There is a strong sense of camaraderie within the construction industry that is essential to delivering results. This support system can be linked to multiple factors ranging from the long hours spent together, to the trust that is built between workers. Those who pursue careers in this field know best, that the people you work with become an important part of your life. But at Shelby Erectors those people become more; they become family.
Shelby Erectors, Inc. is a construction company based in Florida, specializing in Iron Work — more specifically, the construction of bridges. The company has been in business since 1997, making this year their 25th anniversary. And while the world has changed tremendously since 1997, the core values of employee safety and technology are still engrained in their current business model. The company is run by President of Shelby Erectors Jennifer Nix, and Chief Operations Officer Jack Nix. The husband-and-wife duo are more than familiar with the dangers associated with this line of work, and Jack cannot stress the importance of safety enough. “It’s important to us to make sure that everybody goes home each day. We take that very seriously. Our investment in safety has always been very strong and we believe that you can still be productive with what you do, while also being safe at the same time.”
Safety is just one of many endeavors that Shelby Erectors has invested in. Constructing bridges is by no means an easy task. With over 37 years’ experience — 12 of that being in the field — Jack is aware of the backbreaking and extreme physical work that is required. Therefore, an investment in technology to help lighten the load was an extremely smart choice. One of the pieces of technology Shelby Erectors incorporated were rebar tying guns. These guns reduce the repetitive carpel tunnel motion and decrease the risk of extensive injuries in the future. Other items worth mentioning are the stand-up guns, which allow workers to tie decks at their feet without having to bend over.
While these are great, innovative ways to help reduce the workload, Shelby Erectors has gone one step further by utilizing robotics. Shelby Erectors has been in business with Advanced Construction Robotics utilizing TyBot — a construction robotics company based In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — for over 2 and a half years, and are one of the small groups of pioneering contractors or sub-contractors currently utilizing robotics. Jack is less interested in making a profit, and more concerned with delivering a better job for both the employees and the employers. “We’re really just trading technology dollars for labor dollars. But you know, as this technology comes further along, the opportunity to make a profit will be there. What we are doing now is showing that we can improve schedules by 25% to 35%. We want to be on the front end of technology and not on the trailing end. We don’t want to be reading about somebody else doing it. We want to be the ones that are setting the trend.”
The introduction of digital materials has created a greener workspace for Shelby Erectors. Jennifer and Jack have committed to a completely paperless company and have not used any paper in more than 4 years. Any forms that need to be signed, completed, or submitted, are done so digitally. They have implemented different platforms to help enable this and also provided onsite training to employees, making the overall transition smoother. Now, even the employees who came along begrudgingly are on board and working their way towards a greener future.
The heavy focus on sustainability and the environment can be a unique quality when appealing to new hires, and attracting new talent is something that Shelby Erectors is extremely passionate about. Jack’s father was in the iron work business, making Jack a second-generation iron worker and his son third generation. With a dedication to passing on the trade, Shelby Erectors have created an apprenticeship program available to those willing to put the work in. The program is made up of 4000 hours, which is set over two years and has been hailed as a Champion for Military Hiring in 2021. Their intended target audience is aimed at anyone looking to develop a career in the Iron Work industry, but the structured team atmosphere created at Shelby Erectors is similar to the structured environment experienced in the military. This is something that has worked well with previous employed veterans, and with no shortage of work, Shelby Erectors is happy to take on help.
The company became a Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) certified Disadvantaged Business Entity (DBE) in 2010, providing them a strong advantage when competing with other contractors. In order to qualify for a DBE, a company must be able to establish that they are a minority, or at a disadvantage. With Jennifer owning 100% share of Shelby Erectors, the company is considered a minority business as it is a female run company. While the title of DBE could be misconstrued as a negative to the business, it is in fact the opposite.
Contractors are encouraged to— but not forced to — award projects to disadvantaged businesses, allowing the playing field to become more even. While other minority businesses may struggle to perform on their own, Jennifer and Jack do not. Working with DBE’s is a goal that contractors aim to meet as it is within their best interests. However, contractors also need to deal with DBE’s that can deliver, and Shelby Erectors are able to do both.
The companies list of projects ranges from smaller contracts of $10,000, to one of their largest contracts of $48 million. Currently, there are roughly 6 major projects happening in Florida within the bridge construction service and Shelby Erectors are involved in at least 4. One of the major projects includes the I-395 bridge in Miami, which has a unique tarantula shape and is set to be one of the biggest projects in Florida. “The 395 is with Archer Western – De Moya joint venture and is a huge project down in Miami on the corridor. For this, we actually built the largest footer we’ve ever built as far as size wise. Weight wise, it was 1.7 million pounds of rebar just in the foundation, just on the footing. And then the structure itself is really unique and it’s going to be an impressive project when it’s done”
Shelby Erectors have also just completed the Ultimate I-4 project at the end of last year, which was 22 miles of roadway through Orlando to Sanford, totaling a massive 162 bridges in that one contract over six years. This is a proud moment for Shelby Erectors, and after 25 years of business, there is a lot for them to be proud of. “I’m proud to be partner with my wife, Jennifer, and have my kids involved. Then we have some great key employees that are just fantastic people who have dedicated their life to this industry. My wife loves the fact of knowing that we help support over 100 families. One of our main obligations is to make sure that these guys and gals that are working are able to support their families and that we provide a safe work environment for them to do that”.
With the current trajectory of Shelby Erectors, it won’t be long before they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. And while new changes in technology may be introduced to the business 25 years later, the same family spirit will always be at the heart of Shelby Erectors.