In the News
Posted on June 21, 2023
This article was originally published by Jodi Schwan on SiouxFalls.Business
Certain assumptions are fairly safe bets.
The world’s population likely is going to continue to grow.
That growing population needs protein in their diet – namely, meat.
And the process of producing meat increasingly requires a higher-tech approach to balance out the challenge of finding labor.
It all adds up to demand for construction in food processing, said Randy Knecht, CEO of Journey Group.
“We continue to diversify the work we do, so when we looked at future opportunities, it led us to this industry and MBW,” he said. “We anticipate a lot of new construction in existing meat plants to make them more automated and less dependent on labor.”
In late 2020, Journey acquired North Sioux City-based MBW Construction & Engineering.
Led by president Tim Brown and executive vice president Tyler Manker, MBW intentionally had grown its presence in the food production construction industry, working on expansion and modernization projects for food processing and manufacturing facilities nationwide.
“Three things set us apart: our attention to detail, our pace and our close relationships with our clients,” Manker said. “We’re very efficient, we ask the right questions, and that helps us better understand their pain points and challenges, so we’re able to build solutions.”
The acquisition brings significant opportunities, company leaders said. While the food processing industry has navigated headwinds from multiple factors in recent years, including pandemic-related issues, growth for MBW now is accelerating.
“Our sales pipeline is very strong,” Brown said. “Clients are responding to how nimble we’re able to be, and we’ve started to see success in capturing additional opportunities.”
Construction is robust, too, because of both traditional and newer lines of business. For instance, MBW is working on a $120 million poultry plant in Georgia scheduled to open next year that includes a rendering facility.
“We identified rendering in the protein space as an opportunity for construction and design,” Brown said. “There’s high demand for animal fat from the biodiesel industry in particular, and food companies that are investing in their rendering capabilities are seeing a strong return.”
MBW also is working on rendering projects in other states.
“These are large projects, and while we didn’t anticipate getting into this space originally, the opportunities continue to look promising,” Knecht said.
MBW also sees opportunities in building cold storage to support the food processing industry and is working on design for one in the state of Washington.
“We see that as a fit not only in the meat industry but produce, so continuing to diversify market segments is exciting for MBW,” Knecht said. “We’re building on our legacy relationships with players like Tyson and JBS while also growing into new markets.”
MBW is working on expanding a beef plant for Tyson in Texas that’s scheduled to be done next year. Closer to home, the company also is planning an expansion and renovation for Performance Pet Products in Mitchell.
“Because of our deep relationships, we’ve been able to operate in different verticals within the food market, add tools to our bag and sharpen them to go solve issues,” Manker said.
Additionally, there have been cyclical struggles in beef and pork production, leading to some plants downsizing, which has created opportunity for acquiring talent.
“We have been able to hire experienced process engineers who are now working inside our company, which allows us to present a different approach to customers,” Brown said. “They can speak the language of the company and understand what it takes to operate a facility, so it creates opportunities to help clients see how to approach projects differently.”
The talent combined with the company’s culture and approach has only added to the value it offers clients, Manker said.
“We’re a very action-oriented entity, but we move with a purpose,” he said. “We move in a way that’s refreshing to the industry, and we’re offering something new based on the feedback we’re receiving.”
MBW manages the projects and typically hires most labor locally. Seasoned superintendents travel to projects and work on-site.
Still, the 30-person team is “actively hiring,” Brown said. “We’re seeking engineers experienced in processing, project managers, estimators, superintendents — it’s across the board.”
For Journey, the acquisition is proving a wise investment.
“We’re on track now and growing faster than originally anticipated,” Knecht said. “We’re probably a year or two ahead of where we thought we would be, and we’re realizing the secret sauce is in our size and ability to respond to needs, capture opportunities and solve for clients’ issues. It’s both our people and our process that are making the difference.”
To learn more about opportunities at MBW, email Gail Anderson at email@example.com or click here.
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