Working Beyond Iowa to Meet Clients' Needs

Working Beyond Iowa to Meet Clients' Needs After Iowa, Carl A. Nelson & Company has completed more industrial construction projects in Illinois than any other state. CANCO photo

2 years, 2 months ago

By Craig T. Neises
Carl A. Nelson & Company

During more than 100 years in business, Carl A. Nelson & Company’s project history has become spread out among dust-covered boxes, inside seldom-opened filing cabinets, and in an electronic database that has gained in detail since the 1980s.

And just like its project records, the firm’s work also isn’t to be found all in one place.

Most has been in Iowa, which has been home base from the time Swedish immigrant Carl Nelson started in business in 1913.

But today, Carl A. Nelson & Company (CANCO) is licensed in more than 20 of the 50 U.S. states, and since the mid-1980s, about a quarter of the firm’s more than 800 major projects for industrial clients have been completed or currently are underway in states other than Iowa. That includes ongoing projects in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. The out-of-state projects — in seed and grain, and food production plants — each is for a repeat client.

A history of project success is a frequent driver of future opportunity, regardless of client. But Dan Culp, Carl A. Nelson & Company’s director of business development, said past success is a key factor in being invited to do work in new, sometimes faraway locales.

“Most of the work that we do outside of our core area is primarily due to our clients’ needs,” Culp said. “As we develop a local client, they gain a confidence in our capabilities, and when they have work in other locations, we are often requested to go to that location to build for them.”

Among current out-of-state projects, three are in locations more than 200 miles from CANCO’s main office in Burlington, Iowa. One is beyond the 350-mile radius of Burlington generally considered to be the company’s primary service area. That range includes all of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, most of Indiana and Wisconsin, and portions of Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan.

That represents 13 of the 22 states where CANCO is licensed. Of those 22, the firm has completed industrial construction projects in 16 — plus two others, Connecticut and New York, where the company was formerly licensed. In all, CANCO’s history with the four clients it is working for outside of Iowa includes more than 200 projects, with work completed at sites as distant as Idaho and North Carolina.

CANCO industrial projects by state/province

North Carolina7
South Dakota4
New York2
West Virginia1
Ontario, Canada4

The above photos show Carl A. Nelson & Company projects in Illinois and Missouri. (CANCO photos)

Whether licenses are added in new states, or current licensing is allowed to lapse in others depends on factors such as cost and complexity of obtaining or maintaining a license, as well as opportunity to perform projects as design-builder or general contractor where CANCO can be successful on behalf of clients.

“We look for opportunities where we can use our skill sets to add value to a client’s project from design to building the facility or setting equipment,” Culp said, citing adaptability to local code requirements, code review and value engineering among those capabilities.

Self-performed construction and supervision is another factor in CANCO’s success for clients with projects outside of Iowa.

“Our construction craftsmen have skills in concrete work, steel erection, rough and finish carpentry and millwright work,” Culp said. “On most of our industrial projects, we self-perform at least 50% of the work and that helps us control the schedule performance, as well as the project quality.”

That factor is increasingly important, Culp said, with fewer companies willing to travel long distances to pursue work. Culp said travel “is essential to our business.”

“Our clients want us to self-perform work,” he said, “because they want assurance that safety, quality and timeliness are at the forefront of our efforts.”

The choice to pursue a remote project comes down to being able to provide the kind of service a client has come to expect — even if delivering it might involve forming an international subsidiary and adapting to the regulations of an entirely new country. That is just what CANCO did to build a pet food production plant, corporate office and regional quality control lab on a greenfield site in Ontario, Canada, over a period of eight years for repeat client Royal Canin.

Routinely, however, Culp said having the ability to do work in Iowa or out helps clients maintain and grow confidence in CANCO’s ability to provide service where and when there is a need.

Steel is lifted into place on a Carl A. Nelson & Company project in Missouri. (CANCO photo)