Case Studies

Fisher Contracting Company: Four Generations of Steadfast Foundation

  • Written by: Fisher Contracting Company: Four Generations of Steadfast Foundation
  • Produced by: Fisher Contracting Company: Four Generations of Steadfast Foundation
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

The Fishers are a community- and business-minded family who have been in the Midland, Mich., area since near the turn of the 20th century. The first generation of Fishers – Ralph Fisher and his wife – leased a small gravel pit in 1926 and began a modest sand and gravel supply operation. That business has grown over the decades to become the Fisher Group of Companies – comprised of six divisions, over 280 employees and $90 million annual revenue.

Ralph Fisher’s three sons took over the company after they returned home from service with the Army in WWII, diversifying and expanding operations throughout the 1950s, and forming Central Concrete Products in 1955. Two years later, as business boomed, Fisher Contracting Company was established as a new arm of operations to be adjunct with Fisher Companies’ Sand & Gravel.

Now positioned to incorporate a fourth generation of the family into the construction industry, Fisher Contracting remains heavily invested in the heavy and civil contracting segment for federal, state, municipal and private clients. With registered professional engineers and long-time superintendents at the helm of projects, Fisher Contracting has been invaluable to the development of local infrastructure.

Taking Business Personally

Across all its offerings, the company is “best known for reliability and integrity,” says James W. Fisher, president of Fisher Contracting. “Our reputation serves us well.” With an impressive resume of work, Fisher Contracting carries over $98 million of pre-qualification with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) alone.

J.W., president since 1995, officially joined the company in 1980, but – as a Fisher – he has been in the family business all his life. “Born into it is a good description,” says J.W. “I had the opportunity to work in the business throughout high school and college. I made an informed choice to join [in an official capacity] after graduating from Michigan Tech. I love it.”

As a member of the Fisher Group of Companies, Fisher Contracting benefits from a sound financial position, a large bonding capacity and partnering opportunities with fellow companies within the Fisher Group – a group that knows the construction industry, and relishes working in it. “The second generation, the three brothers who built the company after WWII, are in their 80s and all are still active to one extent or another in the company,” remarks J.W.

Well past retirement age, these guys continue to come to work and make sure the values are the same as were instilled in the foundation of the company in 1925. The company focuses all efforts on being the acknowledges area leader in quality, productivity, innovation and ethics, providing a stable and rewarding place of work for employees, and completing on-schedule, on-budget, honest work for clients through hands-on interaction with project owners.

Enjoying the Work

Over its 53 years in business, Fisher Contracting has expanded its offerings to include heavy/civil construction, demolition/excavation, piping installation/fabrication and equipment rental. The versatility Fisher can showcase includes all the following capabilities:

Site prep, land clearing/balancing, excavation/backfilling, earthmoving, road building/paving, bridge construction, underground utilities, underground pipeline renovation/repair, foundation piling, dredging, shore protection/riprap, pumping/dewatering, landfill construction, environmental construction/remediation, rigging/lifting, sand/aggregate production and delivery, concrete slab/foundation demolition, bridge removal, business district site clearance, pavement removal, piping and buried tank removal, plus the installation of all types of water main, sanitary sewer, HDPE-fused pipe, HDPE double containment piping, and the fabrication of HDPE structures such as manholes, flumes and tanks. Additionally, the company can draw from its own ready mix and asphalt plants.

Thanks to its full-service approach, “We are pretty well entrenched in the area,” says J.W. Indeed, Fisher Contracting serves as both a prime contractor and/or subcontractor for the region’s major commercial, industrial, municipal, governmental and residential customers. With an extensive fleet of equipment – that it also rents out – the company is well set-up in whatever heavy-duty role it takes on a job site. Its equipment utilizes laser-guided automated technology, as well as GPS controls, to assure the most precise, cost-effective grading and other activity on any project. Additionally, the Fisher Group of Companies includes a full-service machine show, so all equipment is kept in premium condition as well as up to date, assuring no loss of productivity.

One of J.W.’s favorite applications of all the company’s resources was the work Fisher Contracting completed in 2006 to 2007 as a subcontractor on the impressive Dow Diamond minor league baseball stadium. The company was in charge of site development and teamed up with several Midland companies to complete the ballpark – to the delight of downtown Midland and its community.

The large, well-coordinated project – located on downtown riverfront property – was finished in time for the Great Lake Loons to take the field in April 2007. Owned by the Dow Chemical Company, the ballpark features 20,000 square feet of enclosable event space, two outfield fire pits, 12 suites, lawn seating, a kids play area, solar-powered 17- by 35-foot video board and WiFi throughout the stadium.

Of the project, J.W. says, “It was a blast to work on and has had a big [positive] impact on Midland.”

Future Manifestations

Although business has taken a small hit as a result of the economic downturn that has put a tremendous stress on the construction industry as a whole in the U.S., “We’ve been very fortunate,” says J.W. “Volume is down, but we are keeping our head above water and hanging in there.”

J.W. is guessing the economy will stay flat for a few more years, and hopes for a recovery soon after. Maintaining a positive outlook is important for builders, especially now, and J.W. says it best: “We’re born optimists; otherwise we wouldn’t be in this business.”

In addition to maintaining positivity, Fisher Contracting maintains a high level of standards, carved in stone with the beginning of the Fisher Group of Companies 86 years ago. The mission of Fisher Contracting – and its fellow companies – is to provide superior service and give back to its community.

Superior service entails thorough safety considerations, which the company has not overlooked: superintendents and foremen all receive OSHA supervisor training, and all employees are required to go through a safety orientation with annual refresher courses. Retaining employees is also important to Fisher Contracting and is something the company prides itself on doing well, which accomplished through continuing skills-building opportunities, and a system of management that builds a cohesive team. “We have some of the same guys from first hire to retire,” J.W. Reveals.

With old-fashioned family values and cutting edge technology both in place, Fisher Contracting looks well set to be working in Midland and the surrounding Michigan area for the long haul, living up to the company’s motto: “The Only Contractor You Need.”

Published on: March 9, 2013

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