Gerber Construction Inc.
In 1974 brothers Preston and Max Gerber founded Gerber Construction Inc. (GCI), with their brother Scott joining shortly thereafter. The business began as a small concrete contractor, performing residential work around Lehi, Utah; however, the company has grown significantly since.
Allen Gerber, the youngest brother and president of GCI, began working with his older brothers in high school. “I was pretty young when they started the company,” Allen explains. “I started unofficially as a kid working after school, on weekends and holidays. Once I finished high school, I started here full time, with exception of a two year hiatus. I’ve been here over 30 years.”
Allen is proud of how far the team has brought GCI over the years. “When GCI started we were doing concrete around homes,” he recounts. “We did sidewalks, curbs and gutters, porches, garages, basement floors and things like that. Throughout the years we have evolved, moving into different kinds of concrete work. We moved away from residential concrete to focus more on engineered concrete.”
Today the company also tackles freeway bridges, water tanks, sewer and water treatment facilities, as well as concrete spillways on dams. “We also lay large pipe, have a steel fabrication facility, a separate trucking division, a precast concrete division, build pump stations and concrete ponds, in addition to tough labor intensive projects in remote areas,” Allen continues. “We are known for doing tough projects.”
GCI has constructed a niche in the concrete business for building large, freshwater and not so freshwater, holding tanks. “We are constantly building them,” Allen notes. “There are only a handful of contractors in the state who perform this work. There’s always good competition, but we feel we are one of the premier water tank builders in Utah.”
According to Allen, the biggest tank that GCI has built is 20 million gallons. “Right now, we are building a 10 million gallon tank, which is around 300 feet by 200 feet, maybe more,” he details. “We don’t do the engineering, but we build them. The tanks themselves are used for freshwater, but of course you have to have some facilities to clean the water, as well. If you drink it or flush it, we will focus on it. Culinary water for drinking and disposing of sewer water will always be required. Sewage treatment plants are more technical to build, but are the same when it comes to concrete construction techniques.”
Most of the tanks and the team’s other projects are government funded, whether on a state or federal level. “For our freeway work, it is either the state or federal Department of Transportation [DOT],” Allen explains. “The water tanks are almost always for municipalities.”
“All of our projects are interesting in their own ways,” Allen continues. “The biggest issues are time constraints or location restraints. We’ve done concrete so long that nothing really stands out any more except the conditions. Sometimes we are down in deep holes and you have to shore up the excavation and deal with water control, sometimes we are right next to existing homes or other buildings. It is never the same.”
However, with DOT, much of the team’s work is performed overnight. “With the DOT, it seems like it’s all weekend and night work so our work does not interfere with traffic too much,” he continues. “That creates big challenges for the crew. If you work weekends only, it’s tough to get employees hours in. Scheduling can be horrific, getting our crews the hours they need, getting jobs done the way the DOT needs them to be done.”
Of course, there are industry-specific challenges that Allen and his team face. Nonetheless, GCI carries on, despite any obstacles, including Mother Nature. “The weather doesn’t surprise us anymore,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for 40 years. We have the experience, we plan for it, we know what’s coming and we bid for it.”
The crew will be starting on a water tank project in tight quarters in an upscale neighborhood. Neighborhoods like these can present unique challenges, as the residents are not used to the noise and traffic, no matter how minor, from a construction job.
“From the public relations end, we will have a public information officer who will let the residents know our schedule and what kinds of inconveniences they can expect,” he says. “We send flyers with schedules, including our early morning or nighttime concrete pours and when noise will start. We have to demolish a 3 million gallon tank and that’s not going to be quiet. They know the project is coming and we have already been informed that there are people in the neighborhood who aren’t going to like it. They don’t want you there in the first place, but they want their water. They want it built, they want everything nice, but they don’t want to see you or hear you. And they definitely don’t want dust on their Mercedes; that always brings in challenges.”
Despite the complexities of the work, Allen says he is very fortunate for a number of reasons. “We have a terrific team,” he says proudly. “From the managers in the office to the very skilled leaders in the field; I mean, anybody can have the right equipment but you need the right skills to succeed in this industry. We are nothing without our great team. We try to let them know every chance we get but we definitely don’t thank them often enough. We have around 135 employees and they do good work for us and I know it when I see the satisfaction of a job well done on their faces. Of course, it’s always nice when a client sends you a letter thanking your team because everything went perfect.”
In 2014, GCI will celebrate 40 years in business. With municipal work remaining steady, the company has no plans for major expansion; steady and consistent growth is always the plan. Allen and his crew will continue to deliver high-quality concrete work for years to come, ensuring Gerber Construction Inc. remains on a stable course, providing strong performance for a number of major municipal projects.
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