PORTAGE, WI – In conjunction with General Engineering Company’s (GEC) 100 year anniversary, the firm continues to celebrate its prestigious milestone by releasing its second quarterly article covering its history, achievements, and breakthroughs from the past 100 years.
In 1940, General Engineering Company was leading the way revolutionizing the state of Wisconsin. One of these major innovations was the Dairy State’s first, single pedestal spheroid water tank, which was designed by GEC. Commonly, referred to as a ‘water tower’, the structure was highly recognizable for its distinctive design and style. The historic event occurred in the Village of Coloma (approximately 35 minutes north of Portage) and to this day, the water tower continues to operate, providing capacity and clean water to the Village.
Assembling a large, functional monument, such as a water tower was quite the scene in communities during this era. The grand size of the structure and the equipment needed to erect it made the process the talk-of-the-town. Residents were mesmerized by the tedious construction and assembly of the tanks. “The early days of water tower construction were very labor intensive. There wasn’t any field welding standards at the time, but the tank manufacturer, CB&I, was experienced in this type of construction. Typically, the exterior of the tank was coated with a smooth, silver paint,” says General Engineering Company President, Jerry Foellmi.
Today, most water tanks are a variation of the spheroid style, but advancements in assembly, welding, and painting technology allows tanks to be thinner walled. Yet, current tanks are stronger and much larger than past tanks. Coatings now provide more colorful options, longer wear, and safer recoating when needed.
“We developed a personal connection with the people in our communities that went beyond the projects we completed, that philosophy remains yet today,”
-Jerry Foellmi, GEC President
In the late 1940’s, World War II had soon affected many local communities in which GEC provided engineering services. Many projects were placed on hold because members of GEC’s engineering team were recruited by the Badger Army Ammunitions Factory, located near Sauk City. It is during this time that a building known as a ‘Quonset Hut’ was the target of the Public Sector. The Quonset Hut, a U-shaped, steel structure, was transformed by GEC into dance halls, commercial/industrial business buildings, municipal storage sheds, and more.
During the 1950’s, the firm continued to provide its eclectic variety of services to numerous cities, villages, towns, and sanitary districts. General Engineering Company was completing a wide-range of projects, while traveling to great lengths to lend a hand. These projects and locations ranged anywhere from water and sewer developments in Monona, WI to street projects in Greenwood or Markesan to wastewater projects in Minong and Crivitz. Also during this time, the firm began forming many significant relationships with communities in which GEC worked. These relationships continue to remain abundant to this day, due to the firm’s strong commitment to the communities and its residents.
“We developed a personal connection with the people in our communities that went beyond the projects we completed, that philosophy remains yet today,” says Foellmi.
In the 1960’s, four prominent figures of GEC, Vern Hamel, Harold Vik, Elmer Ernst, and John Hamel were able to establish and create numerous relationships with communities that continue into the present day. These influential individuals idealized about how to conduct business in the most ethical and effective manner possible. “Dedicated to Our Clients…Responding to Their Needs,” is a phrase that has been coined by GEC and is exhibited by our professional staff in their day-to-day consulting services.