Ever Greater Heights
If ever you have been to Houston, Texas, you have probably seen the iconic Galleria building – a 3,000,000-square-foot, mixed-use complex that houses decadent stores and other luxury facilities. The building’s pièce de résistance, the impressive stainless steel arches that stretch elegantly across the city’s skyline, were installed by none other than Milestone Metals, Inc.
Milestone Metals is a force with which to be reckoned. President Charles Archer and Vice President Brad Parish chatted with me about the history of the company and their vision for it since their joint takeover in 2017.
It takes pretty accomplished professionals to perform outstanding work in several disciplines, but when it comes to metal, Milestone Metals, Inc. can fabricate and fit steel supports, fabricate and install structural beams and columns or curved ornamental staircases decked with glass, brass, or aluminum and much, much more. If you can name it, the chances are that this team can do it.
The company is headquartered in the city of Houston and prides itself on its diverse capabilities, hard work, and dedication. For contractors in the Texas region, this group of metal masters offers top-quality, turnkey solutions to suit even the most stringent challenges.
Its American Subcontractors Association-bound metal masters are trusted by some of the area’s greatest visionaries, including Skanska, world-leading project management and construction group; Rogers O’Brien Builders; Miller LaPoint Construction; and the teams of Gerald D. Hines, whose property developments define Houston’s skyline. The company also works directly with project owners and sub-contractors in the field, as well as architectural and engineering firms.
Although founded in 1984, Milestone Metals, Inc. first hit the big-time when it landed a contract with JE Dunn Construction for participating in the development of a thirty-story residential complex on the east side of the Museum District in Houston, Texas, in 2006. It made such a great success of this project that many others naturally followed and steadily grew in scale as time went on. These included a second thirty-story Mosaic tower in Houston as well as a 360-unit condominium in Austin. At the time, this forty-four-story, giant signature building was the tallest in all of Austin.
Milestone Metals was on a roll and went on to complete its next big contract at the Glasshouse by Windsor in Dallas. By now, it was at the top of its game, and the company landed another landmark project, this time with Balfour Beatty Construction. Together, the two companies worked on the next high-rise that was set to beat the rest – The Austonian.
A residential condominium boasting fifty-six floors and cool chic in downtown Austin, this was now the highest building in the city. As providence would have it, Milestone Metals was then approached to contribute its expertise and services to what is today affectionately known as Austin’s ‘Jenga Tower.’ With sixty-eight stories stretching over 680 feet, this was the next new tallest building in the city, providing the company with a third-time-lucky superlative project in an already well-polished portfolio. Despite appearances, however, luck had very little to do with any of these incredible achievements.
The same hard work and dedication that had got the company going were the same driving forces that allowed it to rise ever higher in its field, and are the same forces behind it still. That once-small earlier operator adept at melding ornamental, structural, and installation skills into one sterling package, has since become a highly-respected industry leader known for consistent quality that always arrives on schedule.
For Charles, the company’s consistency boils down to its familial environment. From small beginnings, Richard Venverloh started Milestone as an installation contractor with one fabricator, it acquired its own fabrication shop and significantly improved its market share. Charles arrived in Houston from an Ornamental Metal fabricator in Decatur, Alabama in January of 2002. He was first introduced to Milestone Metals by a sub-contractor when he worked with the company on the Austin Bergstrom Airport and then later at the Houston Museum of Fine Art. He was subsequently recruited by the company in December 2001 as an estimator and project manager.
Since his arrival, it has grown from average yearly revenue of $4,000,000 to an average of $12,000,000 with a couple of years peaking at $20,000,000. As a couple of best friends, Charles and Brad share a few traits and beliefs, but bring very different skills to the firm, making it strong and adaptable. They ascribe their phenomenal success in both the ornamental and structural steel fields to their respective diverse backgrounds in the industry.
As they have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to work for others, it is of the utmost importance to both of them that their team not only works as one but also feels like family. “My son recently noted that a standard modern piano has eighty-eight keys. Each one of our eighty-eight employees is unique, and together they synchronize to make Milestone Metals a great company,” says Charles.
Brad agrees. “It took hard work to get where we are today, but we’re just the guys who are steering this company. It’s our people who set it apart. They are Milestone Metals, and they’re the reason we’re here every day,” Brad adds.
For this executive team, the Milestone family is what makes the company successful, and they genuinely value their people. “The two of us are just a really small part of what makes Milestone great. Without our key people, Milestone wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Brad.
At Milestone, praise is not just all talk. Apart from its 401K benefits packages, employees are generously rewarded with a merit bonus scheme at the legendary Christmas party. “We also take our in-house training very seriously. We pay for our young guys to further their education because they are the future leaders of the company,” says Brad.
The two executives could not be a stronger team if they tried. Since Brad’s arrival in 2011 from another miscellaneous steel company, Milestone Metals has won the American Subcontractors Association’s ‘Gold Level’ safety program award for a number of consecutive years, and the company is achieving ever greater heights. With a great sense of adventure and no fear to be found, the team once installed a curved monumental stairway at 1500 Post Oak, decked out with custom stainless steel and glass, and also lifted a pedestrian bridge at The Woodlands Waterway square – which Brad and his team built in a parking lot – into place with the largest hydraulic crane in the country, a 1300 ton rig!
As everyone in the trade knows, finding skilled craftsmen can be a quandary, but with diligent planning and mentoring, the company has created pretty strong management teams made of some of its younger members. To further mitigate the difficulties, it belongs to the Houston Job Placement Program and attends job fairs where it tries to recruit people who are having a hard time finding jobs. These folks are then brought in at entry level and trained and encouraged to establish careers in the industry.
Its compassionate touch also reaches into its local community, where it contributes to the Future Farmers of America (FFA), numerous youth sports leagues, the Leukemia Lymphoma Organization, a host of golf tournaments, and many other worthy causes.
The care and growth that Milestone Metals offers its team and greater community is also very much fostered in the firm itself. Both Charles and Brad agree that while its growth is a deeply satisfying result of hard work and dedication, it would have a negative impact if not managed wisely. Milestone Metals’ approach to long-term success and longevity is to take the road to success slow and steady. Growing in manageable increments is this Texan metal giant’s secret to winning the race, no matter how many milestones it passes on the way.