Michels Corp.: Making History For 50 Years

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | June 2009 Vol. 64 No. 6
Founders of Michels Pipeline (left to right) are: Ted Koenigs, Dale Michels and Jim Michel.

The Michels Corporation is celebrating its 50th year in business in 2009, marking its evolution from a small contractor specializing in gas pipeline construction to one of North America's largest, multi division utility contractors.

Michels' employees, customers, suppliers and friends will meet at the company's headquarters in Brownsville, WI, in late June to share many stories about the company's rich history and steady growth, the wide range of projects completed and memories of the late Dale Michels, the company's founder and driving force until his death in 1998.

Dale Michels was working as a pipeline welder when he conceived the idea to start his own pipeline company to serve growing demand for gas distribution infrastructure. He approached his brother in law, Ted Koenigs, and Ted's business partner, Jim Michel, to join in the new venture, and soon after Michels Pipeline Construction was in business.

Michels' original plan was to take advantage of the need to build new gas distribution infrastructure and when that was complete to look for a new challenge.

"In the beginning, Ted and Jim thought they were just making a silent investment in the new business," said Brian Johnson, Michels Corp. executive vice president. "But they were wrong."

The young company quickly developed a reputation for doing every job right, on time and within budget, and customers came to Dale with projects, often difficult ones that others were reluctant to try.

Acceptable risks

"My father was a risk taker, always looking for opportunities, and he was never afraid to take on challenging jobs," said current Michels President Pat Michels. "He would ask himself and others in the company, ‘How is the best way to do this? Is there a way to do it that no one else has tried before?' He took jobs no one else wanted because he had confidence in himself and his people."

An often told story by Mary Ausloos, Dale's only secretary and present corporate office manager, illustrates the point: "One time Dale was talking to a customer on the telephone, and I heard him say, ‘Sure, we can do that, we can do that.' I bet he said it a dozen times. Then he hung up the phone, and said, "Now, we have to figure out a way to do this.' And, of course, he did."

Longtime employees of Michels say Dale had an intense interest in every element of a job from planning, through construction, and to completion. As the company grew, Dale developed and maintained relationships with Michels employees and customers that resulted in strong, long lasting loyalties.