EPI

Ron Meyer, a project manager at EGI Mechanical in Plover, stands by a shop saw in the plant. With EGI for more than 20 years, he started there in the apprenticeship program and worked his way up to the position he holds now.

At EGI Mechanical, with locations in Plover and Seymour, opportunities abound for motivated people who want to create a rewarding career for themselves. Project manager Ron Meyer, who has been with EGI Mechanical for more than 20 years, can attest to that.

Meyer started his career in the apprenticeship program and worked his way up the ladder at EGI Mechanical. At the urging of the previous owners, about a dozen years ago, he was the one who got the Plover facility, 5237 Harding Ave., up and running.

“I had been working in the Stevens Point/Plover area in and out for quite a few years,” he said. “There were opportunities to advance our work there. I started working from my home first, and as we started to grow a bit, we added another project manager and we ended up where we are now.”

There are currently five project managers based in that facility, which Meyer considers to be a service maintenance office.

Joe Lauer, president of EGI Mechanical, who is based in the Seymour facility, concurs with Meyer about the opportunities their company has given countless people through the years. He called his own career in the industry, where he started out sweeping floors in high school, “an American Dream story.”

Lauer co-owns EGI Mechanical, which was founded in 1995, with Joe Pues — they began the purchase process in 2005. Things have changed a bit since he started there. “We were building tanks and different things for the paper industry. Since then, we switched over — we do a lot of work in the food industry, we work in dairy and canning. The ethanol industry is huge for us. We are in foundries and we’re still in the paper mills.”

EGI Mechanical has prospered over the last dozen years. “We grew through the recession,” Lauer said. “It was a good time to be in the food industry — everybody eats. We kind of broke the rules. Luck had something to do with it, too.”

Since 2008, they have grown substantially — 40 to 50 percent per year. They are currently in the process of expanding their shop and office space from 12,000 square feet to 28,000 square feet.

“We build tanks, conveyors, we do a lot of stainless specialty fabrication in the food industry,” Lauer said. “It’s a lot of odd stuff. Everything we do in the shop is custom, one of a kind. Ninety percent (of what we fabricate) is stainless steel. From there, it goes to carbon steel and aluminum because we do so much in the food industry. A lot of what we do in the shop supports what we’re doing in the field.”

The industries of expertise for EGI Mechanical are food and beverage, pulp and paper, manufacturing, chemical, educational facilities, institutional facilities and hospitals. Their services include process piping and plumbing, sanitary tubing, fire protection, sheet metal, tank fabrication, shop fabrications, conveyor manufacturing, and pressure vessel.

For the last two years, the sauerkraut industry has been huge for them. EGI Mechanical builds tanks for processing sauerkraut that are as large as 31.5 feet in diameter, 30 feet high and can hold up to 165,000 gallons. They work with major players in the canned vegetable and potato industries as well.

“We’re either working on, retrofitting, or installing food production lines,” he said. “The food industry is quite fickle — the only constant is change.”

While they have clients all over the country, the main area that EGI Mechanical covers spans from Madison to Green Bay to Marinette to Eau Claire. About 50 of their trucks are on the road every day. They have more than 100 employees and a number of them are based in their home cities.

“Their offices are their trucks,” Lauer said.

There are actually two facets to EGI Mechanical — industrial and construction. “On the construction side of the business we do design-build fire protection and designbuild plumbing,” Lauer said. “We do some HVAC. It’s typically on the piping side of things. We employee steam fitters, pipe fitters, plumbers, sprinkler fitters, millwrights and welders. We do a lot of work in hospitals and institutional. We’re looking at other opportunities (to expand).“

Safety is paramount at EGI Mechanical. It recently brought on a full-time safety director. “Our MOD rate (experience modification rate) — it’s something that OSHA and the state of Wisconsin use to grade you on your safety — we’ve got probably the lowest rate that you can get. That’s means we’re working safely as a company and we’re helping our employees to work safely. That translates into real money because of insurance — insurance rates are determined by your MOD rate. If your MOD rate’s too high you don’t get a place at the table (when it comes to bidding on projects),” noted Lauer.

With the future in mind, Lauer and Pues are working on an exit strategy. “We just brought in four minor stockholders who were working here in management and were interested in ownership. We were the next generation 13 years ago — this is the next generation coming up.”

For Lauer, his work is both gratifying and satisfying. “This company supports 100-plus employees — that’s spouses and children too,” he said. “We’ve got some of the best people in the industry working here, some of the best welders, these guys and women are the head of their class.”

Meyer, who is set to retire at the end of this year, is proud to say that the EGI Plover branch has the largest amount of apprentices that they have ever had.

“Anyone can have the same opportunity that I had at EGI —starting from a pre-apprentice all the way to a project manager,” he said. “In a huge operation you may not get those opportunities to work your way to where I’m at. The sky’s the limit.”