Enerfab Inc. has grown substantially from its start more than a century ago, but it still stays flexible, CEO of the Power and Industrial Division Greg Purdon says. “We’re a large contractor, but we’re small and nimble enough to become what the customer needs us to become,” he asserts.
Cincinnati-based Enerfab provides construction management, capital equipment, maintenance services and technology solutions to the energy industry and other industrial markets. The company started operations in 1901 as The British-American Sealing Wax Co.
Its products, Purdon notes, were often used to line brewers’ wooden beer barrels. Over time, though, the company moved away from wax and into manufacturing asphalt/felt-ready roofing and shingles.
In 1982, it purchased Oberle Jorde, which specialized in boiler erection and the installation of power plant auxiliary equipment. Today, as Enerfab Power & Industrial, it primarily focuses on the power generation market, Purdon says.
“Over the last five years, we have been the largest boilermaker employer in the United States,” he says, adding that a significant portion of its revenue comes from major utilities.
Enerfab also has moved into the municipal water and wastewater markets. Stringent water regulations “will provide us many opportunities inside and outside the power industry,” Purdon predicts. “Infrastructure improvements across the country need to be made in basic municipal water and wastewater.”
Purdon joined Enerfab in 1999 as a general manager for its regional office in Kansas City, Mo. He credits its success to its diverse services, which range from full project management to operating as a labor-broker for clients.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and deliver what those customers need,” he says.
That differentiation helps Enerfab cope with changes in its market, including the closing of many coal-fired power plants in its region. “All utilities are under cost pressures,” Purdon asserts. “We want to make sure we’re offering the safest, most competitive workforce to our customers.”
Low natural gas and oil prices also have impacted Enerfab’s clients, Purdon adds. “There’s a slowdown in general in industrial construction,” he says. “There is a significant investment that’s being made in new natural gas generation and renewables, particularly with the extension of the tax credits.
“That’s something that we are looking at as a company to see how we can play in that market,” Purdon continues, but asserts that the company is keeping busy with projects. “We are converting two coal-generating power plants to burn natural gas. We’re also finishing up construction on an air quality control project in the Midwest.”
Planning for Tomorrow
Purdon predicts Enerfab will continue growing through acquisitions that enrich the company. Recently, it purchased the Kansas City-based Foley Co., a leader in mechanical contracting and general construction.
“It’s really diversified our skill sets and our customer base,” he says. The purchase extended Enerfab’s maintenance services in the heavy industrial water and wastewater markets. “What I tell people is, ‘We have to look at where the money is being spent today, but we also have to look at where it’s being spent tomorrow.’
“We’ve reinvented ourselves continually throughout our history,” Purdon says. “While we continue to look at improving our operations, we have to maintain our position.”
Enerfab also wants to expand geographically. “[We’re looking at] where we can offer our services and skill sets to either the industries we’re playing in now or in new industries,” he adds.