Institute of Technology. They have also constructed many area churches, like the Michael Graves-designed St. Mary’s Church of Rockledge.

They are especially proud, however, of the new Space Coast Early Intervention Center in Melbourne that they completed in January 2008. Not only did W & J perform the construction of the 15,000 sq. ft. building at cost, they also gathered together the subcontractors and suppliers who contributed to the project. Witek estimates that W & J Construction saved SCEIC over $600,000.

W & J has constructed some of the most recognizable buildings on the Space Coast: the Harris Government Systems building at Malabar, NASA’s Orbiter Processing Facility, Port Canaveral’s Terminal 5, Brevard Community College’s Palm Bay Campus expansion.

In addition, Delaware North, the hospitality company responsible for running the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, has kept W & J on their short list of contractors for years. As a result, W & J has remodeled the Rocket Garden, renovated the Orbit Cafe and Gantry and built both the Apollo Saturn V Museum and the Astronaut’s Memorial. Much of what we identify with the Visitor Complex has been the work of W & J Construction. In addition they will be working with SpaceX, a company owned by Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, to remodel the old TITAN Launch Complex 40, one of the original launch complexes they helped build in 1965, for private commercial launches.

Even though their work has been as prolific and diverse as a large company, W & J Construction has managed to avoid the cold sterility that sometimes accompanies success. Their Rockledge headquarters maintains a friendly, positive atmosphere, and Witek himself mentors the younger employees which he sees as the future of the company.

Erik Costin, General Contractor and protégé, commented on W & J’s future: “I see us not only sticking to our roots and continuing to be a bidding contractor, but creating a strong marketing department that will create growth and new opportunity for the next generation.”