The following text is a considerably shortened version of the full company history compiled by Monika Burri and Sabine von Fischer, which appeared in the anniversary publication issued in summer 2018. This publication can be ordered from us free of charge by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Halter began life as a company in Altstetten in 1918, and so has more than a century of history to look back on. Founded by Willhelm Halter and subsequently run by Jost Halter, the company is now in the hands of the third generation under the leadership of Balz Halter. The following text is a summary of the complete company history produced to mark its centenary.
On August 29, 1918, just before the end of the First World War, a structural engineer by the name of Wilhelm Pius Halter bought a bricklaying company from Jakob Müller in Herrligstrasse, in the municipality of Altstetten, near Zurich. Born in 1891, the son of a railway signal man, he had obtained his diploma as a civil engineer at the technical college in Burgdorf. He had earned most of the money he needed to start up the company himself, first as a railway track worker then as a roadworks site manager. Halter's decision to take over the business at the height of an economic crisis demonstrated his readiness to assume entrepreneurial risk and proved to be an auspicious move. The company's first major assignment came from Giswil, the small village from which he originated, when Halter was entrusted with the job of constructing the machine building for Central Switzerland Power Stations (CKW).
Altstetten: a growth area
Wilhelm Halter’s untiring commitment, combined with a good nose for business, had soon given the company solid foundations. As early as 1923, tax office records showed that the entrepreneur from Central Switzerland was one of the wealthiest people in Altstetten. Together with his wife, Anna Halter-Ming (1893-1986), the youngest daughter of country doctor, politician and writer Peter Ming, he built up a classic family company that was both privately owned and managed. Initially, Halter's primary growth market was building residential areas in Altstetten, then an outlying rural community just outside Zurich with obvious development potential.
Between 1921 and 1933, Wilhelm Halter purchased land reserves totalling almost 100 hectares in Altstetten and the surrounding area. He built a huge amount of industrial, commercial and residential real estate, some of it commissioned by private clients or cooperatives, most of it owned by individuals who had built properties for their real estate portfolios. One of the residential projects undertaken by the company on its own land was the Hardhof housing estate, completed in 1927 and comprising 36 small houses with their own kitchen gardens.
Untimely death of the founder
Wilhelm Halter's commercial success was overshadowed by personal health problems. On January 15, 1944, aged just 53, the indefatigable business man succumbed to an incurable tumour. Countless obituaries and commemorations focused on the entrepreneurial talents of the self-made man and paid tribute to his deeply Christian charitable commitment. Following the early demise of the company founder towards the end of the Second World War, his widow Anna Halter-Ming took command of the business, assisted by a group of long-term employees.
The boom and bust years of the post-war years
The end of the war and the economic upturn that ensued brought with it a boom in the construction industry on a scale never seen before. Like the entire Swiss building sector, the Halter company profited from the pent-up demand after periods of war and crisis. From 1946 onwards, the company handled a large number of projects on its "home turf" in the Altstetten and Albisrieden districts, among them private residential, industrial and commercial premises, as well as several contracts from the public sector. Halter was involved in various trailblazing 20th-century buildings, such as a warehouse for Franz-Carl-Weber in 1955, the brainchild of architect Rudolf Kuhn.
Modernization under the direction of Jost Halter
Handling the enormous volume of work during these economic boom years called for the help of workers who were drafted in from abroad. Operational adjustments were also needed. Among the more significant measures were an all-round mechanization of plant and the more efficient organization of operations.
Jost Halter, born in 1929 and the second-youngest son in the Halter family, was largely responsible for expanding and modernizing the company. The designated successor had worked for the company since starting his degree in civil engineering at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and helped his mother with the job of management. From 1956 Jost Halter, described by long-serving employees, business partners and family members alike as a visionary and strong leader, devoted his energies entirely to the family business. As a head of military engineering with the Swiss army, an active veteran in the Turicia student fraternity and a Rotarian, he brought a wide-ranging network of contacts into the company's operations.
General contracting business
Following the division of the estate in 1968, Jost Halter became head of the company and partner with unlimited liability and was henceforth responsible for the construction and real estate company's fortunes. Under his management and in line with contemporary trends, the unit specializing in property for the company's own account was transformed into a general contracting business. Like its market competitors, Halter turned building construction at guaranteed prices with fixed deadlines into an all-inclusive service. The same year, the company celebrated its 50th jubilee and was able to look back on an impressive record in construction: around 1800 apartments, 200 detached homes, eight major office blocks, three schools and 20 commercial buildings had been completed within the space of half a century.
Economic crisis and a cruel stroke of fate
In the early 1970s, the company – still classified as an SME – embarked on several projects that stretched its capacity to the very limit. These included the Im Struppen residential and commercial complex in Altstetten, where the company moved its headquarters in 1974. Halter was also involved as general contractor in the building of the Grünau complex, a prestigious urban development project financed and organized by the city of Zurich. In 1979, Jost Halter died following a road accident. Once again, the family was forced to come to terms with a severe twist of fate. Demonstrating enormous sense of duty, his widow Rita Halter-Breitenmoser (1929-2013) took over the chair of the Board of Directors of Halter Inc. and, with the help of long-time management executive Hans Tödtli, ensured the company's continued survival and its transfer to the third generation.
Balz Halter joins the company
In 1987, at the age of 26, Balz Halter was ready to take over as the third-generation head of the company. Like his father before him, he had studied civil engineering at Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology and trained as an officer with the Swiss army. A number of major strategic challenges faced the young entrepreneur. By the 1980s, almost all the company’s land reserves had been used up and there was no sign of any major contracts in the future. By separating and regrouping the various business units in the face of changed market conditions, Balz Halter saw a forward-looking strategy that would put the family-owned company firmly back on course. Despite considerable market pressure, the company continued to grow and was active primarily in areas around Zurich, such as Birmensdorf, Aesch, Niederhasli, Tagelswangen and Wettswil.
Pioneer in Zurich-West
In the 1990s, when the property market was at rock-bottom, Halter became involved in an innovative project that would change the company's strategic direction for years to come. Between 1995 and 2001, on a site in Zurich's industrial region belonging to a former textile company, Schoeller and Co., Halter and the owner of the land, Hardturm AG, developed a residential and commercial complex known as Limmatwest. A bold step into urban development, this huge residential complex at the heart of a post-industrial wasteland repositioned the company and established it as a specialist in site development and real estate marketing. The Limmatwest development was both the company's new headquarters and a reference project for the development of its service offering.
In the early years of the new millennium, the Swiss property market recovered and there was a marked upward trend in investments. Halter secured a number of construction projects as well as general contracting and total service contracts with well-known architects and property developers. From 2007, the company had reverted to operations with an umbrella brand strategy and central Group Management. At the same time, the restructuring process had repercussions on the family-owned company's DNA: in spring 2008, the construction company that had been Halter's core business for so many years was sold to Anliker, another construction company. From now on, Halter Developments was an independent corporate unit that specialized in real estate and large-scale, long-term site and centre developments.
Halter Inc. embarked on several collaborations involving large-scale utilization concepts and regional planning projects. These were mainly in the Limmattal area, a typical conurbation under enormous pressure to grow and with decentralized planning and management structures. Liaising closely with political and business figures, the company was closely involved in the towns of Schlieren and Dietikon as the driving force behind urban development planning processes. Former brownfield sites housed ambitiously concentrated residential projects and public spaces with urban centre functions and controlled traffic flows. Since the turn of the century, expansion of infrastructures and upgrading of locations in all of Switzerland's economic centres have opened up attractive growth opportunities for Halter. Since 2004, the company has expanded not only beyond the borders of the city of Zurich, but also into other cantons. With prestigious projects such as the new sports arena on Lucerne’s Allmend, the Europaplatz Centre in Bern or the repurposing of an old transit warehouse in the Basler Dreispitz complex, Halter has marked its presence throughout Switzerland and, since 2014, opened local branches in Bern, Lucerne, Basel and Lausanne.