Created in 2011 with the merger of gas industry stalwarts Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited, MVerge has quickly become a leading full-service infrastructure services company. Perhaps “quickly” is misleading – MVerge’s success is based on the experience and values of the founding companies, a combined history that spans more than 110 years.
Many in the trenchless technology industry know Miller Pipeline for its directional drilling as part of its gas distribution services, as well as its water and sewer rehabilitation services. Meanwhile, Minnesota Limited is known for its pipeline construction services involving mainline installations, maintenance and integrity, gathering work and facility construction. The companies’ similar histories, values and complementary services, led to the merger that expands the scope of MVerge creating additional opportunities.
While both companies operate independently and still leverage the original names, Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited are benefiting from the merger as they realize what the “power of one” can do for each company.
“We recognize the brand equity of the Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited names, but we see MVerge as a platform to take advantage of the synergy between the companies to focus on providing turnkey solutions to all of our customers,” said MVerge CEO Doug Banning. “By leveraging the expertise of both companies, we believe there is much more power in ‘one.’ ”
Miller Pipeline: A History of Commitment
Miller Pipeline was founded in 1953 by Don W. Miller near his family farm in Green Springs, Ohio. A few years after founding the company with a friend, Don bought out his partner and continued on. Brothers Dale, Karl and Paul joined the company later and Miller Pipeline was a family-run operation for more than 45 years. Today, Dale’s Son, Kevin Miller is company president.
Miller started out specializing in the installation of gas transmission pipelines. In 1961, projects for Citizens Gas took Miller Pipeline to Indiana, eventually leading the company to set up headquarters in Indianapolis.
The following decades saw the company grow through an expansion of service offerings, acquisitions and a diversification of markets. Investments in technology led Miller to introduce cutting-edge joint sealing techniques such as WEKO-Seal internal joint seals and ENCAPSEAL Safe-T-Seal in the 1970s. A decade later, Miller Pipeline entered the water/wastewater market, offering a variety of trenchless pipeline rehabilitation options including EX close-fit lining and CIPP lining methods. Installing, repairing and replacing gas distribution lines became the company’s specialty and now accounts for a majority of the operations. Today, Miller Pipeline has more than 30 offices and 3,000 employees; including 700 construction crews across the United States.
“Over the years we have established our niche in serving local distribution companies,” said Kevin Miller. “We provide maintenance, rehabilitation and repair work – anything a client needs to help them achieve their goals.”
The company’s blueprint to success has been to cultivate long-term relationships with customers and utilizing local resources to better serve our customers. “We don’t chase work all over the country,” Kevin Miller said. “We prefer to set up a base of operations in a region and develop a strong local workforce. Our philosophy is to develop solid, long-term working relationships with our customers.”
Miller says that the company has several client relationships spanning 25 years, and some exceeding 50 years.
Minnesota Limited: A History of Growth
Minnesota Limited was founded in 1966 by Reuben Leines in Big Lake, Minnesota, 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The company started out servicing gas distribution companies for most of its history, branching off into pipeline work in the 1990s.
In 1999, Minnesota Limited brought in pipeline industry veteran Ted Crowe to oversee some of the work, including signature projects for Viking Gas Transmission Co. and Minnesota Pipe Line Co. that jumpstarted the company’s large diameter pipeline construction segment.
“Up until the 1990s, we did mostly gas distribution work,” said Crowe, Minnesota Limited’s president. “It wasn’t until Reuben’s son Chris took over the business that we started to branch over into pipeline and transmission work.”
Even though pipeline work has grown significantly within the company, Minnesota Limited still serves some of its original gas distribution customers. Today, Minnesota Limited has eight regional offices servicing more than 1,500 employees extending throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States.
One of the keys for the continued success of both Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited is the values imparted on the companies by their founders. In particular, MVerge officials site four core values: safety, quality, commitment and reputation.
“Our company founder, Don Miller, instilled a culture that was value focused from the start in the 1950s,” Kevin Miller. “He was really focused on customer satisfaction, integrity, getting projects completed on time and doing right thing. He laid out a good set of guiding principles to ensure the people who worked for him had the same values. We have operated that way ever since.”
Perhaps going hand-in-hand with the dedication to values, Miller Pipeline has been successful in recruiting, developing and retaining personnel. “Don was able to create a sense of loyalty among the employees that continues today. In fact, there are many employees who work their entire career with us,” Kevin Miller said. As an example of the sense of loyalty, just this summer 90-year-old Don Miller traveled from Ohio to Indiana to attend a retirement party for an employee who had been with the company for 50 years.
Minnesota Limited has followed a similar trajectory. “A lot of our growth has to do with the culture, which is based on our values,” Crowe said. “Everything we do here is based on our values, and that includes doing whatever it takes to serve the client. I describe our business as being customer-centric versus project-centric. We are happy to do anything from the smallest maintenance job to the largest pipeline construction project because we have long-term relationships with our clients. We don’t run around the country and look for a big project to bid; we are more interested in doing a complete wrap around with a customer.”
“Now that we are partnered with Miller Pipeline, we share the same values and the same culture; it gives us opportunities to get involved with the customer on even more levels.”
As can be the case for family businesses, the time came for both Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited to sell to a larger company. In 1995, Miller Pipeline was sold to IWC Resources Corp., which operated in the water utility space. After changing hands a few times through corporate mergers and acquisitions, Miller Pipeline was eventually bought in 2006 by Vectren, an energy holding company based in Evansville, Indiana. Vectren remains the parent company today.
“Vectren has been a great supporter of our business,” said Banning, who took over as CEO of Miller Pipeline in 2004 and now serves as CEO of MVerge. “Vectren has a great management team that has allowed us to grow the business successfully over the last 10 years.”
In the 2000s, Minnesota Limited was considering potential acquisition as one of its owners, Paulette Leines, was looking to retire and the company was seeking an injection of capital to help it continue to grow. As the company evaluated potential suitors, one partner became clear: Miller Pipeline.
“We had quite of bit of interest from companies looking to make acquisitions, but the arrangement with Miller Pipeline and Vectren was by far the most attractive,” Crowe said. “Vectren is a stable, consistent company that understands the business, certainly more than a Wall Street investment firm would. In addition, we would be working hand-in-hand with Miller Pipeline, which was also attractive because of the similar backgrounds and shared values. It got to the point where it was going to happen with Vectren/Miller Pipeline, or we were just going to try to make it on our own.”
The sale was completed in 2011, where Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited became MVerge, a part of Vectren’s infrastructure services group. As an infrastructure services division, MVerge services the transmission pipeline, distribution pipeline, and wastewater rehab markets, providing custom and turnkey solutions for its customers in the oil, gas, water and wastewater industries. Its workforce is made up of highly trained and skilled employees totaling 4,000-plus, with offices in more than 20 states around the United States.
“Our focus is to partner with our customers to deliver the safest and highest quality construction project.” Banning said. “We have a talented team that will complete projects successfully, on time and under budget. Our commitment to our values allows us to create long term industry relationships and truly differentiates us from others.”
Looking ahead, the gas market is poised for growth. On the distribution side, integrity management programs are becoming more and more of a focus, while the shales plays have led to a steady supply of new transmission and gathering pipelines.
“In the distribution industry, there are many bare steel cast-iron replacement and modernization programs under way, and we believe these programs will continue to provide opportunities for our business,” Banning said. “As the shale resources continue to be developed, we also foresee good opportunities in the pipeline market. We are well positioned to take advantage of future opportunities with our geographic presence and construction expertise.