When Giving Means Giving Back
Chester Koprovic believes in the value of giving back and investing in the community – especially when the community has provided opportunities for him and his family through the years.
“If we’ve been successful, we owe something back to the community,” he said. “Not just business success, but schools, churches, everything that has been a part of my family’s life.”
Koprovic was in the first generation of his family to be born in the United States; father emigrated from Czechoslovakia at 3 years old. Kaprovic, the only child of six to survive, grew up during the heyday of coal mining in Paris, Ark.
After graduating from high school, Koprovic served in the Army for three years. He returned to Fort Smith and went to work for Norge, a refrigerator factory that would later be purchased by Whirlpool, where he worked for 15 years. He worked nights so he could attend classes at Westark Community College during the day while pursuing an associate degree in business.
“Two years of college took me eight years,” he said.
Those years of studying paid off. Koprovic bought Norman Welding in 1975. He then purchased Butler and Cook in 1985 and started Kopco Steel Fabrication in 1986. A few years later, in 1991, he purchased Great Western Machine Shop and merged it with Butler and Cook.
Also in 1991, Koprovic co-founded Boyd Metals in Fort Smith. In the late 1990s, the company built a second location in Joplin, Mo. Boyd Metals would later branch out to Oklahoma City, and finally Little Rock, Ark.
“Now, I’m just trying to retire,” Koprovic said.
His version of retiring involves renovating an historic home, serving on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, travelling and spending time at his cabin in Colorado.
Koprovic acknowledges he didn’t do this alone. Koprovic and his wife, Beth, worked as a team, not only as parents to their four children – Toby, David, Jennifer and Mary Beth – but also in business. When Beth died in 2007, Koprovic established the Beth Koprovic Professorship in Nursing. He also created the Chester Koprovic Professorship Endowment in Engineering with the goal of attracting more qualified people to the field.
“UAFS was part of my life. I’m proud to be a graduate,” Chester said.