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.

In 1983 – 20 years after completion of its first telephone project – Michels become one of the nation's first contractors to install fiber optic communications cable which ultimately led to the information highway that has changed how the world communicates. In order to speed installation of cable along railroad right of way, Michels designed and built cable plows mounted on rail cars.

In 1988, Michels was one of the first contractors to recognize the potential of the new technology of horizontal directional drilling (HDD). In 1996, Michels designed and built a 1.5 million pound pullback HDD unit, the Hercules 1200, at the time the largest machine of its kind. Today Michels is one of the country's largest directional drilling contractors.

Family

It is significant that during a time when large multinational corporations swallow up successful privately owned companies, Michels remains in the ownership of the founder's family.

"There have certainly been times when Michels has been approached by the roll-ups and other suitors hoping we would sell or become part of something larger," said Johnson. "But quite some time ago, we reached a size of ‘critical mass' where we looked at ourselves and those would be suitors and said, ‘Who should be buying whom?' We reached the point where the Michels family is committed to passing this on to the next generation of the Michels family."

In 1997, Michels expanded into the electrical market with the acquisition of Superior Electric Co., which began a series of acquisitions of selected companies to expand the company's service and operations to a national level. Key acquisitions include Pilchuck Contractors (1999), Data Tel Communication Services (2000), Gelco Services (2004), and PCC Construction Co. and its affiliates (2005). New services also were established in the company, including Michels Drilled Foundations (2003) and Michels Wind Energy (2005), and names of several operating divisions were changed to more accurately identify their services.

To accurately reflect the scope of its business and place in the industry, Michels Pipeline Construction changed its name to the Michels Corporation in 2001.

By 2008, Michels Corp. included 14 divisions operating from the company's headquarters in Brownsville, WI, and 14 regional locations in the U.S. and Canada. The same year, Michels Corp. ranked number 64 in Engineering News Record magazine's Top 400 U.S. Contractors and number 172 of the largest construction firms in the world.