Case Studies

Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc.

A Driving Force in the Mechanical Construction Industry
  • Written by: Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc.
  • Produced by: Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc.
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Ernie Gibson was taught pipefitting and welding from his father; together, the father-son duo traveled the country working for oil and gas companies like Gulf and Shell. By the time Ernie was 24 years old, he had saved up enough funds to settle down and start his own business.


Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc. (Lee) began with a handful of employees in 1984. The mechanical contracting company now employs approximately 250 people and is owned by Ernie and his two sons, Nick and Corey. The brothers became part-owners in 2013 and are working to transition the company.


“He was never about us taking over and continuing on the company,” says Nick, project manager for Lee. The brothers felt differently, though. By the time Nick turned 16 years old he was involved in the business. He worked at Lee during the summer through the rest of high school and began a pipefitting apprenticeship as he earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Corey went on to the University of Missouri, Columbia, to earn his bachelor’s degree and immediately became involved with Lee upon graduation


Now, as part-owner, Nick is spending more time in the office overseeing the company’s work within the mining and minerals, food and beverage, petroleum and power sectors. Corey is currently working toward his MBA at Washington University in St. Louis while working in Lee’s chemical sector.


Since the company’s founding, Lee has provided project management, construction management and direct construction expertise on hundreds of projects. Lee has a strong crew to provide project development, preconstruction, estimating, budgeting, project planning, scheduling, material sourcing, construction services and management, plant commissioning and performance testing. Ultimately, no matter what the service, Lee’s first priority is customer satisfaction.


Work in the Midwest


Located in Parks Hill, Mo., Lee is poised to work for states throughout the Midwest region. The company has developed a proven track record, which attracts clients back for repeat business.


Lee has found a niche, which comprises a quarter of the company’s business, in the mining and minerals industry. According to Nick, the company has partnered with local lead mining companies for more than two decades. The team at Lee understands the needs of clients within the industry and addresses them directly.


Lee is equipped to provide gold, silver, lead and copper ores, solvent and extraction, steel cold roll, civil structural piping and process equipment. Nick also reports Lee has been contracted with many of these companies for industrial maintenance work.


However, in the past few years, Lee has installed a lot of new equipment. One job the company is currently working on is in Texas where crews are working to install a large Clinker storage handling system. Crews have also done work to clean existing storage-handling systems.


Safety on the Job


Lee’s employees work in situations and with materials that pose an inherent risk. For that reason, management is responsible and accountable as much for safety as they are for work quality, production and scheduling. Employees are put through a rigorous safety program so he or she is trained to work regardless of the hazard.


The company believes that knowledge of safe practices is not instinctive. Therefore, Lee has formulated a training program to ensure each staff member understands safe work practices, policies and procedures. Nick notes that compliance is mandatory and management works to emphasize training on different levels.


As part of maintaining Lee’s safety standards, upper management performs regular workplace audits; these audits are used to recognize deficiencies and improve on the standard programs, policies and procedures. It is this very process that has led Lee to have 1.7 million accident-free man-hours, which has garnered awards from industry organizations.


Training for the Future


Nick and Corey have been groomed for their roles as part-owners of Lee, as they grew up with a father who was in the business because his father taught him the trades. However, Nick sees a deficit in the younger generations.


“The workforce is aging and there’s not a lot of young blood coming into the industry,” he says. “Finding help recently has been a huge challenge.” Nick explains that 10 years ago the average age of workers in the industry was about 35 years old; today it is closer to 45 years old. “It’s not averaging out like it should,” he continues.


Therefore, Lee has formed a training program to help balance out the aging workforce. The company offers school for youth interested in welding or pipefitting. Those who join the program go through four years of training and learn everything, from top to bottom of what the trade requires. “It’s a good way to get young adults in to see if they want to do this or not,” says Nick. “If they like it, it is an easy footstep in the door.”


According to Nick, welders and pipe fitters are needed everywhere; nonetheless, he hopes that his company’s training program will continue to attract more youth to the trades and will help sustain Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc. for years to come.


For more information about Lee Mechanical Contractors Inc., please visit:

Published on: November 20, 2013

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