In the News

Posted on February 24, 2021

This article is originally written and published by Jodi Schwan on SiouxFalls.Business.

Journey Group has acquired two new business units based in North Sioux City, adding instant expertise in food processing manufacturing construction and residential homebuilding.

MBW Construction & Engineering and Brown Wegher Residential have become part of Sioux Falls-based Journey, adding 50 employees and bringing the team to approximately 300 team members firmwide.

“This brings both groups a lot of real growth opportunities,” Journey CEO Randy Knecht said. “We knew we needed to diversify both the markets and the geographies we serve, and this acquisition fits both those needs.”

Image of Randy Knecht

MBW has intentionally grown its presence in the food production construction industry, working on expansion and modernization projects for food processing and manufacturing facilities nationwide.

“We’re growing rapidly, and the addition of Journey, with its structure, just makes a big impact for us. And the culture matchup was almost seamless,” said Tim Brown, president of MBW and a more than 30-year veteran of the construction industry.

Image of Tim Brown

“In the food manufacturing sector, we’re just really getting a good customer base built up on a national basis, and this really opens us up to begin taking on larger projects.”

Image of Storage Facility Foundation

MBW’s growth in that space accelerated with the addition of vice president Tyler Manker five years ago.

Manker, who grew up on a livestock farm, has an engineering background and has helped the company expand into food production construction.

Image of Tyler Manker

“For me, it’s all about understanding the customer’s problems and creating solutions together as a team,” he said.

“Everything for me is about people, relationships, caring about one another and about the problems or issues our customers face. It’s important to me to be part of change and advancement of the industry. With MBW and Journey coming together, it gives us a powerful platform to do that.”

MBW’s clients include Tyson, JBS, Cargill, Smithfield Foods, CF Industries, Ingredion and Empirical Foods. Its work is national, with projects this year from Philadelphia to Phoenix, along with Green Bay, Omaha and proposals for Alabama and California.

Image of food storage facility

Refrigerated warehousing also will be a growth area, he said. It’s already a space where MBW has done a number of projects.

“During COVID, shelves were bare, so you’ll see warehousing projects not only for processors but also independent warehousing businesses focused on making sure that doesn’t happen again. These warehouses are supported by the way grocery shopping is changing and moving more toward an online shopping experience and less of a window-shopping, up-and-down-the-aisle experience.”

Processors are investing heavily in automation but also sustainable practices and in the employee experience, Manker added.

“Larger beef plants have more than 4,000 employees, and you’re going to see a better employee experience,” he said. “Things like locker rooms, restroom finishes. I don’t think the human element will ever be replaced, and employers realize it’s important to take care of employees.”

With the support of parent company Journey, MBW will be able to deliver larger projects with access to increased resources and talent, Manker said.

Image of crane lifting equipment

“It’s a crucial piece of our evolution and having that access will be invaluable,” he said.

“Everyone I’ve met at Journey has shown integrity and humility and honesty and transparency. They really want to help us launch this, and they bring 110 years of developing process. Leadership and understanding that taking care of the people who are part of the brand is the No. 1 thing, period. Your customer will always take care of you if you take care of your people.”

For Journey, construction in the food production industry already was a targeted area for growth, Knecht said.

“There’s a small number of players in this industry on the ownership side, with plants all over the country, and MBW has built those relationships. So this really does achieve our goal of geographic spread. We were thinking regional growth, but they will be taking us all over the country.”

While MBW has found a clear niche in food production construction, it still takes on other commercial work, primarily in the Sioux City market.

Knecht’s business coach, Tom Morgan, was the one who, early in 2020, introduced him to MBW, which also was a client.

“We started talking back in February, and they brought a great reputation,” Knecht said. “And what we’re really excited about is bringing all their talent, including their ownership, into our team going forward.”

Brown agreed.

“The way it’s coming together is extraordinarily easy,” he said. “The culture and where we want to go in the future matches up so well. We’re just so pleased we were able to put this together and work with such a great company.”

Residential leader

Brown Wegher Residential, also now a new business unit of Journey Group, brings a market-leading residential building firm to the company.

Founded by Rick Wegher, who has worked in the industry since 1985, the company is well known for building out a significant portion of the community of Dakota Dunes, beginning in the 1990s.

Image of Rick Wegher

“They have a great reputation,” Knecht said. “They serve a considerable part of the Sioux City market, and we see synergies.”

While Journey hasn’t worked in residential building yet, the strength and approach of Brown Wegher allows that opportunity, he added.

“They have a proven process that’s really effective and gains repeat business,” Knecht said.

Image of high-end home

“The model is very similar to what we do on the commercial side, so that got me really excited in looking at how we could potentially team together in Sioux Falls. We’re still investigating what the market here holds for us, but we think it’s an exciting possibility.”

Brown Wegher Residential is known for a full-service experience that includes in-house land development, architecture, budgeting, design service and construction.

“It’s the process we go through upfront and during construction that separates us,” Wegher said. “A person walks in the door, and we walk them through everything from start to finish and beyond.”

The company has created its own residential developments and partnered with other developers as a builder.

Projects include the Wynstone development in Jefferson and Spanish Bay at Dakota Dunes. The company typically builds about 30 homes annually, though the number can vary because the work ranges from duplexes to multimillion-dollar homes.

Image of Dakota Dunes gated community

“We have the same quality throughout,” Wegher said. “The smaller home gets the same craftsmanship as the larger homes, and we don’t deviate from that. We’re geared toward higher-end custom homes, but once a client hits our door and becomes part of our family, we feel like they’re part of our family forever.”

The company recently marked 1,000 custom homes, and about one in four of those are repeat customers.

Image of expansive living room

“We’ve always talked about getting into the Sioux Falls market, but we’ve never been able to split up our staff,” Wegher added.

“The opportunity that Journey has given us to do that is really, really exciting for us. We couldn’t be more grateful to fulfill a dream we’ve had for a long time. And we couldn’t ask for a better team. Their character is perfect for us. It fits us so well.”

The North Sioux City firms will keep their existing locations, Knecht added.

“We think that just makes sense, and it will bring us further into the Sioux City market, where they have a lot of relationships and can make some great connections,” he said. “There are so many ways this acquisition is valuable. By our two companies coming together, we will be able to significantly increase the number of lives we are improving and communities we are building — and that’s truly what it’s all about.”

Link to original article by Jodi Schwan:

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