Taking on a Challenge

Milburn LLC

There are two major focus areas in the demolition industry: total demolition and selective/interior demolition, with many companies that specialize in only one of the above…
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But between the two lies a highly skilled, niche area: the projects that involve a little bit of both. Many demolition and dismantling companies shy away from these jobs due to the risks and the specialization that is required, but it is within this challenging space that Milburn LLC has thrived.

“We like to work in both of the main categories, but we also like to work in that grey area,” says Company Founder James Milburn. A Building Construction Management graduate from Purdue University, he was also a founding member of the first student chapter of the National Demolition Association.

A desire to take on new challenges and do things differently has always been a part of the five-year-old company, which was established in 2014 in Bellwood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

“I’ve been in demolition since I was in college,” says Milburn. “It’s all I’ve ever done for work. After working for a couple of different companies and moving up the ranks, I had some ideas on how I wanted to do things a little bit differently. I’ve always wanted to do something on my own, and the timing worked out well in 2014. The market was good, and I decided to go out on my own.”

Milburn LLC’s two core values are safety and service. It is firmly committed to providing its general contractors, consultants, property managers, and property owner clients with safe and responsible services, from the point of demolition to the safe disposal of the debris.

“We spend a lot of time and money on creating a positive company culture, from field labor to office staff. We place a high emphasis on everyone being as happy as possible. Historically, in our industry, laborers were treated as disposable tools, but we treat them as team members that we can’t afford to lose,” says James Milburn. “Because of that, we find that they work better, make fewer mistakes, and we are able to attract new talent because others hear about how well we treat people.”

James Milburn states that there are three qualities he looks for in a new hire: being hard working, dependable, and honest. Presently, Milburn LLC employs about 15 office staff and 125 field workers.

Another way that the modern firm keeps one step ahead of the competition is by embracing the new: new ways of doing business, new technologies, and higher standards. It is constantly cultivating relationships with waste haulers, recycling companies, scrap recyclers, and salvage/re-use companies. At the moment, Milburn diverts over 75 percent of materials from entering the landfill.

“While money is the key driver to this whole business, we do our best to recycle as much as we can, diverting from the landfill for reuse, such as the easy ones like concrete crushing or scrap steel. But we have also recycled ceiling tiles and carpet tiles directly by sending them back to the manufacturer for repurposing, as well as architectural components such as doors and frames, light fixtures – whatever is possible, we try.”

The company has become an expert at helping eco-focused clients achieve their recycling goals, and has made a name for itself in that space. Even so, James Milburn believes that the industry as a whole is headed in a more sustainable direction.

“There are some projects that have certain requirements, mainly LEED projects. But in general, in the next five to ten years you are probably going to have some heavier regulation put in place regarding recycling, even if it costs more.”

Milburn LLC focuses on proactively changing and adding new technology to propel the company forward, rather than doing things the way they have always been done. On top of landfill diversion, moving from paper to digital communication is another way that the construction and demolition sectors are improving their footprint. Milburn LLC is always embracing change, through investing in up-to-date equipment on the field as well as the latest software and computer programs for its office.

“We’re currently transitioning our field staff to paperless time sheets and payroll, as well as logs and daily equipment forms. By the end of Q1 of 2019, we should be completely paperless in the field,” says Mr. Milburn.

“We are also utilizing the new National Demolition Association (NDA) Safety Application for daily safety talks and are excited to see their new mobile application based Job Hazard Analysis and Pre-Demolition Engineering Surveys. The NDA is making large strides to help our industry as a whole.”

Milburn LLC is proud to have completed many challenging and interesting projects around the Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, and Northwestern Indiana communities. In the Windy City itself, known for its rich history, Milburn recently completed the heavy shoring interior demolition and challenging structural demolition of a historic 1892 landmark that was originally the home of the Chicago Historical Society. The beautiful site now hosts a hip TAO Restaurant, which opened in September 2018.

Another interesting assignment was the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center at Northwestern University, a private research university in Evanston, Illinois. This one-of-a-kind project was completed in multiple phases for the 600,000 square-foot, LEED-certified building.

“We took down one whole structure that was attached to the building to remain. We removed the interior components from multiple areas. We removed the pre-cast concrete exterior façade, and we selectively removed the mechanical components from the basement and the penthouse. Again, it was a little bit of everything, a challenging project,” James Milburn recalls.

Indeed, the demolition, dismantling, and recycling experts have built an impressive portfolio in the growing company’s five-year history, particularly when considering that it stepped into the total demolition market just about a year and a half ago. According to Milburn LLC’s founder and namesake, the recipe for success was a simple one:

“The market was definitely a component that helped our case. There was enough work out there where we could fly under the radar to start out. The other things that helped are that we place an extremely high focus on treating our teammates as well as possible, making sure they are appreciated and taken care of. We try our best to use technology and add ways to get more efficient both in the field and in the office. And, we place an extremely large amount of time on servicing our customers, making sure that they are happy with how we are doing our work. It’s that easy. That’s as simple as it is in my mind. Obviously, our price is competitive – you can’t do anything in our industry without having a competitive price.”

With a strong growth rate and the market in its favor, it is likely that Milburn LLC will continue to expand its project types, services, and perhaps even the locations in which it operates over the next few years.

“We are constantly changing. Change is really hard, and people typically don’t like change, but in our industry, things change so fast. If you are not constantly changing, then that’s when you get left behind. We are always looking at new opportunities,” says James Milburn.

Customers requiring demolition, dismantling and recycling services can learn more about Milburn LLC at www.milburnllc.com.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 19, 2019, 5:35 AM EST

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