Meyer Contracting

DIVERSIFICATION HELPS MINNESOTA FIRM WEATHER CONSTRUCTION MARKET UPS AND DOWNS

Jun 13, 2011

Reliable, versatile Komatsu equipment

Despite the economic conditions of the past few years, Meyer Contracting continues to grow. That’s partly due to lessons learned throughout more than 25 years in the construction industry, including the formation of Meyer Contracting during a recessionary period in the early 1980s.

“We learned quite a bit about how to survive during trying times,” said Owner/CEO Kathy Meyer, who helped found the business in 1984 and incorporated it three years later. Management also includes new President/COO Verlyn Schoep and Meyer’s son Leroy, who is Equipment Manager/Quality Control Manager/ Safety Coordinator. “Getting through is tough, but it also makes us stronger and smarter. We learned how to be productive and efficient with limited resources and staff.”

When founded, Meyer Contracting’s focus was sewer- and water-line installation in and around the Twin Cities area. Limited resources meant no equipment, so Meyer rented what was needed to complete the company’s first project, installing 400 feet of storm sewer and six catch basins along Timberlake Road in St. Paul.

Meyer Contracting executed the $21,000 project as a prime contractor, completed it on schedule and immediately went to work as a subcontractor on a larger utility installation on a park job for the city of Edina. The company has stayed busy ever since.

“Word got out, and people started calling us asking for bids,” recalled Kathy. “We did a lot of work as a subcontractor on reconstruction projects, putting in new utilities, which was our niche. That was the background we came into business with, so we played to our strengths. That’s really all we did for about 15 years.”

More than a utility company

While utility installation remains a primary component of the Maple Grove company’s services, it’s by no means Meyer Contracting’s sole focus anymore. During the past decade, growth at Meyer Contracting has been both large and somewhat swift. It started in 2001, when the company landed a job doing utility installation as part of a light-rail project in the Twin Cities. That job doubled the size of the business.

Kathy noted it was around that time she realized Meyer Contracting needed to make some other changes. “We could see the projects changing and getting larger and larger. We knew we had to adjust to the market or be left behind.”

In 2003, Meyer Contracting added an earthwork division that offers site development, mainly for commercial clients. It’s also added demolition and general contracting to its list of services, as well as structural concrete, which offers cast-in-place structures.

“We’re more of a full-service contractor now,” said Schoep. “That’s helped us grow our client base, and allows us to easily move among market segments. We can do public-bid projects as well as offer our existing and new customers a larger package of services. Meyer Contracting also provides design-build services and we work with customers to find more efficient and cost-effective ways to approach projects.”

“As opportunities have presented themselves, we’ve made a conscious effort to take advantage of them,” added Leroy Meyer. “Some of it was precipitated by our customers, many of whom we’ve worked with on a repeat basis for several years because they’ve come to trust us to get the job done on time and on budget. In fact, about 70 percent of our work is done for repeat customers.”

Several of those are or have been standout projects in the Twin Cities metro area, including work on the light-rail system that will connect Minneapolis and St. Paul. Working as subcontractor, Meyer will put in temporary utilities along the entire 11-mile route and will do the final site utility installation on the west section of it. That involves installation of about four miles of six- to 48-inch water, storm and sewer piping.

Other highly visible jobs include installation of new, and abandonment of old, utilities as part of the reconstruction of the I-35W bridge that collapsed in 2007, as well as construction of the concrete box culvert that serves as a pedestrian tunnel under the bridge. It also installed and relocated utilities for the Minnesota Twins’ new stadium, which involved closing off a major artery into downtown Minneapolis.

“We’re not afraid to take on challenging projects because we’re confident that our personnel can handle any situation, not only from a quality, on-time standpoint, but safely and effectively,” said Schoep, noting that the company has about 60 employees and a total of about 12 crews. “Many have been with Meyer Contracting a very long time, and as we’ve expanded, there’s been a conscious effort to hire experienced people who meet our stringent standards.”

Sold on Komatsu equipment

Meyer Contracting has high standards for its equipment as well. When the company added its dirt division about eight years ago, it demo’d several brands of equipment and chose to start with a Komatsu D65 dozer purchased from Road Machinery & Supplies with the help of Sales Representative Phil Major.

“Despite using another brand previously, our operators tested with open minds,” said Leroy. “Komatsu stood out, especially in the hydraulics. We knew Road Machinery would stand behind it, so that gave us additional peace of mind. That D65 has about 5,000 hours on it now, and it’s still productive. It sold us on Komatsu equipment.”

Meyer Contracting has since added one of Komatsu’s award-winning D51 dozers, the first in the state of Minnesota. “The D51 is the entire package: it’s productive, fuel-efficient, has good balance and excellent visibility. Our operators love it,” reported Leroy.

Additional Komatsu units include PC78, PC400 and PC200 excavators. “Our excavators give us some versatility because we can use them to dig utility trenches, hammer, mass excavate or lift pipe into the trench,” explained Leroy, who noted that the company has also purchased Volvo compaction equipment from Road Machinery & Supplies and rented equipment through RMS Rentals in Savage. “We evaluate the equipment we buy based on performance, price and durability, and the Komatsu and Volvo pieces have all been outstanding. So has RMS. We call on them for service or warranty issues as needed. They respond quickly, so we’re very happy with our relationship with Phil and RMS.”

Continuing to look at new opportunities

In the past several years, Meyer Contracting’s work has increasingly expanded beyond the Twin Cities metro area. The company has worked in five upper Midwest states on a number of diverse projects. The Meyers and Schoep say that’s not likely to change.

The company also won’t change its outlook on expanding services. In fact, Meyer Contracting recently took on a contract to build sound walls along I-35W. “We believe the more diversified we are, and the more we can offer our customers, the better it is for us and them,” stated Kathy Meyer, who has served as Committee Chairwoman to the National Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. She represented the National Association of Minority Contractors as it partnered with the Association of General Contractors to work on common goals.

“Being a DBE is another way we can help our customers because many of the governmental projects require a certain percentage of the work be done by those types of businesses,” said Kathy. “We’re probably the most full-service DBE around, so we’re giving them added value in several ways.”

That added value, along with quality work, has helped Meyer Contracting win numerous awards, including Minnesota Department of Transportation DBE of the Year for its work on the I-35 W bridge project. That same year, it was named Small Business of the Year by the Twin Cities Business Journal.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point,” acknowledged Kathy. “Adapting to the market has helped us weather the ups and downs, and there’s a great group of people here who are innovative and good problem solvers. That’s worth a lot in the business, not only to us, but to our customers. If we continue to offer that value, the work will be there.”