Bruce Bosse to retire, start next phase

Sandra ClarkOur Town Leaders, West Knoxville

Bruce Bosse, chief executive officer and stockholder of Merit Construction, will retire on May 27, 2023, at age 65. He notified his staff in late January and has been talking with customers. “It’s just time to start the next phase,” he said in an interview with

Bruce Bosse

Bosse didn’t grow up around here. He graduated from Purdue, Indiana’s land grant university, in 1980 with a degree in building construction.

“Jimmy Carter was president, interest rates were sky high, building was slow. But Knoxville was hosting the (1982) World’s Fair. I knew there would opportunity here.”

He went to work for Blaine-Hays Construction Co. and was in place to join Merit Construction as a vice president when owners spun it off as an open shop. “We started as a wholly owned subsidiary of Blaine. A lot of companies set up ‘double-breasted’ companies then.”

So, Merit Construction started with two full-time employees in the office and “4-5 guys in the field,” and by 1985 had quadrupled in size. Bosse credits owner Charles Hays with this growth.

In 1989, Hayes sold stock to Bosse, who served as company president from 1995-2016 before becoming CEO.

Marv House joined Merit in the 1990s. “He had a lot of experience, and his leadership was important.” And another key contributor has been Buddy Heins, vice president for business development.

Bosse reiterates a statement we’ve heard from others: “Knoxville’s economy is stable – very steady without those big ups and downs.”

And he says business growth is about relationships. “It’s said when we start, our friends become our customers; and as we grow, our customers become our friends.”

Bruce Bosse has many friends in Knoxville.

Sales have grown from $2.4 million in 1983 to $168 million in 2022 with 80 fulltime employees. He plans to divest his stock and move on, letting the younger leadership both run Merit and own it. “They know I’ll just be a phone call away.”

He will not leave Knoxville though.

He and wife Sharon have a son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Lauren, who live here with their daughter and another on the way – future little Vols or Boilermakers, no doubt. Their other son, Alex, lives in Atlanta.

Bosse says he will miss the camaraderie of his team and the satisfaction of jobs well-done. But there are places he and Sharon enjoy and others they haven’t seen. First stop: New York, then into Canada for a couple of weeks. Then back home to start chapter two.

Business secrets: Quality product, prices competitive and relationships, he says

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.

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