The Hsia family: Asian Minnesota engineering pioneers

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In 1945 Seng Hsiao arrived in the United States in the midst of a war-torn world. Hsiao had started his education in China and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering. After completing the national exams he qualified to study abroad and was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) where he received a Master’s Degree.

The next step for Hsiao was the University of Minnesota and a PhD again in Civil Engineering. While studying there he was approached by a friend from church who was starting a construction company and needed a part time estimator. It was 1949 and Orville E. Madsen suggested that instead of going by Seng Hsiao he should go by Fred Shaw. From then on Fred Shaw has been working in construction in the Twin Cities Metro area.

By 1951 Shaw was the Chief Estimator and in 1954 he was Vice President. After working with Orville E. Madsen and Sons for over 20 years Shaw started his own construction company in 1974 when Madsen and Sons moved out of the state. For business partner Shaw chose long time business associate Lyle Lundquist. The two formed what would become the largest Asian owned contracting company in the Nation—Shaw Lundquist.

Asian American Press spoke with Hoyt Hsiao, Son of Fred Shaw and Jennie Hsiao and current Vice President of Shaw Lundquist. “My father and Lyle had a really high trust level,” Hsiao explained that his father managed the office while Lundquist managed much of the construction. “We are a Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Company,” Hsiao explained that they had pretty much always been that way.

Shaw Lundquist has “been fortunate to get recognized throughout the years,” Hoyt modestly told Asian American Press. And the awards keep coming including this years Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s Minority Business Awards. The revenue for this company toped $75 million, that is up from last year and for the past 5 years the revenue has stayed right around $70 million. “We hope to grow to $100 million over the next couple of years.” To do this Shaw Lundquist will continue to offer the same great service they are known for but will expand geographically, “we have an office in Western Wisconsin and Southern Nevada,” where the company has worked with Harrod’s and MGM.

Locally the company continues to expand with corporate clients like Xcel, General Mills, Supervalu, 3M and Home Depot. Clients also include private developers and government clients.

Today Shaw, 89, still visits the office almost every day. Son Hoyt Hsiao has worked with the company for over 20 years as an executive and continues the family traditions.

Through it all Shaw has not forgotten where he comes from. He is the co-founder of Chinese American Association of Minnesota (founded with wife Jennie), Chinese American Business Association of Minnesota, helped found Twin Cities Chinese Christian Church and many others. Many of these organizations have continued to see financial support through the years.