If you need a storage facility, Macon General Contractors has you covered. This is a family-run, family-owned business that specializes in agricultural and other bulk-commodity storage buildings. While definitely ambitious, company officials are also extremely focused and pragmatic – traits that have allowed Macon to thrive in the construction sector.
“The main thing we strive for is good service with the firm goal of providing a great product for our end-customer on every project, for a budget-friendly price,” says Vice President of Sales and Engineering Phil Endress. Phil is part of the family that runs the company, which is based in Bradford, Illinois. His brother, Adam Endress, is Macon’s president.
Macon can do everything from the initial design and engineering of the structure to the concrete work, site preparation, structural steel fabrication and building erection, allowing it to control quality and cost.
The company’s building options can be used for storing a variety of granular products such as sand, road salt, wood chips, or fertilizers, while grain storage buildings are its most popular product category. Regardless of the material or crop involved, ‘hoop buildings’ are often the structure of choice for storage. As the name implies, a hoop building is made with a steel framework and a fabric cover, with an arched profile. They are lower-cost alternatives to more expensive wood or metal barns, bins, and silos.
Macon designs storage units for maximum capacity and simplified loading and unloading of grain. The firm builds structures capable of accommodating millions of bushels of grain and has a line of storage facilities called Cornbelt Fabric Structures. Macon also constructs steel grain bins.
Operations are centralized in Bradford, which contains the head office, space for equipment storage, and a fabrication shop. Macon personnel spend much of their time working away from the Bradford headquarters, erecting storage buildings and structures wherever a client has a need.
Macon offers a patented product called the Grain Curtain that boosts storage capacity by up to 30 percent. The Grain Curtain – which is manufactured exclusively by the company – is fitted to the interior framework of a Macon storage facility. Once in place, the Grain Curtain allows customers to safely pile grain above the concrete retaining wall that supports the storage building.
Macon’s main customers are involved in bulk commodity trading – primarily grain – although the firm has worked with clients that store other crops and materials. Clients include corporate agricultural giants Cargill, ADM, Bartlett Grain and Gavilon Grain. Most of the company’s customers are based in the Midwest, although the firm “has gone as far as Texas, down to Louisiana and up to North Dakota. We’ve looked at projects on both coasts,” notes Adam Endress.
While Macon General Contractors has been constructing commercial grain storage buildings for over 10 years, the business traces its family heritage back to 1971. At that time, Adam and Phil’s father started a firm called Endress Equipment & Construction in the Bradford area.
“Basically, our father was in the grain handling [equipment] business. We helped him in that business growing up,” recalls Adam Endress.
In the late 1990s, Adam and Phil’s older brother, Ben Endress, acquired a residential construction firm. The company evolved into a commercial construction operation, and Ben and Adam launched an agriculture division in 2008, which was soon renamed Macon General Contractors.
Adam and Phil came on board as partners and Macon’s present firm was established. Ben is no longer Macon’s president but remains an owner of the company along with Adam and Phil. Together, the Endress brothers transitioned the company from a farm-based construction company to a commercial agricultural and general contractor.
Macon boasts projects throughout the corn belt and breadbasket of the U.S. These projects include a hoop building in Almena, Wisconsin that can house 1 million bushels of grain, a 150 foot by 370-foot storage facility in Crary, North Dakota, capable of storing 1.5 million bushels, a 180 foot by 396-foot facility in Spearman, Texas that stores over 2 million bushels, and a 180 foot by 796-foot facility in Farina, IL that stores 5 million bushels.
Adam Endress points to a recent project in Deerfield, Missouri, which saw Macon erecting a 2.5-million-bushel hoop building, as a particularly noteworthy assignment. The Deerfield project “was done in a very short time-frame, towards the end of the season,” he states, with obvious pride.
Macon faces two main challenges right now: fluctuating prices for raw materials and the cyclical nature of construction work. Economic conditions, caused in part by tariffs on imported steel, have led to some degree of “uncertainty in prices,” says Adam Endress.
At the same time, the company rides the rollercoaster aspect of the sector it serves due to fluctuating commodity prices, as well as weather conditions. “Construction, at least in the northern and Midwestern states, is a seasonal proposition, so we continue to develop markets in southern states” notes Phil Endress.
While Macon does do year-round construction at job sites in the Midwest, things are generally slower at the firm during cold-weather months, for obvious reasons. “We have worked [on storage facilities] in the dead of winter. We try not to because it’s not really efficient, and it’s hard on our employees” says Brett Stegall, Vice President of Operations. “We prefer to take advantage of winter months to go through our extensive planning process to ensure our projects for the next year are successful.”
Since construction booms in warmer weather, the number of employees at Macon goes up and down throughout the year. In busy months, the company has about eighty employees on staff, which typically decreases in winter. Regardless of the number of staff on hand, Macon management works very hard to keep all of its employees safe on the job.
“One of the things we’ve created to achieve a culture of safety is Macon University, as we call it. It’s obviously not accredited, but it’s our own internal ‘university’ where we bring all employees in annually for safety training or operator training if they’re operating machinery. Training is one of the main components in reaching our safety goals and ensuring every employee goes home the same way they came to work,” notes Phil Endress.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training is part of the drill. Staff are encouraged to report injuries, accidents, and incidents when they happen and constantly keep safety in mind on the job. The goal is that through extensive training, Macon will achieve a zero-accident or injury rate.
Over the next few years, Adam Endress would like to see higher revenues and structured growth. “We’re not looking to double our staff in one year,” he says, “but we are looking for a more structured growth, around 10 percent per year.”
Macon wants to grow, but only by carefully selecting new hires that fit the company’s needs and qualifications. The company looks for employees who are trustworthy, willing to travel and willing to learn.
Adam Endress does not anticipate opening any new branches shortly, although the company may build a couple new storage buildings in Bradford to house equipment. The company is centrally located in Illinois in terms of U.S. geography and perfectly poised to tap into the Midwest and surrounding markets. “[Our location] works pretty well. This is the hub, and we travel from here,” states Adam Endress.
Adam and Phil also do not want to shift the company’s focus away from storage. There are no plans to start selling ancillary agricultural equipment or offer brand-new services. “I think what makes us unique is that we have a product that fits a niche market, and we’ve refined it and fine-tuned it to be a good product at a more competitive price than most any other type of storage structure, especially for the grain market,” says Phil Endress.
“We do want to move into other storage markets besides grain,” he adds. These other markets could include sand used for hydraulic fracturing – also known as fracking – to extract oil and natural gas from the ground, and other bulk commodities.
While not looking to open new branches, the company is thinking about making more regular excursions outside the Midwest. To this end, Macon management actively seeks to do a greater share of projects in southern states, “where we can work in winter,” states Adam Endress. It is a practical aim, from a company built on a solid work ethic, family management, and a pragmatic approach to business.