"Quality liner starts with quality people," says Jim Mortell, president of Premier-Pipe USA, a cured-in-place, manhole-to-manhole relining company.
Over the course of a decade, Mortell
has seen his
company grow to become a success in the United States, after bringing the technology over from London in 1997.But Mortell
doesn't just give credit to the relining process and his
personal efforts; he
stakes the success in the people who install the product.
"Without a doubt it is the quality installers that we have," says Mortell
."I'm so lucky and fortunate to have the quality people I do to install our liner and keep the proud tradition of Premier-Pipe going." But 10 years doesn't come easy for any company.To get Premier-Pipe USA
to where it needed to be, Mortell
had to plan out and precisely execute the company's move.By facing challenges and fierce competitors and building relationships with installers, Mortell launched Premier-Pipe into what he calls, "a traditional company with quality people who install supreme products right the first time around."
Coming to the United States The path to Premier-Pipe USA
first began with Mortell
, who grew up around the piping industry.Mortell's family had roots in the business - his
father successfully worked with different mechanical and piping companies and his
grandfather operated his
own plumbing and heating service.He
family's influence as a significant factor for getting him into the industry.
"By being kept around different piping work, I was able to recognize that this field and industry were worthwhile," says Mortell
."I saw the industry at work and realized that this was a career I wanted to pursue."
With knowledge and a passion for the business, Mortell dove into the relining industry 18 years ago.He
career with Midwest Pipeliners
, a relining company in Columbus, Ohio.With Midwest, Mortell
flip-flopped between positions in sales and installing U-liners, gaining a deeper appreciation for the trade.
, with the assistance of a colleague, found his
Then after much thought and advice from industry personnel, Mortell
set out to start Premier-Pipe USA
in early 1997.His
quest was to bring a CIPP system to the United States that would be more versatile and produce quality results time and time again. "After working in the relining industry for so many years, I wanted to establish a relining process able to compete against what was out there in the market," says Mortell.
"CIPP was the only solution out there for handling both small and large diameter pipes."
With strong intent and spirit, Mortell
began the process of bringing Premier-Pipe's name and products overseas.However, he
had a lot of planning and hurdles to clear.
"Bringing the company and its products over from [London] was a structured and careful process," says Mortell
."I wanted to make sure everything we did from a legal [standpoint] was done correctly.I was also intent on building on the quality name and good reputation that Premier-Pipe
already had."In order to effectively make the transition into North America, Mortell
had to follow strict rules and strategically plan out the move.Certain steps and procedures needed to be taken before embarking upon the new journey.
"I had to abide by the standards that Simon Baylis, P.E., president of Premier-Pipe International
, set forth.I had to find the right kind of quality installers that would follow those guidelines and enhance Premier-Pipe's
products," explains Mortell
."I did not want to take any shortcuts at any cost, because if we did, we would pay for them in the long run."
After all the planning, careful hiring and adhering to specific details, Premier-Pipe USA
was born.The new company set up shop in Eden Prairie, Minn., in April 1997 - an area that for Mortell
made good sense on business and personal levels.
"I chose Eden Prairie because it's a good Midwestern hub where I could go to the East Coast, as well as the West Coast when needed," says Mortell
."Plus, I grew up in the Minneapolis area." Premier-Pipe USA
focused on CIPP relining and gravity sewer relining.Today
, the company is working on its new Premier-Pipe liner, which is a pressure pipe fiberglass application.
Upon arrival to the United States, Mortell
connected with Fletcher at Applied Felts
In keeping with the traditions and standards of Premier-Pipe International
decided to use Applied Felts
and its products, just like Baylis did overseas.The company's willingness to help Mortell
and enhance the product has made a lasting impact on Premier
has always provided us with the best quality liner and service around," says Mortell
Challenges and Competition Even though Premier-Pipe
made a structured and relatively smooth transition to North America, Mortell
team still faced and continue to deal with challenges and competitors that hover over the CIPP market today.The availability of necessary resources tops the list of the obstacles Premier faces.
"I think the biggest challenge in the market would be keeping a steady oil supply.Our product is an oil-based product and I always worry about an oil shortage," says Mortell
."Personally, that is a deep concern of mine, if there's ever rationing on oil or shortage of resin, our industry would take one heck of a hit."
Although Mortell feels that the CIPP market is competitive, he
believes that the relationship between the company and its licensees gives Premier-Pipe
an edge over its opposition.
Whoever we bring into our tight group has to be a quality installer and person," says Mortell
We are constantly asking our installers what their needs are, as well as what their consumers' needs are," says Mortell
"Communication is key in the business and one of our greatest attributes is how we share ideas and concerns with one another," says Mortell
."When someone has a problem, we can quickly talk to everyone else to solve it.Whether it's a bad batch of resin or an issue with a liner that's affecting that installation crew, we can leap ahead and make sure that problem isn't duplicated anywhere else."In addition to the everyday communication the team exchanges, meetings are held throughout the year to strengthen their work relationships and better the product.
"We have several meetings throughout the year where we discuss all the issues we need to address.There, we share with everyone the latest and greatest changes that are going on in the industry," says Mortell
They were simple and straight to the point," says Mortell
."However, I quickly found that we needed to have our meetings where people were out of cell phone range, so that they weren't interrupted and could speak openly."
With that information at hand, Mortell
opted for meetings away from the office atmosphere that allowed for more open lines of communication and a better focus on the company as a whole. "We decided to limit the amount of structured meeting time, so that people had time to freely express their thoughts and get to know one another," says Mortell
."There's a lot more conversation than in a structured environment, when it's not just one person talking at everyone else.I believe that it has been effective in the past and it's worked out well for us."Mortell
has even held meetings on different golf courses, where the installers can discuss the industry while perfecting their swing.
Building Strong Bonds Over the course of Premier-Pipe's 10 years in North America, Mortell
has established work-related bonds and strong friendships with the companies that install its products.Their individual skills and process know-how have significantly improved Premier's
products and customer service. "They've all enhanced it," says Mortell
."We brought these people on board with us and they have allowed us to create a better lining process."
By adding on installers, first the City of Minneapolis in 1997, which Mortell credits as being one of the building blocks of Premier-Pipe
, and then Am-Liner East, the company had the ability to expand its services.From each of the respective installers, Mortell
has found individuals whose expertise and friendships have added to Premier's outstanding reputation.
In 1998, Premier-Pipe
added Am-Liner East to its company as an installer - a move that Mortell
has found beneficial and right up Premier's alley.Not only did Am-Liner East offer quality service, which was important to Mortell
, but it also had people who could represent the Premier-Pipe family and their products."They have quality craftsmen at Am-Liner East," says Mortell
.Now after nine years, Premier-Pipe
has established a strong union with the installer, a bond Mortell does not take for granted.
"There are very few people lucky enough in this world who can create a lifelong friendship and wo