Case Studies

Morris Construction Inc.

50 Years of Safe, Reliable Mechanical Contracting and Fabrication

After a 50-year-long run, Morris Construction Inc. (Morris) has established itself as an expert mechanical contractor offering complete turnarounds in industrial construction, plant maintenance, oil refinery construction, pipe fabrication and installation. “We’ve been in business since 1963,” shares Lori Hetzler, president and owner of Morris. “We back our capabilities with an excellent safety record, which is critical in this industry, and manpower. We’re able to self-perform and man-up our jobs through excellent relationships with the unions.”

The Illinois-based mechanical contractor has worked on building relationships and a solid reputation in the Midwest for the better part of a century. “We have a great working relationship with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and are signatory with the International Association of Ironworkers, International Association of Operating Engineers, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters,” explains Lori.

Morris plays an important role in the small community of Robinson and Crawford County, Ill. “We are contributors to many not-for-profit groups and organizations, including the Wabash Valley United Way,” Lori continues. “We are pleased to be an inaugural year investor for Crawford County CEO [Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities], a class where our area high school students have an opportunity to learn firsthand about creating and building their own businesses.”

An Unexpected Opportunity

The company was originally founded by Russell Morris and his family. Over the years, Morris was acquired by various shareholders, including one who had a connection to Lori and her husband Tim Hetzler, current general manager of Morris. “We had a relative who owned part of the company,” recalls Lori. “She and her husband owned 49 percent of Morris and they wanted someone they knew they could trust to take over.”

With Tim’s 25 years of experience as an engineer with Marathon Petroleum Company (Marathon), the fifth largest U.S. refiner with extensive marketing and transportation operations, the couple decided to take the unlikely opportunity to buy into Morris.

“Tim had worked his way up through Marathon into several leadership positions,” reveals Lori. “I, on the other hand, had little industry experience after 17 years as a probation officer, but was ready to take on a new avenue.”

In January 2009, Lori purchased 10 percent of Morris. “2009 was a rocky year to buy into a company, but Tim went to work as our general manager and lead estimator and he was out there pounding the pavement, using his contacts to drum up work,” she recalls. “I purchased an additional 39 percent of the company in January 2012 and bought out all remaining partners in December 2012.”

Morris now resides fully under Lori’s ownership as a woman-owned business. “I earned my bachelor’s degree while raising our three boys and working part-time,” shares Lori. “The transition from probation officer, supervising 200-plus individuals, to running my own business has been an interesting one. We really had no clue that something like this would happen for us in our lifetimes, but it’s been a nice surprise.”

A Reliable Union Workforce Brings Safe Service In-house

Morris operates out of two locations; one in Robinson, Ill., and the second in Canton, Ohio. “We’re a union contractor, so our workforce ranges from 30 employees to upward of 200,” notes Lori. “It really depends on how busy we are. Speaking from a fabrication perspective, we can deliver products anywhere in the U.S., but on-site service-wise; we will work pretty much anywhere within the Midwest.”

One of Morris’ main clients, Marathon, is located right in the company’s backyard. “We do a lot of work for the Robinson-based Marathon refinery,” reveals Lori. “In Robinson, we also have a custodial staff associated with the Laborers’ union that performs basic janitorial duties and cleanups at the refinery and Marathon’s main office building.”

The company offers high-quality, union-construction pipe fabrication from a fully operational shop near its corporate headquarters in Robinson. “Our trained, qualified and certified welders produce carbon steel and alloy pipe spools, manifolds and piping supports in our newly-equipped, 18,000-square-foot facility. We fabricate and ship pipe according to project-specific priorities and we can assist in all aspects of system layout, including budget planning and takeoff preparations.” -Morris’ website reads.

While the company’s main operations remain in Robinson, Lori says Morris is expanding its Canton office. “We have crews working for Marathon in Canton, as well,” she adds. “We self-perform all of the fabrication and installation work through our union workforce. Occasionally, we’ll subcontract some services, such as scaffolding, excavating or iron and structural steel work, but for the most part we’re doing everything in-house.”

In-house service allows Morris to focus on a cornerstone of its success: safety. “Our lost time injury rate is consistently well below the industry average,” says Lori. “During our work at the Marathon refinery in Robinson we were given the Division Manager’s Award for each of the last eight years for our excellence in job safety. Our safety program was also independently audited by PEC/Premier and we received a 100 percent score.”

With reliable safety programs in place, Morris strives to be designated VPP Star site through Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Our primary goal in any project is to come in on time and under budget, but our emphasis, too, is on safety and that shows in our stellar safety record,” adds Lori.

Supporting the Petrochemical Industry

With safety at the forefront of every project, Morris is able to complete large-scale mechanical contracting and fabrication that’s highly regarded by some of the biggest companies in the industry. Morris recently completed a sizable fabrication job for BP Husky (BP Toledo), a refinery that’s been in constant operation since 1919 situated on 585 acres near Toledo’s Maumee River. In 2008, BP Husky Energy finalized the formation of two joint ventures; one to develop the company’s Sunrise oil sands fields in Alberta and another to operate and reposition the Toledo Refinery.

The refinery’s success will allow access to a reliable source of North American crude oil, ensuring the plant’s operations for years to come. “We put the pipe together, assembling the spools for Nooter Construction in November 2012,” details Lori. “Our work for Nooter and BP Toledo is one of our largest fabrication jobs to-date, worth about $2 million. We are focusing on growing the fabrication side of our business, while maintaining a sizable plant maintenance presence.”

While Morris tends to target the petrochemical industry, the company’s service spans other industrial applications. “We can also support the chemical and petrochemical, power generation, water/wastewater treatment, ethanol, steel facilities, heavy industrial and pulp and paper industries,” shares Lori. “Basically any place there’s pipes; we can help.”

The company remains a steadfast supporter of the refinery operations, because it’s a strong market. “We’re going to continue to work with refinery clients, because despite the economic situation, there’s always going to be need for gasoline, propane and diesel fuel,” notes Lori. “Our main goal is to keep as many people working as possible. We already have work on the books for 2014 and it’s looking good. We’re not looking for a huge expansion, but we think 2014 will be a good year.”

When Lori and Tim purchased Morris, they not only acquired a company, but also a trusted team. “When we purchased this business we inherited a wealth of experience and knowledge,” shares Lori. “Our employees have extensive backgrounds in the pipe trades industry, along with knowledge of quality controls, instrumentation, planning, safety and process controls. We are very lucky to have our core employees; they have helped us earn great respect from large, local companies such as Marathon.”

With 50 years under its belt, Morris Construction Inc. continues to support industrial giants throughout the Midwest with a focus on safe, reliable mechanical contracting and fabrication service backed by a leading team.

Published on: July 9, 2014

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