Double Mint Condition

Taking on two types of construction work has Weddle Bros. in perfect shape

Article September 19, 2002
Printer-friendly version

If the people of Weddle Bros. Construction Co. Inc. are ever
left penniless in the bridge industry, the Disney family will surely take them

The Bloomington, Ind., outfit holds a unique position in the
marketplace. Not only does it handle bridge jobs around the land of Indy cars
and basketball, but there also are plenty of industrial and commercial buildings
to tend to. Weddle Bros. can teeter between the two, and its impressive client
list includes Disney World-Florida, Sea World of Florida, General Electric, the
Indiana Department of Transportation and the city of Evansville.

"One of the keys for our company is we don't
just do roads and bridges," Lee Carmichael, president and CEO, told Roads
& Bridges. "One point in the early '80s we had one bridge job
and we were able to survive by being diversified and doing other types of
business—primarily building work. There's also been times when the
building work has been very down and the bridge work hasn't."

Wherever the boom, Weddle Bros. has found a way of being a
part of the economic firing squad. The company posts annual revenues of $60
million and finds work for anywhere between 175-400 employees.

"There are bigger road contractors, there are bigger
general construction contractors," Scott Sieboldt, vice
president and division manager, highway division, told ROADS & BRIDGES.
"As far as doing both we're probably up there on the list. We think
that's a good thing."

Growth related

It's been a two-man operation from the beginning.
Maurice Weddle spit nails with the best of them. He was known for his superior
carpentry skills and breathed a love for building things. Brother Harold lived
with the same passion, and put it to peace-fighting use as a member of the Cee
Bees in World War II. Harold was part of the squad that would hit the beach
first and build compounds where the officers and soldiers would live and operate.
In 1946, the two siblings formed a company, one that started in the housing,
retail and small manufacturing building market. The breakthrough came a few
years later, when Weddle Bros. constructed an RCA plant in Bloomington and

When the opportunity came to enter the roads and bridges
business, Harold and Maurice followed a successful pattern—they formed a
partnership. Ralph Rogers and Co. (now called Rogers Group Inc., Nashville,
Tenn.) was a major road contractor in the Bloomington area and owned several
asphalt plants and quarries. Bridge construction, however, was the
Weddles' game. The two united.

"We had a concrete expertise, and the partnership has
been very successful," said Carmichael.

The DOT influence would come about 12 years later. Gus
Sieboldt had ownership in Weddle Bros. and his son, Richard, signed on as
president in 1977. Richard's background was with the Indiana DOT, and
during his 20-year executive tenure concentrated on the highway side while
Harold and Maurice worked the building business. Profits were promising.

"Richard was very key in our growth in the highway
business. He helped bring in the DOT," said Carmichael.

The early '80s kept everyone from advancing a size or
two. The market was reduced to a crawl, but Weddle Bros., focused on the
construction of river bridges, invested for the good of the family once again
by acquiring J.L. Wilson and Co. The Bloomfield, Ind., contractor specialized
in bridge equipment, and the merger doubled Weddle Bros.' bridge capacity
and offered some much needed storage and maintenance facilities.

"That was very big for us," said Carmichael.
"We acquired some very good people."

Formula No. 1--quality

Quality doesn't just appear at your doorstep one day
looking for a job. It has to be preached, practiced and proven on a consistent
basis. Weddle Bros. has been the cream of customer satisfaction for some time
now. In 1997, the company received the National Quality Initiative Award for
work done on a portion of I-65, which ran through the heart of Indianapolis.

"What we really enjoy about that award is the fact
it's decided upon by 11 organizations that really make up our
peers," said Carmichael. "And they look at quality, quality
improvement, partnering with the community during construction, partnering with
the owner. There's a lot of neat criteria for that award that signifies
our philosophy on how we go about doing business."

Working with Berns Construction, Indianapolis, Weddle Bros.
devoted its resources to nine bridge structures including a 1,019-ft-long span
over the White River. There, crews executed one of the largest concrete pours
in the state of Indiana--1,620 cu yd was distributed in less than 16

Efficiency was the primary reason Weddle Bros. won the job.
It was the first A+B project InDOT let in Indianapolis, and Weddle/Berns
promised to complete it in 163 days--42 days faster than the next lowest
bidder. The route was opened in 148 days.

"Project management spent a tremendous amount of time
coordinating the schedule," said Carmichael. "You have to know
where to concentrate and when to concentrate."

According to Sieboldt, the schedule was nothing out of the
ordinary. Crews worked 10 hours a day during the week and eight on Saturday.
Aside from demolition work and a few deck pours, little was done at night.

"We didn't tire anybody out to the point where
they were drained," he said. "The schedule kept everybody

The qualitative energy has continued. Earlier this summer
Berns and Weddle Bros. finished a $45 million interchange of I-465 and I-74 in
Indy. The highlight for Weddle Bros. was a pair of new structural steel girder
flyover bridges. The span carrying eastbound I-74 to southbound I-465 is 1,140
ft long, carries a total of 910 tons of structural steel and contains 3,400 cu
yd of concrete. Southbound I-465 to eastbound I-74 is even bigger. The
structure is 1,566 ft long, has 1,689 tons of steel and a little over 4,000 cu
yd of concrete. Both flyovers are about 60 ft in the air, and their giant piers
have a fractured look, which was accomplished using form liners. Any kind of
pattern on piers is rare in Indiana.

Weddle Bros. also replaced an existing concrete beam
structure on a third bridge and did minor rehab work on a fourth.

Owner's manual

With equipment, Weddle Bros. prefers pulling pieces from its
yard than at a rental house. At the company's disposal are seven cranes
(two Grove RT528Cs and five Link-Belt LS-118s); two Gomaco GT-6300s; six
excavators (Komatsu PC220LC5, Komatsu PC300LC-6E, Komatsu PC220LC6-LE, Komatsu
PC220LC-7, Hitachi EX220 and Caterpillar 330CL); five dozers (three Caterpillar
D-5s, Caterpillar D-4, John Deere 450C); five loader backhoes (four John Deere
410Es, John Deere 510C); five pile hammers; four 2-ton trucks (two International
4700s, International HH50, International S-1800); two GMC and two Ford 1-ton
trucks; and 10 flatbed trailers, including five Fruehauf PB-F-2-40s.

"For us, equipment always boils down to
utilization," said Carmichael. "When you can get the utilization we
think there's an advantage to owning, but you can't buy everything.
Every once in awhile we find out we need a little bit bigger crane."

Silent treatment

Weddle Bros.' heart is as big as they come. The
company richly believes in giving something back to the community. Currently,
it's constructing a building for Wonder Lab in Bloomington, a place where
children can experience science hands on. There's also the
"Hoosiers Outrun Cancer" 5-kilometer walk and run every year.

"A lot of this we do very quietly," said
Carmichael. "If our employees have kids involved in activities we want to
support those activities. We think it's our responsibility to give

About the author: 
Overlay Init