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Gage Brothers budgets $40 million for successor to century-old flagship plant

Gage Brothers projects a 2019 opening for an advanced, 210,000-sq.-ft. headquarters operation in Sioux Falls, S.D., where it was founded in 1915 and presently has precast/prestressed concrete production spread across 16 buildings on 30 acres, charter plot included.

“We’ve outgrown capacity to the point we’re turning down work on a regular basis,” says President Tom Kelley. “We are celebrating our proud South Dakota heritage, the growing popularity of Gage Brothers products in national markets, our continuing investments in productive technology, and employee owners who are the backbone of our success. Our end goal is to continue to provide top quality products and create an even better experience for clients. We want to continue to set the standard for the precast concrete industry and the new building gives us the space we need to do so.”

A slow-and-steady rebound from the recession has evolved into consistent business growth for Gage Bros., which continues to see customer demand for its products—particularly, insulated systems and thin-brick panels, plus the new Altus Group-licensed line of Arcis ultra-thin panels, fabricated from ultra high performance mixes—grow beyond capacity. The new plant will consolidate machinery and employees in a facility spanning 45 acres and increasing structural and architectural precast production capacity about 60 percent. With an estimated $40 million price tag, the operation will be primarily financed through Great Western Bank and Gage Bros. Land Company LLC, plus additional funding from the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and private investors. The Gage Bros. Land Company is comprised of the Gage board of directors, along with Tom and Fred Gage.

“Gage Brothers is a 100-year-old company whose impact on the construction industry reaches far beyond the Sioux Falls area,” affirms GOED Commissioner Scott Stern. “A $40 million investment in new construction and infrastructure means a lot more than a building—it’s a place where new and existing employees will continue to manufacture a quality product, in a safe and more efficient work environment.”

LOCAL PRINCIPALS

The architect of record and construction manager for the new precast/prestressed operation, JLG Architects and Fiegen Construction, are based in Sioux Falls. “Making a 100-year move is a really big deal,” says Dave Van Nieuwenhuyzen, AIA, design lead. “The new manufacturing plant will help [Gage Bros.] remain a national leader in precast concrete for generations, and become the most automated precast manufacturer in the nation.”

The well-being of current and future employees is paramount in the design, he adds, citing such amenities as a large cafeteria, locker rooms and collaborative areas. Large windows throughout the facility will allow ample natural light without compromising energy efficiency. Supervisor offices will be located on the mezzanine level, along with a training room and additional social spaces.

Gage Brothers’ new home will be designed to attract great talent and create a highly engaged workforce. Approximately 95 percent of production will be indoors, compared to 65 percent at the current location. Management is also taking steps to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration silica exposure thresholds. The elimination of sandblasting will remove the hazards associated with silica dust, while the phasing out of a current acid-etching finishing process gives way to a more environmentally friendly technique.

“We are proud of our employees and the quality products they safely produce for our customers every day, and believe this new facility will allow us to create a world-class safety culture and injury-free work environment,” Kelley observes. “We are applying automation and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees. Through on-the-job training, we will also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as process and quality control.”

Gage Bros. will make a clean break from its previous approaches to production with the new plant: Robust machinery and intelligent software will optimize the entire process chain and allow employees to complete tasks with “more brain with less brawn.” Concrete will be delivered to pouring stations through the use of flying buckets, which reduce by one third the time crane and hoist methods consume for transferring mixes from batch plant to point of placement. An automated rebar bending machine will net the same number of beam and column ties in an hour that it currently takes six hours to produce by hand. Additional intelligent machines such as hydraulic formwork systems will save worker hours and greatly reduce crews’ risk of back strains and sprains.

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Construction of the ambitious precast/prestressed operation is expected to begin this summer, with completion slated for January 2019. Among many benefits management envisions for the new plant is a more predictable work schedule, attributable to investment in automation. All production functions will be under one roof, resulting in fewer bottlenecks and greater operating efficiency.RENDERING: JLG Architects for Gage Brothers