Industrial Contractors Inc.
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
With locations in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Lyman, Wyoming, Industrial Contractors Inc. (ICI) is an industrial construction company specializing in boiler installation, repair and replacement services. Founded in 1967 by Don Cook, ICI has accrued more than 45 years of experience in the mechanical, electrical industrial and specialty construction industries. Though ICI was established in 1967, the company’s roots date back to 1918 with the founding of Lignite Combustion Engineering Corp.
ICI possesses a diverse group of project managers with years of experience. “What sets us apart from the competition is our superior field leadership from our project management superintendents, our attention to safety and quality control,” says Jeff Hammes, CEO of ICI. “Also, there aren’t a lot of companies that do the large boiler repair and maintenance like we do. That’s been our bread and butter here in North Dakota for many years.”
As CEO of ICI, Hammes joined the company in 2012 and brings an engineering background to the company. After working for a company in the petro-chemical and power sector for two years, he discovered a passion for witnessing the completion of construction. “I found that I really loved to see things get built,” says Hammes. “I wasn’t really into cranking out numbers every single day and drawing stuff on CAD. I’m interested in making sure that projects flow from start to finish and putting the pieces together.”
Every year, depending on company cycles, ICI performs a range of two to five major outages. Bismarck, North Dakota, provides a unique region for ICI as there are 13 different power-generating boilers within an 85-mile radius of the company. “There is also a refinery right across the river from us as well as a Dakota Gasification Company plant which performs coal gasification and they technically have a couple boilers and 14 gasification trains.”
With 50 full-time employees, ICI will operate roughly about 900,000 man-hours per year. With its business accounting software the company will build custom reports to provide its clients with project tracking information. ICI uses predictive outcome techniques to track projects and identify any potential problems early in the project when corrective action can be taken to positively affect that outcome.
While ICI performs a majority of its work in-house, the company has established relationships with subcontractors for certain aspects of jobs. “We’ll even do some civil and concrete work as well but for the bigger more complex projects in that area we’ve got a number of business partners that we rely on to do that work,” says Hammes.
The most rewarding aspect of Hammes’ relatively short career has been the opportunity to teach and mentor people. “I’ve already been able to be a part of so many different things and have seen so many tricks of the trade,” Hammes explains. “My favorite part of my job is when I can share that knowledge and experience with others.”
The past two years have presented him with the opportunity to do just that as the company’s average age has dropped nine years. “We’ve seen some experienced people leave but are excited about all the fresh talent that has come through the door,” says Hammes.
Hammes says that ICI has taken a somewhat unique approach in the past few years to incorporating newer employees into the system. “We no longer take on a job and then hire people to manage it,” Hammes explains. “We’re now investing time and money into growing and developing our people.” Rather than placing an inexperienced employee in a billable role, ICI now focuses on training people and placing them with a mentor for a period of time until they are completely ready. “They learn the position and the work that it involves and then once they have about 18 months under their belt they start to graduate to where they start taking on their own jobs and we can expand our bandwidth of what we bring in.”
With the average price of the four-year college degree skyrocketing, Hammes has noticed that more people are entering into the trades where they can earn a decent living without creating a massive debt for themselves due to student loans.
“I think in years past high school students were never really introduced to the construction industry,” says Hammes.
“With so many people retiring from the trades, a lot of opportunities are opening up and people are starting to recognize that.”
As the company progresses into the future, the company plans to remain a regional contractor while expanding the services it provides. While continuing to be a leader in the power market as it has for decades, the addition of fresh young talent will allow Industrial Contractors Inc. to tackle additional sectors of the industrial market.
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