In the years since the downturn, the specialty contractor—like others—has had to explore ways to provide better service to clients.

One such client, general contractor Edifice Inc. of Charlotte, has worked with SteelFab for decades, hiring the firm for projects that included distribution centers, student housing developments and churches, to name a few. Edifice recently hired SteelFab to design, fabricate and erect 4,800 tons of structural steel for a Clearwater Paper tissue plant in Shelby, N.C.

"SteelFab was our 'go-to' contractor," says Eric Laster, CEO of Edifice. "The owner hired us on a pure cost-plus basis, and it was a fast production job. Plans were 50% complete, and the steel fabricator had to be involved from the beginning to help the structural designer pull it all together."


Fortunes began to improve for SteelFab in a big way during the fourth quarter of 2011. According to this year's Top Specialty Contractors survey, the contractor reported nearly $216.7 million in 2011 Southeast revenue, an increase of roughly 46% from the $148.6 million it reported in the year prior.

Manufacturing and health care have been key sectors; an estimated 90% of the firm's revenue from 2009-2011 came from projects in these markets.

Automobile plant construction has comprised a significant portion of SteelFab's manufacturing work in recent years, including jobs for Nissan and Volkswagen in Tennessee, and Kia in Georgia. Other manufacturing work included gas turbine manufacturing facilities for Mitsubishi's Savannah Machine Works in Savannah, Ga., and for Siemens Energy Inc. in Charlotte.

Tom Thrasher, the project manager for Atlanta general contractor Batson-Cook Co. on the $100-million Mitsubishi project, says SteelFab's handling of some intricate steel work was a key to the success of that five-phase project.

"From the beginning of the design to the end of construction, they were intimately involved," Thrasher says. "And the steel phase was executed seamlessly."

SteelFab has become a leader in building information modeling technology since the late 1990s, when it began to drive adoption of BIM tools.

At the time, the fabricator's 3D modeling software proved perfectly suited for its computer numerically controlled (CNC) equipment in its fabrication shop.

"We could get that information from the model and download it straight to the equipment," Sherrill adds. "When owners and contractors started requesting 3D drawings a few years later, it was a piece of cake."