Company Profile

One once needed a keen memory just to remember the company names: Monroe J. Wolfe, General Contractor and Circle Dredging Company, Inc. Fittingly perhaps, the lengthy name would ultimately prove to be somewhat ironic because Mr. Wolfe lived and toiled in another era, in another time when business was conducted by those who were long on trust.

The story of how Mr. Wolfe and two subsequent generations initially survived and eventually succeeded in business is pure Americana. First we step back to the 1940s when Mr. Wolfe, a Mobile, Ala. transplant, came to New Orleans with his pockets empty and his aspirations high. Mr. Wolfe, then 30, purchased a house on Ridgewood Drive in Metairie with a goal of converting the home into a business office. His assets included one broken crane. His personnel included two brothers. His work schedule included one drainage project. But those hard times would gradually change and so would his fortunes. As an oil field contractor, he began to dredge location canals as his assets began to expand to include five bucket dredges and a suction dredge in addition to obtaining a seaplane by 1960 -- which proved to be a watershed year.

In 1960, he also moved to a new office on Destrehan Avenue alongside the Harvey Canal and decided to trim the business' wordy name to "Circle, Incorporated". "His lawyer asked him what he was going to call the company," recalled M.J. Wolfe, Jr., his son and current company president. "The lawyer said this was a big circle of companies. Dad said that Circle Inc. sounded good."

During simpler times when business transactions were conducted without the benefit of lawyers, advisors and other hangers-on, Mr. Wolfe relied upon his wits and his wisdom and put his faith in a man’s word and a firm handshake. All that was needed to finalize a deal was an 8x11. "Contracts in those days were written on one sheet of paper," said M.J. During Mr. Wolfe’s tenure, the company delved into earth works and began building levees. Employee totals reached 190 in the 1970s and at its financial peak in the 1990s; it realized revenues of $12 million.

His son offers a succinct explanation for Circle’s success under its founder. "More ambition," said his son of his father. Mr. Wolfe toyed with the idea of retirement at age 50 and once agreed to a six-month sabbatical but the lure of his work would not wane. "He never retired," said Wolfe, Jr. M.J., "In his 80’s, he was still operating a bulldozer, just for fun." The company lost its Chief Executive in 1997 at age 87, four years before his wife Louise would also pass at the same age.

After working with his father every summer since 1964 and having completed three years as a management major at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, M.J. became a permanent fixture at the new address on Engineers Road in Belle Chasse in 1971. "Dad needed some help," said M.J, 60. "I learned the business from the ground up. Everything was thrown at me so I had to. I bobbed and weaved." Circle, Inc. forged a stevedore partnership with a coal terminal on the lower Mississippi River in 1993 and by 1995, M.J. was making all the company decisions. One of those represented a slight departure from his father. "I got rid of the old equipment," said M.J. "Dad always preferred to repair it. We decided to upgrade it." Revenues steadily increased from $12 million in 1995 to $28 million in 2009. Also, came the final name change. Circle, Incorporated is now Circle, LLC and known as Circle Construction. The LLC will make a more efficient transition of ownership to the third generation and guarantee continuity of the company.

Heavy construction has become a specialty, one that includes flood control, flood walls, flood gates, sheet pilings, concrete-lined canals, box culverts, clay pit development, and earthen levees – all of vital importance to a community that bears a distinct fear of floods. Waiting in the wings, a third generation of the Wolfe family figures prominently into the future mix. Ashley Wolfe, a 2003 graduate of Spring Hill College in Alabama, serves as the Human Resource Manager, and Michael Wolfe, a 2004 graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., serves as a Project Manager.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Circle Construction, LLC has adopted an appropriate company motto: "We Build Levees; Nothing We Built Broke." Founder Monroe J. Wolfe would agree.


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