With great pride, Guarantee Electrical Company (GECO) celebrates the thirty-nine year career of Senior Project Director, Steve Briesacher, who stands among the most accomplished project management professionals in the company’s 116-year history. Steve joined the company in 1979 with a Cum Laude degree in Accounting from University of Missouri St. Louis after taking the unprecedented step of completing an IBEW electrical apprenticeship in that year. With this unusual background, Steve took off as they say, running, directly into the field. There he acquired the necessary experience with electrical work and contending with the day-to-day tasks of construction, as a journeyman, and very quickly thereafter as a foreman, general foreman and superintendent, so that by the time he completed his apprenticeship his aptitude for managing numbers and people found him running work in the field. By 1985, Steve was managing large crews on highly visible projects like the Admiral Riverboat Restoration (1985-1986) and working with marquee customers like Tandem Computers, Pennzoil, Monsanto and St. Anthony’s Hospital, where very quickly he found himself successfully handling technically demanding opportunities on projects with heavy and light industrial, mission-critical high-tech data centers, hospital construction and research facilities.
Teamwork and team building are hallmarks of GECO business model as an electrical contractor, and Steve proved to be alert to the talent around him early on. By his 30th birthday, he had as many as 100 men working for him on a series of demanding projects that put him touch with other soon to be stalwart members of GECO’s expanding team of contracting pros. The Anheuser Busch Emergency power upgrade introduced him to Dave Gralike, and Armstrong Teasdale (1987) brought him together with Bill Greubel for the first time, and where Gralike joined him on the team as foreman.
From 1989, the list of projects led by Briesacher grows more diverse, as does GECO’s resume of work. That year brought St. Anthony’s Hospital and a series of projects including Outpatient and Emergency Department build-outs. This was followed by a range of miscellaneous projects (1989 to1992) and had the effect of displacing Sachs Electric who had been incumbent since St. Anthony’s first moved to South County. Adding to the resume was an Ameristar Casino retrofit involving major technology enhancements from Video poker to slot machines (1992). Following almost immediately were a series of projects involving Ameren’s Meramec Facility (1993-1994) including Unit One with two major system controls upgrades. More projects at Ameren followed at Meramec involving their coal handling equipment upgrade. Added to the diversity in those years was a Thomson Mitchell tenant finish (1994-1995); this was followed very soon thereafter by the large and demanding St Louis County Justice Center (1995-1997) where Gralike and Greubel both served as foreman on the project.
1997 brought Steve’s promotion to Project Manager, whose assignments (1997-1999) brought him to BJCs Pre-Phase Infrastructure Project, which was followed closely by Washington University’s South Forty Student Housing power upgrade in which GECO served the customer as general contractor. From 1997 through2001, Steve managed construction of Level Three Company’s data center expansion in St. Louis which led to sister projects in Nashville TN, and Stratford TX (1997-2001). Data centers became a lucrative service-line for Guarantee. Among the most significant during this period (circa 2000) was the MCI data center, among the most profitable data-center projects in GECO resume of work in this space. Another watershed for Steve was his project management on BJC’s first Campus Expansion (1999-2003): the Siteman Cancer Center at the North end with the addition of an emergency department, children’s hospital garage and 26 state of the art surgery suites along with major power upgrades on the South Campus.
Revenue and profitability were never far from view as the company took on AG Edwards’ Building F and Learning Center projects in the new century, which created historic revenue for GECO at $27,000,000. These first years of the 2000's found Briesacher managing nearly $50,000,000 in projects. The work in this period (2004-2006) became more national in scope with Anheuser Busch beer distributorships in Tampa, Fort Myers, Minneapolis and Chicago.
During this same period, Briesacher and GECO embarked on what has become a long and fruitful relationship with the Mercy Health System. The first project was Mercy’s Utility Plant Expansion followed by Mercy Patient Tower B (2007-2010) which Steve presented, negotiated and led and which ended up earning a 2010 Keystone Award. Continuing that year in the parallel data center/hitech channel was the Schneider Technology Center, (2008-2010), which was followed immediately by the Mercy’s massive data center in Washington MO, designed to meet Federal requirements for electronic patient records management (presented and sold and worked on from 2010-2012).
On top of these projects, came the St. Louis Art Museum East Expansion (2010 –2013) which gave the company an historic opportunity to contribute once again to the fulfillment of its original guarantee one hundred ten years after lighting the original Gilbert Building that houses the original museum. It also proved to be a showcase for GEO innovation as it implemented “new-to-the-world” lighting technology in the museum’s unique 600+ daylight-mixing skylights. It didn’t hurt that the light system GECO orchestrated for the Expansion saved millions, even as it brought new materials and innovative methods to the execution of a revolutionary design. It also won the AGC Keystone Awards, Project of the Year for 2013. Projects for BJC Labs followed at their BRB facility adjacent to their midtown campus during this period (2009-2011).
May 2011 brought the EF5 tornado that destroyed Mercy’s St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri. Briesacher and Gralike immediately brought a team to that city, first to provide power to an urgently needed temporary hospital. Then came the successful bid for and construction of the Joplin Replacement Hospital project (2012-2015), and not surprisingly won that year’s Keystone Project of the Year. Almost simultaneously, Steve and GECO took on as well the construction of Mercy’s Orthopedic Hospital Springfield MO (2011-2014). Hospital work continued apace with SSM St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson city. Since then, there’s been almost continuous engagement with SSM, culminating with winning St. Louis University Hospital project, (joining the presentation team negotiating the project, and beginning the buyout role in securing materials best-pricing since 2016).*
After thirty-nine years, a project manager learns a few things about the art of managing electrical construction projects, about which Steve writes the following:
“My skills as a field electrician with training in accounting provided the perfect skillset to perform effectively as project manager. I’ve always felt that the best way to assure a successful project you need to set the job up properly up-front. That way it will run smoothly. It means, though, that you have learn the project if possible in more depth than anyone else, including the owner. Know your scope of work inside and out, understand your contract and where your vulnerabilities are. Always treat your customers with respect and work to make them believe that they are your only customer. Deal promptly with problems, treat your material vendors as partners, realizing that they too need to make money. Price change orders promptly and deal with problems head on, never avoiding them. Make sure you are valuable and genuinely available to your field workers. Make sure the project is being installed in the most cost- effective manner possible. This means staying current with newest and best installation means and methods, and be proactive in communicating them to the field. Never stop learning from the field regarding best methods for installation and safety. Every job has a limited pool of money that you must manage as if those dollars belonged to you. Deal with bad news early and good news late. Because it is the manager’s responsibility to provide accurate cost data and job progress data to the accounting people. My goal has always been to walk away from a job with the customer smiling and me smiling…I just wanted my own smile to be bigger.”
*Note: The list of projects as PM is in no way complete, there being many more – MoBap East and West pavilions, Ameristar Home Nightclub, Barat Academy in Chesterfield, and a host of smaller projects for Mercy Health.