Many local companies are reaping Epic benefits


Founded in Janesville in 1931, the full-service electrical contractor has been on the job at Epic since 2002.

Westphal employees worked for Findorff on Campus 1 and for Cullen on the Learning Center and Campus 2.

"For us, it's meant tens of millions in electrical construction work over the years," said John Westphal, the company's owner.

"It's helped us employ hundreds of electricians, which has helped hundreds of families get through some tough times."

Westphal said the project is demanding from both the design and scheduling perspective.

"In that regard, it's been awesome for us," he said. "It's been a real challenge for everybody, from the apprentice electrician to the electrician superintendent to our project managers.

"But that's exactly what we live for."

Westphal said projects such as Epic bring out the best in his employees.

"The Epic project has helped keep the company operating at a certain level while still challenging us with the schedule, design and construction," he said. "We like it because we're playing in the big leagues, and we're close to home."

The Janesville-based company designed, built and installed the operable panel partitions in Epic's 5,300-seat auditorium, also known as the "Epicenter."

Mark Blanchard, Hufcor's vice president of sales and marketing, said the project was significant for two reasons.

"It was much more than an order and revenue for us," Blanchard said. "It was an opportunity for us to showcase our capabilities."

In use, the Hufcor panels divide the auditorium into three areas and give Epic flexibility with the space. When not in use, they retract into remote storage closets.

That's a fairly standard operation for Hufcor, but where the project got tricky was a 6-foot drop in elevation from the back of the auditorium to the front. The panels needed to be different sizes, and the ones at the front needed to curve to follow contours of the room and stage.

Finishes required complicated horizontal matching on panels of different sizes.

"We've been able to communicate these capabilities as part of our global marketing efforts and create many new opportunities for dividing auditorium spaces that designers on other projects weren't aware of," Blanchard said.

Hufcor recently completed a job in Australia that's a basic replication of the Epic installation. The same design will be used at a convention center in Dubai and a theater in Mexico.

Hufcor classifies about 1 percent of the 4,000 projects that ship from Janesville each year as a major project.

"This was one of those major projects," Blanchard said.

Universal is a manufacturer and distributor of wood and wood-alternative products. One of its 80 North American facilities is in Janesville, where employees built and supplied specialty concrete forming products to the Epic site.

The forms are typically used for specialized window box-outs, brick edging and beam openings when concrete is poured.

Universal gets the specifications from Cullen, and the employees in Janesville build the forms and deliver them to the job site. That frees on-site employees from having to build the forms.

"This is kind of a new category for our company, and we've been able to help Cullen stay competitive in a tough economy," said Ted Grund, account manager for UFP's Eastern Division.

The family owned and operated company is headquartered in Janesville and produces and delivers a wide range of ready-mix concrete and aggregate products.

It's been a frequent contributor on different phases of the Epic project.

"It's a competitive environment for us as suppliers, and you win some and you lose some," said G.R. Lyons, the company's executive vice president. "It's been a good job for us and our employees, both in Janesville and our other locations."

Lyons said his company's work at the site has tapered off as Epic completes one construction cycle and plans for the next.

"We're certainly hopeful that this fall and winter we'll be more heavily involved," he said. "But you never count on the work until you do it because things can change with a phone call.

"We have a good relationship with Cullen, and the owner is happy with the results. It's a difficult job, but that's good because only certain people can perform it."

Bob Cottam is so excited about the custom metal fabrication work his small Janesville company has done at Epic that he might rethink the future.

"It was more high-end stuff than we typically do," Cottam said. "It's made us think about the direction we want to go because there are not many companies doing it."

Precision Fab worked on a variety of specialty applications, including elaborate electric floor panels and the "Stairway to Heaven," a winding metal staircase in one of Epic's office buildings.

"They know what they want, and when they come at you with some of this stuff, it's very challenging," Cottam said. "We didn't know if we wanted to bid because we hadn't done it before.

"But the economy is slow, and it's work that we really enjoy. It really opened our eyes to things we never tried before."

Since the start of the year, Precision Fab has doubled its workforce to eight.

"It's not so much Epic work, although that's helped," Cottam said. "It's more because of Cullen work. They are a very good customer of ours and are fabulous to work for. They've been getting us more and more projects."

The Rockwell Group arrived in Verona in 2006 to work on Epic's 5,000-seat auditorium.

The Freeport, Ill.-based company, a division of The Morse Group of Companies, has four offices, including one in Beloit. It specializes in steel stud framing, drywall hanging and finishing, acoustical ceilings, plastering and painting for commercial and industrial projects.

At Epic, it won the framing and drywall contracts for the 5,300-seat auditorium. In addition, the company has been a regular contractor on some of the project's office buildings.

The Epic project helped the company enter the Madison market, said Brian Scott, Rockwell's president.

"We wanted a thumbprint up there, and this has helped us do that," Scott said, adding that Rockwell is now doing a job on the UW-Madison campus and several other smaller projects.

"It's also allowed us to grow a Wisconsin workforce," he said. "When we did the auditorium, the construction industry in Madison was fat and happy and workers were at a premium.

"We had to use an Illinois-based workforce, but now with these projects, we've been able build that Wisconsin workforce."

The South Beloit, Ill., company is a project management and engineering business that specializes in designing, manufacturing and constructing precast concrete panels.

The company built the precast panels used in the construction of Epic's second parking ramp, a 950,000-square-foot structure that's underground.

The family-owned Edgerton company has supplied lumber and building products to Cullen crews at Epic for the last year. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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