Case Studies

V & M Erectors Inc.: Putting the Steel in Florida’s Bridges

  • Written by: V & M Erectors Inc.: Putting the Steel in Florida's Bridges
  • Produced by: V & M Erectors Inc.: Putting the Steel in Florida's Bridges
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Vern Nix has been in the steel industry for 47 years, founding his first company as a steel subcontractor at the age of 26. “My father mortgaged his home in Carol City, Fla., for $2,500 to provide the startup capitol,” says Vern. Established in 1988 as a certified minority-owned and -operated business, V & M Erectors Inc. (V & M) prides itself on the team’s remarkable ability to exceed all expectations. The company marks 25 years of business in 2013, and the team will celebrate by continuing to specialize on bridge projects as a steel erection and installation subcontractor.

“I guess my dad basically told me when I was young that no matter what you do in life, you need to have a positive attitude,” says Vern. “I am a visionary, and I am optimistic. There is no such thing as failure. You need to put out a positive attitude and effort, and good things will come.”

Vern’s positive outlook and genuine desire to succeed has carried him and his Florida-based company a long way over the years. “I have established a profitable company with an excellent reputation acknowledged throughout the industry, which exists more than ever today,” says Vern proudly.

Guided by a true passion for the business, Vern continues to be actively involved in V & M. “I work a lot of hours; all of my waking hours are working,” he says. “I love what I do; I started doing this at 16 years old and I still have a passion for what I do. I like playing with the big toys out there.”

And Vern is proud to note that his son, Jack Nix, current CEO of V & M, is also part of the family tradition. “Jack is great in the office, and I am proud to have him take over the office operations,” he says. “It has been a great working combination, because I love being out in the field.”

Jack has been working for his father in various capacities since the company was established. According to Vern, Jack was first hired as a laborer in 1985 and quickly advanced to an ironworker, then a foreman and a project superintendent before settling in his current position.

“Jack displayed a talent for this kind of position, and I spent a few years mentoring him about this part of the business,” Vern says. “Jack was a natural and soon developed computer skills, which helped enormously with the advancement and the companies continued success. Jacks’ solid performance of the skills needed to manage and operate allow me to concentrate on the efficiency of the field operations, which is where the budgets are achieved, also this is what I like to do best.”

It seems as though the father-son duo is working well for V & M, though Vern is quick to point out that he also greatly appreciates the ability of his team. “My team and I have worked 72 days straight, through two holidays working 12-hour days on average,” he details. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for my crews.”

With a team of approximately 100, V & M puts emphasis on quality and efficiency in all projects with employees who are on-site experts in steel erection and installation, thoroughly trained superintendents and skilled foremen. The company employs experts in all fields of bridge construction, including reinforcing steel installation, structural steel erection, stay-in-place forms installation, Bascule Bridge erection and machinery installation, as well as RhinoDek forming system installation.

Jack seems to agree with his father, as he is also impressed with the team’s abilities. “Some people don’t have that expertise to do everything from a simple span to long-span curved bridges over water or land,” adds Jack.

Making Connections that Last

During 25 years of business in Florida, V & M has built a reputation for the high-quality work the company performs. The company, based in Pembroke Pines, Fla., primarily works within the state; however, the team has also traveled throughout the southeastern states for various projects.

The firm has also created relationships with general contractors and suppliers throughout the state along the way. “We’re very loyal here to people we work with,” says Jack. “We don’t run around shopping everybody, but we do want to make sure we get a good deal.”

Currently, most of V & M’s work doesn’t include the typical bridge over water most people imagine. “Right now our work is over highways and passages,” says Vern. “That gives us a unique type of construction. We have to work a lot at night, because we have to work around detours and lane closures.”

However, V & M takes an even more personal approach on its projects. “It’s not just about being able to build it, but being able to build it safely,” Jack adds. “We want to make sure our employees go home safely every day.”

Again, the father and son team are on the same page. “I talk to my foreman every day,” says Vern. “And I know what’s going on in all aspects of this company; I am in touch.”

Reputation Strong as Steel

Recent projects completed by V & M have earned the recognition of the Steel Erectors Association of America. The national association is the largest nonprofit trade organization of its kind for steel erectors, offering member access to the industry’s most essential technical information, networking opportunities and career development tools.

One project that received an award from the association was located in Fort Myers, Fla. V & M was recognized for the installation of the longest and heaviest steel tub girders in Florida. Jack explains this version of a girder takes two plate girders connected by a common bottom flange to create a U-shape form, which provides a stronger construction form.

Another award recognizes the work V & M did on the Dixie Highway project. “It was a highly complicated project we just completed,” says Vern. “It’s a continuous span with an S-curve over a railroad, highway and canal.”

Vern and Jack are keeping an eye out for potential future projects. An influx of funds into the Department of Transportation typically is a good sign of work to come for V & M. “There are some projects on the horizon,” Jack says. “We’re watching for I-4 work in Orlando that’s expected to be $2 billion worth of highway work. We’re anxiously waiting to hear more about that.”

Faith in the reputation of V & M helped the company weather a rough recession. “We didn’t have to panic and it has served us well,” admits Jack. As the company continues to contract different projects, Jack and Vern report that the management team determines the number of man hours budgeted to complete the work and the field operations make it happen.

While V & M did have to cut back in size, Vern and Jack feel as though the current state of the business is well-suited. “I’d like to see us stay as strong as we are right now,” Vern says. “We’re not really looking to grow. We’re at a size we can manage and perform well at.” So for the near future, V & M Erectors Inc. will continue providing excellent work and build the bridges of Florida.

Published on: May 15, 2013

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