Kulka Construction Corp.
More than three decades ago, as Long Island experienced a boom in industrial growth, Jack Kulka was among the first to recognize Hauppauge as having the potential to become a major center. “Development was spreading along the spine of the LIE,” Jack explained. “And I realized that Hauppauge was the place to be.”
That foresight is typical of this entrepreneur, who was one of the founding members of the Hauppauge Industrial Association and its first president. Ironically, as energy remains a critical issue on Long Island, it was a LILCO blackout that was the catalyst for the formation of the HIA in 1978.
“Power was out for days and no one could get any answers from LILCO about what was going on,” he recalled. “We needed to organize to leverage our voice with the utility.”
The first objective of the fledgling organization was to forge a communication link with LILCO so information could filter through one source. From that seed, HIA has grown to become a dynamic and influential advocate for business on LI, he remarked. Development wasn’t always in Jack’s future, he said. “I wanted to be a lawyer, but my parents wanted me to get an ‘honest’ job,” he joked. “So I became a little of both.”
A graduate of New York University College of Engineering, Jack describes himself as “more of a people person” than a planner. “I prefer to interact with people rather than with abstract ideas or concepts,” he said. He added that he quit his first engineering job, which had him stuck behind a drawing board, after only three days. He left the aerospace industry for the world of construction and has been hard at work ever since. After stints with electrical contractors, Jack settled down with a general contractor and eventually struck out on his own.
“I was working as the Superintendent for one of the buildings going up in Hauppauge, when I realized that this area would be the next ‘hot spot’,” he said. In the early years he focused on development of the Hauppauge area as his business grew. “My theory is, if you give a busy person a job to do – they do it,” Jack said.
“My highest priority is my family.” This former Bronx native now lives in Hauppauge with his wife Harriet and their son, Devin. The couple also have four grown daughters in their blended family. Now grown with their own careers, Jack said it’s his six-month old grandson who has opened up a whole avenue of adventure for them. While his son, Devin is an honor roll student, his numerous athletic endeavors keep the family jumping. Only in sixth grade, he plays on four “travel” teams, soccer, football, basketball and lacrosse, often competing against distant opponents.
“We eliminated hockey and wrestling,” Jack noted. He’s been an All Star football player for four seasons and high scorer on his basketball team. “He’s on a good all-around team this year,” Jack, who found time to serve as one of the coaches, said. “They were undefeated during the regular season and won the playoffs.” But, more importantly, “they had fun,” he added.
As Devin gets older Jack hopes to introduce him to one of his own favorite sporting activities, scuba diving. “I’ve dived all over the world,” Jack said. “I hope to take him along soon. It’s a great sport that we can do together.” Jack and his wife, Harriet love to travel. “I love going around the world,” he said as he talked about the dozens of photos he took during a recent safari to Africa. The couple is now looking forward to an upcoming Mediterranean cruise.
As Campus Dean and Dean of Students at NYIT, Harriet’s travel time is limited. But, they make the most of their opportunities. When he visits, Jack says he like to “get the flavor of the area” by getting out of the hotel and getting to know the people. It’s not difficult to keep in touch with the office, if he needs to, with his satellite phone at hand.
“Once, I was on the telephone in Africa calling in to the office and a man next to me was talking about plans and construction on his cell phone,” Jack recalled.
“It was kind of funny. He was from that country. I was from the other side of the world. And yet we were both talking to our office about some construction project or other. We got to talking to each other and found out our businesses were a lot alike.”
As if business, travel, and family don’t keep him busy enough, Jack works hard for a number of trade and charitable organizations. He said he is able to balance his heavy work load by “sleeping less.” These days one of his other priorities is the Suffolk County YJCC. A past president of that organization, he currently chairs the Capital Expansion Committee as they embark on a major expansion of over 40,000 square feet at their Commack facility.
“I find that whenever I get involved in an organization, I end up involved in the leadership of it,” he said. “The HIA’s been a very fulfilling relationship for me where I get more out of it than I put in. And of all the professionals I’ve worked with, Marcy happens to be the best by far.”