- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Brandon Bagley
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
From its humble beginnings 40 years ago as an equipment repair and specialty custom shop, Premier Fabrication has grown into a leading steel fabrication company serving commercial and industrial markets. Located in Congerville, Illinois, Premier Fabrication’s leadership team has more than 150 years of combined manufacturing experience.
A locally owned and operated company
Premier Fabrication was founded in 1973 as The Farm Shop Inc. by Ernie Stahl. The company began in a 36 feet by 54 feet wood pole structure located on the same property that Premier Fabrication stands today. Stahl was able to grow the company through his entrepreneurial spirit that he gained through his work as an Army maintenance welder in Vietnam and other jobs.
In 1989, Stahl sold the company to employee Dave Zobrist, who ventured into structural steel and took on larger production jobs. In 1996, Bruce Hohulin was hired to further grow the company and in 1998, he and his wife Charlene became the owners of The Farm Shop.
The Hohulins steadily grew and expanded the company to 55 full-time employees working out of a 50,000-square-foot facility. In 2005, the name was changed to Premier Fabrication Inc. to better reflect the business and products.
Scott Aberle joined Premier Fabrication in 2008 and helped oversee further expansion and growth —including a 25,000-square-foot expansion to house a new state-of-the-art automated structural steel beam line and paint booth. This increased Premier Fabrication’s ability and capacity to 50 tons of steel per day. Continuing the theme of employee ownership, Scott led a management buyout of Premier Fabrication from Bruce and Charlene in July 2014.
With many companies of all sizes possessing the ability to fabricate steel throughout the United States, Premier Fabrication sets itself apart from the competition through its exceptional customer service. “Our business is really about the relationships we maintain with our clients,” says Scott Aberle, president and CEO of Premier Fabrication. “We strive to ask the right questions and then create the right solutions.”
Applications in the industry
With core capabilities in place to provide top-notch quality products and services, Premier Fabrication helps its clients achieve what they do — better. The company has established solid relationships with general contractors throughout Illinois as well as its surrounding states. “Part of our business approach is to not only work with general contractors, but also to form alliances with companies that are not directly within our market and that we can provide additional capacity for,” Aberle explains. “These are situations that if we were sitting side by side then we might be competitors, but instead we become partners.”
Premier Fabrication’s approach to the market focuses on three aspects: structural steel, which involves large commercial structural projects; contract manufacturing, where Premier Fabrication is the tool for a brand or product that lacks the manufacturing footprint; and the company’s custom-designed barge spouts, which combines fabrication experience and structural expertise to offer bulk delivery systems for river terminals and rail unloading facilities.
Premier Fabrication is currently working with repeat clients on a project for Graham Hospital in Canton, Illinois. The health care facility is building an addition for which Premier Fabrication is providing the steel and metal framework. “We’re also working on a new construction project for Princeville High School in Princeville, Illinois,” says Aberle. “Because of our relationships with these general contractors, we’ve also received some smaller work that is with key customers of theirs.”
Creating local opportunity
Premier Fabrication is a company of opportunity. With the purpose of creating better lives and careers for its people, Premier Fabrication involves itself in the local community. Several employees of the company are volunteer firemen and incorporate Premier Fabrication into fundraising events for the local firehouse. The company is also involved with organizations such as Easter Seals and the Midwest Food Bank, an international food distribution organization headquartered in the Midwest. “Our intent is to be a good citizen because that is how you build stronger communities with plenty of opportunity,” says Aberle.
Growing up in the Midwest, Aberle gained a strong familiarity with the agriculture industry. After receiving an engineering degree, Aberle immediately entered the manufacturing field where he gained the business and management experience that would align him in place to join Premier Fabrication in 2008 as president and CEO. “The company was really at a pivotal place at that point,” shares Aberle. “We knew that we wanted to continue to grow for our customers, employees and the community. We see ourselves as a resource to grow this particular region and make it a better place to live, work and play.”
With cautious optimism, Aberle sees the economy bouncing back and positively affecting the construction and fabrication industry. “The key is to be always looking to innovate and expand your view toward the market,” he says. “Everything continues to change and evolve. You’re either ahead of that curve and working with people to innovate, or you’ll be reactive and playing catch-up.”
Looking ahead at 2016, the coming year is shaping up to be a year of potential growth for Premier Fabrication as the company looks to capitalize new business and relationships while maintaining and nurturing the partnerships it has previously established.
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