Acme Erectors Inc.
As one of the Midwest’s largest and most accomplished steel erection specialists, Acme Erectors Inc. serves clients throughout the region with a focus on the local St. Louis market. Experience, attention to detail and an engineering-based approach to steel erection work have come to define the company throughout its 60-plus-year history and allowed it to build a robust portfolio of repeat clients.
“We’ve become a resource because we provide erection services with the ability to consult on and control full packages within the local construction market,” says Aron Clay, president of Acme. This added service has earned Acme a reputation as a leading solutions provider while strengthening its relationship with some of its biggest clients.
The unique engineering-based approach allows Acme to anticipate problems and reduce delays down the line by utilizing its expertise to consult on projects early on in the process.
“We also work hand in hand with the engineer to help increase efficiency on fabrication and construction because this collaboration helps the team think of the things that will happen during the installation and fabrication,” says Clay.
This approach helps to reduce the narrow, singular thinking that is often responsible for a project getting off track when it comes to both budget and schedule. “A lot of times the engineer and contractor will design the project in a box with blinders on only thinking about one discipline at a time, which most times doesn’t promote the most efficient result,” he says.
The engineered approach has also earned Acme plenty of industry recognition, with the company being named steel subcontractor of the year by the Associated General Contractors of Missouri for three years in a row.
While Acme Erectors can trace its history all the way back to 1947, the structural and steel erection specialists only became a standalone company as recently as 2005.
“Prior to 2005, we were part of a larger company. The steel division was separated into its own independent entity in 2005 to honor a buyout agreement in place between myself and Tom Heeger. Fortunately, we were able to retain the original company name through the transaction. Obviously, this name recognition is very important.” says Clay.
A full-service erection contractor, Acme’s slate of services has grown over the years to include not only steel erection, but precast concrete installation, rigging, pre-engineered metal buildings and equipment installation.
In early 2016, Acme moved to a new, larger facility in Fenton, Missouri that will allow the company to better serve its diverse range of clients. “It’s a great new facility,” Clay says. The new building doubles the company’s office and warehouse space and includes three conference rooms, 7,000 square feet of useable shop space and a 300-square-foot fitness facility.
“This will allow us to create a better, more uplifting and encouraging work environment for our people and give them a place to work that they can be proud of,” says Clay.
Leading performance across disparate industry sectors
Acme’s engineered approach to steel erection was put to use on a recent $2 million project at the Missouri Theater Building at 634. N. Grand in St. Louis’ historic Grand Center neighborhood. The building, which was once home to the city’s health department, is being renovated into a residential property with additional commercial space. “We got in early and helped Paric and Lawrence Group generate ideas to save money,” says Clay.
At St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Acme recently began work on the second phase of an expansion to the school’s student center, residence hall and recreation facility. The project marks a return to the campus for Acme, which completed Phase I of the project in 2015.
Acme works across a number of industry sectors, from retail and multifamily residential to senior centers and institutional and health care work. A recent project at the Osage Dam in Lake Ozark, Missouri showcased Acme’s ability to succeed in a range of specialties, with the steel erection contractor teaming up with Ameren Missouri to refurbish 12 Tainter gates at the dam.
“These are the gates that will stop the water flow. They’re in bad condition so we’re working on a two-year project that’s just kicking off,” Clay says. “It’s a very unique project where we are working from suspended scaffolding. We had to run a structural model to figure out how the gates are going to react when we cut out critical deteriorated members.”
Its engineered approach was on full display during a recent project at this historic Sheldon Concert Hall, where Acme installed a 200-foot by 30-foot “green wall” out of steel over which vines can be grown. “It was a complex project because the panels are vertical in their final design position and we had cut out so much material that the fabricated sections could no longer support their own weight during the production and installation phases,” says Clay.
In response to this challenge, Acme designed a unique support frame which allowed the delicate steel assembly to be easily handled during the painting and erection process. “This project was probably a one-off, but the solution isn’t. We like taking these unique challenges and integrating a collaborative, engineered approach so that we can come up with the best results,” says Clay.
A team approach
One of the biggest challenges facing Acme today is the question of how to integrate younger employees into the workforce. “It feels like they are looking for high pay, low hours and no accountability,” says Clay.
As more and more millennials begin to join the industry Clay is working to strike a balance between their expectations and the reality of life in the construction industry. “It’s a challenge, but I’m in the process of figuring out the balance between more freedom and driving results,” he says. “I feel the answer is a less structured environment, but not one without leadership.”
While Clay was initially uncertain about how some younger employees might fit into the workforce at Acme, he has been encouraged by a recent round of intern interviews. “After having this interview process and meeting these young engineers my first thought was man, they are sharp. It was impressive,” he says.
Building a successful team is something that’s never too far from Clay’s mind. The Acme president employs an example from the sports world to illustrate just how important it can be to bring all the right players together to achieve something special. “I compare my team to the St. Louis Cardinals, who take above average players, put them together, teach them how to work as a team and it yields extraordinary results,” he says.
Recent additions to Acme’s all-star team include a certified bolting instructor and certified welding instructor, whose expertise will help when it comes to training the next generation of staff. “The addition of this bolting inspection certification is relatively new and allows us to maintain and ensure quality for our clients,” he says.
Taken together, this focus on quality staff and continued training coupled with an engineered approach to steel erection has resulted in a significant period of success for Acme. “It’s about being able to assemble a team and produce and watch and mentor that team to produce results that are far above average,” says Clay.
These factors will see Acme Erectors Inc. continue to enjoy success for years to come as of the St. Louis’ premier steel erection contractors.
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