Murphy Co. Excels on Difficult, Diverse Projects
Murphy Co. has strategically diversified its portfolio to take advantage of demand in brewery, pharmaceutical and health care work By Jennifer Seward
Mechanical contractor Murphy Co. established a Colorado office in the 1980s to build the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins. That project was a natural fit for the now 100-year-old, St. Louis-based mechanical contracting firm, as it was already working for the brewer in Missouri.
Today, the contractor’s Colorado portfolio includes a bevy of projects in the beverage/beer business, including work for MillerCoors and New Belgium Brewery. Murphy has also been involved in the recent design-assist Breckenridge Brewery project in Littleton, which sits on a 12-acre campus located along the Platte River with a restaurant, brew house and production building designed with a farmstead feel.
“We had worked with Murphy at Lockheed Martin and knew they were an appropriate fit for this project with the expertise and knowledge they bring to the table and their brewing portfolio,” says Doug Thompson of Hyder Construction, general contractor on the Breckenridge Brewery project.
“One of the many reasons for reaching out to Murphy was their reputation for quality control,” Thompson says. “Their understanding of the level of detail and the quality of their installation, along with an ability to manage the project in a fairly robust construction environment, was key to making the overall project successful.”
Murphy’s expertise in the mechanically challenging project niche progressed from the beverage and beer market in the 1980s to the pharmaceutical business during the ’90s.
“We’ve been entrenched in this key industry for the last 20 years,” says Robert Mathisen, general manager of Murphy’s Denver office. Projects for Synergen, Amgen and Corden Pharma (formerly Roche Colorado) provided work for the contractor as its pharma project list grew and expanded. However, when Amgen closed its Colorado facilities two years ago, “we were forced to diversify,” Mathisen says. “What had become 30% of our business began a slow decline over the last five years.”
As the pharma market slowed, Murphy strategically moved into the higher education and health care markets and, coincidentally, saw growth in its food and beverage business at the same time. Today, the contractor has evolved to focus more on light industrial and more mechanically complex commercial projects, while its St. Louis office maintains a client list more attuned to traditional commercial projects.
Currently ranked 19th on Engineering News-Record’s list of top mechanical contractors, the fourth-generation-owned firm employs just under 1,000 people nationwide and 300 salaried and craft employees in Colorado, including sheetmetal and pipe workers and plumbers. The Denver office is currently ranked 8th among specialty contractors in the Mountain States, with 2014 regional revenue of $66.5 million, up from $58.7 million in 2013.
With corporate offices in Denver and St. Louis, and a regional office in Colorado Springs, the firm offers process piping, HVAC, refrigeration, plumbing, design-build, design assist, ASME code work, piping fabrication, energy solutions and 24-hour service.
The Next Wave
“We diversified while also growing our Colorado footprint from Pueblo to Cheyenne and pushing into eastern Colorado and Nebraska,” Mathisen says. Murphy has tapped into rural health care work in geographical markets that aren’t well served by the Denver contracting community. In addition, its 24/7 HVAC and plumbing department provides post-installation service for many clients up and down the Front Range.
“Our new Northern Colorado group is applying more resources in this area, starting in April,” says Doug Becker, operations manager for Murphy’s Northern Colorado projects. Upstate clients include New Belgium, Leprino and Dyno Nobel, which has an industrial facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., that makes fertilizer and explosives.
The contractor is currently working on a $20-million project with Mortenson for Woodward Governor’s world headquarters in Fort Collins.
The firm designs and manufactures control systems and components for aviation, power and other industries and Murphy is providing full-service mechanical construction for a 400,000-sq-ft, two-building footprint.
“They’ve been a client of ours for more than 10 years and now we’re doing work for them in four different locations,” Becker says. The current project is 90% complete with process work going on into the spring. Murphy will provide ongoing support as Woodward Governor continues its relocation.
“We’re starting to see a resurgence in the pharma community, and that’s an industry that leans heavily on prior experience and quality,” Mathisen says. “AstraZeneca recently purchased Amgen’s Boulder facilities and is looking at significant expansion and renovation in the next few years; we hope to be very involved in those projects.
“When the smaller microbreweries find success and are looking to expand to the next level, that’s when we get involved. Same with pharma; once they have some venture capitalists with money to spend on building manufacturing space,” that’s where Murphy comes in, Mathisen says.
Recent Murphy Co. Projects
New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins, Colo.
The brewery’s new home features a 12-acre, three-building campus along the Platte River in Littleton, Colo. Work for New Belgium is ongoing.
AntriaBio, Louisville, Colo.
This project entailed fabrication and installation of the HVAC, plumbing and process piping for construction of a new pilot plant facility and also included ISO-class cleanrooms for pharmaceutical drug manufacturing.
Royal Gorge Visitor Center, Canon City, Colo.
After a wildfire destroyed much of the original building and site, Murphy provided mechanical work on the new visitor center for the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City, which included a water and wastewater treatment plant.
Tolmar Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plant, Windsor, Colo.
Murphy provided mechanical construction for this new pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.
Sundyne Corp., Arvada, Colo.
Murphy has worked with Sundyne Corp. in the fabrication and testing of specialty pump and compressor skids for the oil and gas and chemical industries.
MillerCoors Brewing, Golden, Colo.
The contractor’s projects for MillerCoors have ranged in size from under $1,000 to more than $3 million. A recent project entailed the process piping to support the addition of a filling line for a new consumer product.
Dyno Nobel, Cheyenne, Wyo.
High-quality process piping systems were installed at a Dyno Nobel manufacturing site. The project included 100% x-ray requirements, with much of the piping installation performed outdoors in the winter.
University of Colorado Athletic Complex, Boulder, Colo.
Construction at the iconic athletic complex is wrapping up and includes the new Northeast Operations Center and an indoor practice field.