Miller & Miller

HUNTSVILLE FIRM DRAWS ON RICH HISTORY TO BECOME LEADING BRIDGE BUILDER IN NORTHERN ALABAMA

Jan 28, 2013

Komatsu excavator “blew the competition right out of the water”

When it comes to building bridges, nobody in northern Alabama has a history to match that of Miller & Miller, Inc. Throughout its 50-plus years, the Huntsville company has built approximately 200 bridges in the region, including the C. B. “Bill” Miller Bridge, named in honor of the company founder.

“My dad’s original company was C. B. Miller Construction, which later incorporated as Miller & Berry in 1961 before becoming Miller & Miller in 1975,” said C. B.’s son and current company President Ed Miller. “We got into bridge building at the suggestion of a friend of my dad’s and built our first four bridges in the early 1960s at Redstone Arsenal. Shortly thereafter, we won a contract from the Alabama Highway Department (ALDOT) to build five more bridges near the military and space center. From that time on, bridge building was our primary focus and what we were best known for.”

Shortly before the company founder’s death in 2009, the C. B. “Bill” Miller Bridge was dedicated in Huntsville. A plaque honoring Bill Miller cites him for having a “positive impact” on the transportation industry, for earning a U.S. patent for a culvert-forming process, and for introducing concrete pumping into the bridge-construction process.

“My dad was definitely an innovator,” said Ed, who joined the company early on, then became a part-owner in 1965 and president in 1994. “In addition to the culvert and pumping innovations, he developed numerous other cost-effective construction techniques, such as girder launching, fiberglass forms, precast products and self-compacting concrete. He was active in the company and in Huntsville civic and governmental roles throughout his life.

“I think his most lasting legacy, however, was instilling in everybody who works here the need to do our best on each and every job,” Ed added. “As a result, our employees share our attitudes regarding quality and paying attention to detail. And I believe everybody here takes a great deal of pride in delivering the best possible final product to our clients.”

Today, the Miller & Miller company name remains accurate. Ed’s son, Mark, who began working for the family business full time in 1989, has been company treasurer since 1994 and oversees financial and other administrative activities. Longtime employee Mark Seeley serves as a corporate officer and handles estimating and project-management duties. Other key people include General Superintendent Bobby Webster and Office Manager Mary Pruitt.

Wide range of work

While bridges and culverts have always been Miller & Miller’s specialty, the company also does a wide range of other work, including concrete paving; sheeting; shoring and pile driving; heavy industrial jobs and unique streetscape and park/greenway-type beautification projects. Most of the work is for governmental agencies such as ALDOT, city of Huntsville and neighboring counties.

“We’re general contractors capable of doing a wide variety of work,” explained Mark Seeley. “In recent years, we’ve become highly diversified. Bridges, culverts, heavy industrial — those jobs are the meat, potatoes and vegetables. The beautification projects are the fun stuff, the dessert. It’s enjoyable to be creative and leave our mark on a high-profile job.”

“We also do a fair amount of design-build work, most of it for the federal government,” added Mark Miller. “Mark Seeley is an engineer, so we can design a bridge from scratch and then build it. We like that because we’re working from our own design and we can adapt to changing conditions much faster than if somebody else has done the design and engineering. Because we can do everything in-house, it’s an efficient building method for us.”

Currently, the company is working at the Huntsville Airport, where it’s laying 16,000 yards of 12- and 18-inch-thick concrete. Other notable projects include a canal and walkway in Huntsville, a lake and entrance road to the Shelby Center on the University of Alabama-Huntsville campus and a 100-foot-long bridge built deep inside a cave (Cathedral Caverns in Jackson County).

“The cave bridge was a unique project,” said Seeley. “We had to haul the concrete about one-third of a mile into the cave. During heavy rainstorms, the stream we were building the bridge over would flood. When that happened, the cave could fill up fast and we had to get out quickly. Often, the water would take out any work we had accomplished that day. It was one of those jobs where we just had to keep at it and keep at it until eventually we got it done.”

“Another interesting project we’ve done was replacing several bridge decks at Redstone Arsenal,” Ed Miller noted. “They weren’t very big jobs, but we built virtually every bridge at the arsenal, including many overseen by me or my dad, and then we went back in and replaced the decks on those bridges, so there were many fond memories.”

Komatsu excavators and TEC support

For any digging and much of the lifting work associated with its bridges or other projects, Miller & Miller turns to Komatsu hydraulic excavators from Tractor & Equipment Company. The company has been loyal to Komatsu since being one of the first companies in northern Alabama to get a Komatsu excavator in 1984.

“That first Komatsu excavator we had just blew the competition right out of the water,” Ed recalled. “It was faster, more powerful and more efficient — and it lasted a long time. We were so impressed with it, we’ve continued buying Komatsu ever since.”

“I was fairly young, but even I remember that first Komatsu excavator,” said Mark Seeley. “Compared to other machines of that era, the speed was just amazing. We still think Komatsu is the best track hoe out there and that’s why we continue to buy it from Tractor & Equipment Company.”

Today Miller & Miller has seven Komatsu excavators, ranging from a PC200 up to a PC400. The most recent purchase was a new, Tier 4 Interim PC390LC-10.

“In addition to preferring Komatsu excavators for their speed and overall performance, we also like that they last a long time,” said Ed. “Some of our Komatsu track hoes are 10 to 15 years old and they still run great and look good. We think the longevity we get from our Komatsus is a very good testament to how well-built the machines are.”

Both Mark and Ed also cite the support they get from Tractor & Equipment Company as a big factor in their buying decision.

“We really like doing business with TEC. They’re fair, they’re responsive and they provide excellent service in all respects,” said Mark Miller. “I don’t think we’ve ever had dealings with anybody at TEC where we weren’t fully satisfied with the way we were treated. Donnie Burgreen and everybody at the Decatur branch go out of their way to take care of us and we appreciate it,” Ed added.

Quality work close to home

Miller & Miller works exclusively in northern Alabama with almost all of its jobs within about a 75-mile radius of Huntsville/Decatur.

“We’ve grown considerably through the years,” observed Mark Miller. “Today, we have about 90 employees. Our guys prefer to be home at night, so we do our best to accommodate them by finding work close to home. That also allows us to keep on top of all the jobs and make sure they run smoothly.”

“Fortunately, there’s always been plenty of work for us right here in northern Alabama, so we’ve never had the need to travel extensively,” added Ed. “We don’t have big egos that have to be fed by getting huge jobs in other markets. We find plenty of challenges and job satisfaction right here.

“Our goal has never been to get rich doing this,” he concluded. “We want to do quality work, keep our customers happy and make enough money to be comfortable. We’re happy doing what we’re doing and hope to be able to continue for many years to come.”