BRB Contractors Inc.

BRB ContractorsBRB knows the needs of its clients and has the experience to keep projects moving.

By Alan Dorich

There are many municipal utilities contractors, but BRB Contractors Inc. sets itself apart with an emphasis on values such as honesty and integrity in its relations with others. “[We] treat our vendors and subcontractors like we like to be treated,” Chairman of the Board Mike Welch declares.

Based in Topeka, Kan., BRB specializes in constructing water and wastewater treatment plants, and water, sewer and gas line installations. Founders Barney Braymen and Hank Meinking started the firm in 1959 as the Braymen-Meinking Co.BRB Contractors info box

The two had experience from working for another firm, but “very little money to put into it,” Welch says, noting that Braymen and Meinking began by taking on small municipal jobs. They took most profits and reinvested them into their company, allowing it to grow.

After Meinking left the firm in 1970, Braymen renamed it as BRB Contractors Inc. Welch, who joined the firm as an estimator in 1971, says it now has a staff of 200 employees and enjoyed sales last year of $30 million.

BRB has a broad reach with its work. “We work between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi,” Welch says, noting that its customer base ranges from cities and counties to private clients. “Once in a while, we do industrial plants.”

Its current work, President Mike Laird notes, includes the final stages of testing on a waterline project in North Platte, Neb. The company constructed 27,000 feet of 36- and 48-inch pipe that will move water for the Twin Flatt Natural Resources District.

“Nebraska is moving some water out of previous irrigation wells back into the river,” he says. “It’s basically resolving some actions between the states where Nebraska had to return water back to the waterways.”

A Seasoned Staff

The experience of BRB’s team helps it compete, Welch says. The company often has competitors enter its market with less experience, “like vertical building contractors,” he says. “They don’t understand the time elements or what we have to go through.”BRB Contractors 2

For example, BRB’s clients usually need contractors who can get the job done without interfering with their operations, which can involve treating wastewater or pumping sewage. “They’ve got their work cut out for them,” Welch says.

“They want us to come in, get the job done and get out of the way,” he states. “We have seasoned people that know how to project manage, engineer and keep the jobs going. We’re blessed in that regard.”

Laird, who also has more than 30 years with BRB, agrees. “The people are key to getting anything built,” he declares.

Up to Date

BRB continues to invest in its operations. “We try to keep up with the latest technology, computers and software, and communications media as far as the field is concerned,” Welch says.

The company recently purchased a new excavator and loader, and expects to buy more, based on the Trump administration’s push to update the infrastructure. “I’m enthusiastic about more infrastructure work coming along,” Welch says.

“We do have a replacement policy for our equipment that gets us the cleaner engines and creature comforts for the operators,” Welch says, adding that BRB also invests in its shop. “We try to give them everything they need to maintain the equipment and keep it in good shape.”

Promoting Creativity

Like many, BRB is finding it challenging to hire new, qualified people. “The unemployment rate is pretty low right now and it’s going to get lower,” Welch predicts. “There’s going to be a fight for the best people out there.”

But the company’s low turnover rate allows it to cope. “Retention is something that we try to keep on the front burner,” he says, noting that the company keeps its employees loyal with benefits such as a 401(k) program, growth opportunities and an environment that allows them to contribute.

“For the most part, people are allowed to use their knowledge in their work as much as possible,” Welch says. “There’s some adult supervision, of course, but you can be creative about getting the job done on time and on budget.”

Planning Ahead

BRB plans for continued but controlled growth, Laird says. As it has focused on water and wastewater jobs, “We’ve seen somewhat of an upturn in projects,” he says. “We’ve been able to compete, but we’re not looking to take on more than we can successfully complete.”

The company also has started a succession plan for when its current leaders retire. “We’re finding people and bringing them up through the ranks,” Welch says. “We’ve got the company set up where we want it to continue with new blood.”

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