Case Studies

SBI General & Mechanical Inc.

Contracting in America's heartland

Medium-sized general contractor SBI General & Mechanical Inc. (SBI) was established in 1999 and has since become a commanding force in bio-fuel, food processing and water treatment plant construction. With nearly 140 employees working in its Nebraska headquarters and across the Midwest on various projects, SBI estimates $15 million in annual revenue.

Returning to its roots

The company, founded by four brothers from the Midwest who took off to Seattle to try their hand as ship repairman in the late 1980s, has returned to the place it knows best – the home state of Nebraska. Keeping true to its Midwestern roots, and making a point to be closer to their families, the company is now headquartered in Waterbury, Neb., only 2 miles from where the brothers grew up.

While SBI remains much a family-owned business, the company has switched hands. Founding brothers Jerald and Steve Stewart, CEO and vice president, respectively, run SBI alongside Austen Stewart, Jerald’s son and chief project manager, as well as Eddie Upali Seneviratne, marine engineer and vice president of the engineering department for SBI, who the brothers met while on the West Coast.

Building in the Midwest

Located in Nebraska, SBI has inherently completed many projects involved in industries related to the energy and manufacturing sectors that dominate the Midwest industrial market. SBI has worked in numerous food processing and bio-refining plants, conducting new construction, as well as rebuilding and expansions.

 “We specialize in the construction of plants for the U.S. energy industry and in construction and expansion of corn processing and food processing plants,” says Austen. “In our industry, it’s important that we give our customers our best effort and get the job done on time. It gets cold here, but we work through it. Being from the Midwest, we carry a strong work ethic and a team spirit that are unique to this part of the country,”

In addition to the company’s work with clients, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific Railways, SBI has contributed to two ground-breaking ethanol plant projects in Iowa. The company recently completed piping for the POET cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and worked with Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), a farmer-owned ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa, to complete the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project.

“Working in cellulosic ethanol plants is very exciting, because they’re changing the way we produce energy,” Austen details. “It’s a big deal not only for the ethanol industry, but for energy security, as well. Our next generations are going to rely on this process. “This process makes a more sustainable, low-cost, cleaner-burning ethanol, and we’re proud to say we’ve played a major part in getting these plants up and running.”

 The company’s diverse portfolio of clients highlights the level of expertise SBI’s supervision brings to the industry. “Our staff is very experienced and we’ve been lucky to have our core workers here with us since the beginning,” Austen says proudly. “It helps maintain low overhead and maximum flexibility. This means our jobs will be on schedule and cost-efficient.”

SBI’s personnel are uniquely qualified to perform a wide range of services, from installing a small pump station, to retrofitting a large plant, to pipe and steel fabrication for many demands of the industry.

Honesty is SBI’s policy

SBI’s exceptional quality of workmanship, coupled with a very high degree of safety – present EMR of 0.69 – has afforded the company to maintain steady growth despite the economic downturn during recent years. “We slowed down a lot, but were fortunate all our customers fulfilled their obligations,” Austen details. “We worked hard to keep our core group of workers busy and brought back people when it picked up again.”

Austen went on to note that the company takes great pride in maintaining a good reputation. “We work to be honest and up front in everything we do,” he continues. “I’m writing a bid right now and giving them a fair price and a realistic schedule. We always work to finish on time. In the long run, if you want to be in business, building relationships and working with the same people, you have to be honest – and that’s why we have repeat customers. Being honest is the easiest way to do business.”

Austen anticipates growth in the next few years and believes the best way to keep a quality workforce is to promote from within. “We just keep growing steadily as our people grow,” he says. “The people who come up through the ranks are generally the best ones. They understand how the company works and we trust each other. We are truly blessed to have great supervisors on the front line. If they are not out there making it happen, the work will not get done.”

The company is approaching its 15-year anniversary, and while Austen says there is no celebration yet in order, SBI General Mechanical Inc. has much to be excited about.

Published on: March 27, 2015

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