E&H Steel prides itself on taking on steel fabrication projects that many of its competitors consider too difficult.
By Jim Harris
Most of the structural steel fabrication projects that E&H Steel Corp. takes on tend to be out of the ordinary. “We enjoy working on complicated projects,” says Jed Henderson, sales and estimating manager for the Midland City, Ala.-based company. “My father built this company around the mantra, ‘We don’t want to be the biggest; we want to be the best.'
“We do not try to compete on extremely large projects, but we want our customers to know that we can handle anything they throw at us,” he adds. “Our strength is in our ability to fabricate complicated and unusual projects that other people would steer away from or deem as being undesirable.”
The company fabricates beams, columns, trusses and other critical structural components of commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. “Pretty much anything that has steel in it, we can do,” says Jimmy Henderson, Jed’s father and the company founder and executive vice president.
One of E&H Steel’s most recent projects involved the fabrication of the dome structure and curved nave walls for the St. Nicholas National Shrine, located at the World Trade Center in New York City. Work began on the building last year and is anticipated to conclude in 2018. The shrine, designed by famed international architect Santiago Calatrava, includes a large amount of architecturally exposed steel arches and compression rings for the central dome structure.
“There are no straight lines on this project,” Henderson says, noting the company fabricated 40 curved pipe and plate arches for the support of the main dome. “Everything is either curved or faceted; fabricating those items to the tolerances required was extremely difficult.”
Jimmy Henderson personally oversaw fabrication related to the St. Nicholas National Shrine project at E&H Steel’s 134,000-square-foot fabrication center in Midland City. He has more than 44 years of experience in steel fabrication, and many of the company’s staff and equipment operators also have decades of experience.
“The jobs we do have gotten heavier and larger than they used to be, and the steel used in them has become much more visible, so our people have needed to adapt to that,” Jed Henderson says. “We always say that anyone with the correct machinery or equipment can fabricate for an office building or a hospital, but the more complex a job gets, the more creative your shop has to be. We have a very experienced crew in our shop, from management to fitters and layout men.”
The company’s fabrication facility sits on a 25-acre plot of land, giving its staff plenty of room to do their jobs. “We have a lot of laydown room, which is something a lot of fabricators don’t have,” he adds. “We can bring material here months in advance before we fabricate it.”
Jimmy Henderson – the “H” in E&H Steel – founded the company in 1986 with partner Ron Evans, who retired in 1994. Following Evans’ retirement, Henderson took on a new partner, Robert Thomas, who remains with the company.
The company started as a Southeast-focused fabricator before expanding its reach during the Great Recession of 2008/09. Today, the company performs work mainly along the East Coast including Maryland and New York, and as far west as Texas and Oklahoma.
Roughly 65 percent of E&H Steel’s work is comprised of furnish and install structural steel packages. The company’s projects routinely involve installing railings, stairs and other miscellaneous components that it does not fabricate. The remainder of E&H Steel’s projects requires it only to furnish structural steel, Jed Henderson says.
E&H Steel retains relationships with a pool of steel erection companies based in several of its major markets to complete its installations. “We essentially serve as a general contractor and take responsibility and liability for our projects, so building the right team of subcontractors helps us out dramatically,” he adds. “We value the team we have here as well as the teams we work with on a daily basis; the subcontractors we use regularly are a vital part of our success.”
Experience on Display
E&H Steel’s work on the St. Nicholas National Shrine project was its second experience working on a building designed by Calatrava. The company in 2014 completed the structural steel used on the curved steel of the Florida Polytechnic University Innovation Science and Technology Building in Lakeland, Fla. “Our work on that project brought us to the table to do the St. Nicholas National Shrine,” Jed Henderson says.
The project received several national honors including the “IDEAS2” award for innovative design by the American Institute of Steel Construction, as well as a Global Project of the Year award from Engineering News-Record.
E&H Steel in 2014 also concluded work on the support structure of the 714-ton “Pegasus and Dragon” statue and faux mountain in Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The 110-foot statue – which depicts the mythical winged Pegasus defeating a dragon – is the second-tallest statue in the United States, behind the Statue of Liberty.
The company’s other notable projects in recent years include work on the Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Fla.; and the Greenville Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina.
“Projects such as these require very high tolerances with exposed architectural steel and a tremendous amount of labor,” Jed Henderson says. “We’re proud of these because they demonstrate our ability to do difficult projects while bringing exposure to our company.”