Based in historic Savannah, the oldest city in the State of Georgia, is M3 Construction, Inc., a general contracting company based on the vision of its founder Michael Steimle.
M3 can provide general industrial or commercial contracting services and work as either agency construction management – representing the owner and not entering into subcontracts with trade – or construction management at-risk – responsible for delivering the project on time and within budget.
Relationship building has been a recurrent theme in Michael Steimle’s life, and it was one such relationship that led to the formation of his company when Orchids Paper Products Company wanted a paper plant designed, and its chief executive officer asked if Steimle could do more than just design it. Could he build it?
Steimle jumped at the chance. “It’s always been a life-long goal of mine to build things,” Steimle said on his LinkedIn when announcing the formation of M3 and the paper mill project for Orchids Paper Products. This paper company specializes in making quality, private-label consumer tissue products from both virgin and recycled materials for a host of well-known brands. “This new project will provide the opportunity to reach that goal by building several things: Build a company, build relationships, build a reputation, and, of course, actually build the mill!”
Steimle began his career working in engineering for one of Georgia’s largest paper companies before moving on to various management roles in industrial construction. His uniquely varied experience has given him perspectives of the many sides of industrial projects, particularly paper mills. So, with this fortuitous opportunity to build the new Orchids plant in Barnwell, South Carolina, he set about acquiring a contractor’s license and formed his own company in June 2015.
“The building of the company begins with simple elements…most important of all is the foundation which is formed from ideas, passion, goals, determination, and hard work,” he added in his announcement. Hard work and determination would certainly be needed for this new company, as its first project was massive, with the completed facility to cover about fifty acres at the cost of at least $110 million, as estimated by Area Development magazine in an April 2015 article.
Steimle and his team at M3 Construction tackled the project, and by June 2015, ground was broken on the facility. The company acted as the construction manager for the first phase of the project, a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing space for warehouse and what is known in the paper business as ‘tissue converting.’ When paper products are made, wood pulp is boiled, bleached, sieved, compressed, and dried to form a continuous sheet of paper called a web which is rolled into large ‘parent’ rolls. These parent rolls are unrolled, processed, and cut, transforming them into other products in a process called converting. Consumer paper goods such as napkins and toilet tissue would be made in the completed facility.
“Ideas, goals, and passions are just dreams without action and the tools needed to accomplish them,” Steimle stated on his LinkedIn in September of that year. “This is where people come in. The relationship with the customer is most important, and I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have the customer I do in this adventure.”
And an adventure it was. The Carolinas experienced historic flooding with some areas receiving over twenty-five inches of rain in the early part of October 2015. “The current site conditions are less than ideal,” Steimle went on to note wryly that fall, “but what I observed this week leaves me confident we will hit our mark. What I heard on site was tools operating, aerial lifts running, discussions on how to get around obstacles. What was absent was complaining, doubting, hiding from the rain, and excuses for missing targets.”
“The team we’ve assembled so far has already succeeded in my book. We have experienced months of 100+ temperatures, hurricanes, and the wettest ‘dry months’ this area has seen. What are a few of the most powerful tools that have allowed us to push past this? Optimism, honesty, creativity, collaboration, dedication, and teamwork demonstrated by the owners, superintendents, sub-contractors, city employees, county employees, state employees, vendors, and M3 Construction employees,” he continued.
“I want to form partnerships with the people I employ,” Steimle said in a January 2017 interview with Construction Today. “For me, that’s really the most satisfying part – building a company while building a state-of-the-art industrial facility. Building more than a place for our employees to work … building a culture based on tenacity.”
Since the soil conditions on the site were amenable, the company used sheet pile in constructing foundations. Although more costly as a construction technique, the method hastened the building schedule enough that it ended up paying for itself.
Now that Steimle’s new company had proven itself, it was on to the second phase of the industrial campus, a 115,000-square-foot heavy industrial manufacturing facility. M3 Construction, Inc. would act as general contractor for the construction of this recycled pulp and paper mill. By the following spring, progress on the site was beginning to show.
“If you are in the industry you can’t deny that when the steel goes up, everything changes. It marks a new beginning, that we are rising up out of the dirt and carving out our piece of the sky. There is no getting past it, all the schedules and spreadsheets don’t tell you what steel standing vertical means,” Steimle marveled on LinkedIn in May of 2016. “We are moving forward at full speed and refuse to let barriers stand in our way or slow our pace. I am immensely proud of this entire group and am continually pleased to see the progress.”
However, the weather was no kinder that year, and the firm had to deal with the effects of both Tropical Storm Bonnie in the spring and Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016. Safety under such conditions was obviously a priority, and weekly safety meeting were taken seriously. As well as coping with torrential rains and seas of mud, construction of the plant in Barnwell County involved much intricate and convoluted organization of equipment orders and trades scheduling.
By June of 2017, commissioning of the plant was complete, and production had begun, creating 134 jobs for the county. Orchids Paper Products held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new plant, and M3 Construction, Inc. had proudly completed its first project. “I am overwhelmed with pride in my family for supporting me, my client for seeing that M3 Construction is a strong and unique partner, and for my employees and partnering subcontractors without whom none of this would have been such a success,” Steimle said on LinkedIn at the time.
M3 Construction’s abilities – having handled all site works including buildings and utilities as well as valuable start-up and commissioning assistance – are applicable to a variety of industry sectors including oil and gas, power generation, and chemical manufacturing.
In the end, it comes back to relationships. The company aimed to treat the Orchids Paper Products Company as a valued partner rather than a client and to, as Steimle said, “over-deliver and allow our customers to realize that no one is more fit for their work than us.”