MTH Industries

A city with a history such as Chicago’s has some very old architecture. But over the years as buildings age and bits of decay occurs, there are not many companies with the capabilities to maintain and renovate landmark architecture.  

This is where Illinois Bronze Works comes in, a company that is just as old as the buildings it works on. Formed in 1923, Illinois Bronze is a sister company to MTH Industries and specializes in custom architectural and ornamental metalwork. The company says it provides timeless craftsmanship in non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, brass, bronze, stainless steel and steel. 

“Traditionally, we have worked for all of the major museums, as well as numerous storefront reno­vations and entrances for banks on LaSalle Street, Michigan Avenue and throughout the Loop,” Vice President Lou Nutini says. 

Illinois Bronze has performed work on the John G. Shedd Oceanarium, the Palmer House Renovation, the Wrigley Building and several other landmark buildings in Chicago. For the historic London Guarantee Building at 360 North Michigan, Illinois Bronze was part of the team that won the City of Chicago Landmark Preservation Excellence Award for fabricating and installing a re-creation of the original entrance. 

Nutini notes that much of the company’s work arrives in the office through referrals. “Illinois Bronze really has an excellent reputation in the industry,” Nutini states. “Ultimately, reputation is only as good as the last job, and we have a commitment to keeping high quality products and performance associated with our name. We take great pride in being able to keep it going.” 

Out on a Ledge

Illinois Bronze joined MTH Industries in 1994. Similar to Illinois Bronze, MTH strives to work on high-profile projects that utilize architectural glass and metal. 

“MTH doesn’t advertise,” Vice President Lou Cerny says. “We do glass and metals, and there aren’t many contractors that will do that at the same time.”

Cerny notes that MTH and Illinois Bronze are essentially the same company, but due to the value of the Illinois Bronze name and its experience in the field, MTH maintains the Illinois Bronze brand. The companies often overlap on jobs, but also perform work separately. “The kind of work MTH and Illinois Bronze will do is wide ranging in scope and size,” Cerny says. “We don’t shy away from something unusual.” 

One interesting project for MTH was The Ledge at the Willis Tower in Chicago. Opened last year, The Ledge features glass boxes 1,353 feet up, extending 4.3 feet from the skyscraper’s Skydeck on the 103rd floor for a view of the city. MTH installed the 1,500-pound glass panels that make up The Ledge. Each box comprises three layers of half-inch-thick glass laminated into one seamless unit, and the low-iron, clear glass is fully tempered and heat-soaked for durability. 

“Our competitor said, ‘We don’t want to touch it, ask MTH,’” Cerny asserts about the Willis Tower job. “It’s a very visible project and MTH is the main contractor on the project. It’s work that’s never been done before, and may never be done again. It’s certainly not a typical job, but it involves glass and metal, so we are more than pleased to be a part of it. “We do take some chances,” he adds. “Maybe we didn’t know how to do particular jobs when we got into it, but we figure it out.” 

No Need to Change

Both Cerny and Nutini insist that employees are key to MTH, and its work force distances it from the competition. 

Nutini points out the quality of its glazers and ironworkers are among the best in the industry. “We have a good core of guys working for us,” he says. “And we have a high quality of supervision and mechanics in the field.” 

When MTH finds good employees, Cerny says it makes sure to hold on to them. “We find work for them to do,” he says. “When clients call, there are certain people they want to see. Obviously, for clients we want to cater [to them] that way while we are always trying to develop new talent.”

There are no plans for MTH to change since the company believes it has developed trust within the industry. “We want to be around forever and prosper,” Cerny says. “We want to keep the tradition going and keep our name out there, and if customers or architects need something done, or have an unusual job, they can call MTH.”

“We will continue to come in every day, find the best jobs, and hope to continue to make our own improvements,” Nutini adds.  

MTH says it has been entrusted by customers with the most important and high-profile projects because “when on-time performance is demanded and [an] organization’s reputation is at stake, [it wants] MTH on [its] team.” 

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