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.

"One thing that stood out was Dale's can do, no fear attitude and never ending drive to complete every job," said Johnson, who joined Michels in 1981. "Dale became my mentor when I transferred to the home office in Brownsville in 1987, and every day I witnessed his can do attitude. I saw it every day. It's the dedication and commitment to service that Michels customers continue to receive today."

As the Michels organization has grown, it has continued to serve the pipeline industry, and its expertise has expanded the company's capabilities to include a much broader market than most utility contractors and is active in telecommunications, tunneling, electrical power systems, wind energy, aggregate materials, paving, stone mining, and environmental services. Michels has adapted to the changing needs of its clients and taken advantage of new technologies such as pipeline rehabilitation and horizontal directional drilling.

New markets

In 1963, telecommunications was the first new market addition for the pipeline company.

"Telecommunications was a natural outgrowth of Michels' gas distribution construction business," Johnson said. "Wisconsin telephone companies knew of Dale and asked him if he could do buried cable construction. The key was that Dale never said no to a customer."

Sewer, water and tunneling were added in 1970, and seven years later water construction was expanded to include construction of rural water mains, laterals and services throughout the Northern Plains states.

In 1976, Michels began producing crushed aggregates and supplying road construction and building materials for projects throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Aggregates might seem a departure from Michels' utility base, but Johnson said they are a natural fit.

"Aggregate materials and mining were an early complementary business for Dale Michels," explained Johnson. "He grew up in a geologically rich area, surrounded by an abundance of quarries and sand and gravel pits. It was further complemented by his knowledge and utilization of heavy construction equipment and the demand for crushed aggregates in utility and general construction. What started as two gravel pits for a sewer project has catapulted Michels into being the largest aggregate producer in Wisconsin. With aggregates came road construction and paving; vertical integrations of the aggregate mining business."