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Sunday, 11 November 2012 20:10

Rockford Bergé offers ‘end-to-end’ services to energy projects, manufacturers

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Rockford Bergé offers ‘end-to-end’ services  to energy projects, manufacturers Courtesy photo
WEST MICHIGAN — Michigan manufacturers serving the energy sector and a range of other industries could be missing an opportunity to do business that’s right in their backyard.

That’s the message from Rockford Bergé, a partnership of Rockford Construction Company Inc. and the Spain-based Bergé Group that was initially formed in 2009 to provide construction and logistics services for alternative energy projects.

Since the joint venture formed, Rockford Bergé “kept our heads down” while “building our résumé,” said Bruce Thompson, vice president of corporate development at Rockford Construction, noting the company has served in a supporting role to turbine manufacturer Gamesa for a proposed wind farm at the Muskegon Wastewater Management facility.

While energy projects continue to be a “core component” of Rockford Bergé, the company has quietly started to branch out into more project management functions aimed at helping West Michigan manufacturers use multi-modal logistics solutions to ship and export large or heavy products across the globe.

“Now we’re really starting to get out and talk to others and help educate them about what can happen from Michigan, where we can get to internationally from the Great Lakes using multiple modes of transport — maritime, rail, in addition to the highway system,” Thompson said. “We really want to help companies in Michigan expand their export potential.”

The region’s manufacturers have the needed capabilities and can make products that the world wants, but the companies may not have the experience to tap into those new international markets or to handle the complex task of shipping goods, he said.

That’s where Rockford Bergé can step in.

The company has been partnering with The Right Place Inc. and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to find manufacturers that could benefit from its logistics and project management services, Thompson said.

“We have the infrastructure, and in many cases, in its current form, it is usable. A lot of it is raising awareness,” he said. “We’re really just starting our marketing push within Michigan to educate people about what the possibilities are.”

Juan Lopez-Doriga Escalante, partner at Rockford Bergé, said the company leverages the nearly 150 years of logistics experience from Bergé to be able to help companies get large parts to ports around the world.

One of the early tests for Rockford Bergé was a project involving Holland-based wind turbine blade manufacturer Energetx Composites LLC. Energetx tapped Rockford Bergé to ship massive turbine blade molds to a company in Bilbao, Spain. The molds were taken by truck from the Holland factory to the port in Muskegon, where they were loaded on an ocean-going vessel.

Rockford Bergé provided “end-to-end” management of the project, Escalante said.

The company is also providing project management for bringing in international components to a new thermo-solar plant in Nevada using ports in Houston and California, and for importing Spanish-made transformers to a coal-fired power plant in New Mexico. Escalante said both projects have been in the works for the last six months.

Now, Rockford Bergé hopes to translate that experience into moving large steel tanks, machinery, equipment or other pieces made in Michigan, shipped from Michigan and destined for global markets, Thompson said.

While the company clearly touts its experience and the combined knowledge of its partner companies, it also offers clients a local logistics solution, Thompson said. Rather than deal with someone on either of the coasts to coordinate a shipment, Rockford Bergé can work locally to offer a “higher level of customer service” and more control over the process, he said.

As Rockford Bergé begins to talk to manufacturers and others about its capabilities, Thompson said he’s reminded that Michigan companies for years have ignored using local waterways for shipping goods.

“Michigan really has a strategic advantage because we’re the only state that touches four out of the five Great Lakes,” he said. “That was a well-known fact 100 years ago, but we’ve lost a little bit of that knowledge over time. The highway system provided a great way to move things, but when you look at very, very large components — I think the (Energetx) molds are a great example — we couldn’t truck those to the East Coast. … We can take some of the complexity out by being able to ship by water. It’s a great asset for Michigan.”

Thompson said the company hopes to be able to capture some of the freight headed for Michigan that normally bypasses Michigan ports — West Michigan ports in particular — for destinations in Indiana and Illinois.

“People forget what we have here,” Escalante said.

“We’re for keeping dollars here, bottom line,” Thompson added.

The company especially has its eye on the deep-water port in Muskegon, which also has good nearby capabilities in warehousing and assembly. For example, pipe bound for oil rigs in the Gulf Coast could be made in Michigan and transported to Muskegon, where the pieces could be assembled and loaded onto a boat and taken via the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal to the Mississippi River and to their ultimate destination, Escalante said.

“Because of the manufacturing capabilities we have in Michigan, and the knowledge and the labor, we have all of the pieces. We just need to put the puzzle together,” Escalante said.

While the company has broadened its focus beyond just energy projects, large energy components such as wind turbines blades or transformers certainly fit in with the company’s strategy, Thompson said.

The goal is to marry together the company’s capabilities across the span of an energy project, Escalante said.

“Our ultimate goal is to get together the construction and logistics side … to transport and actually put (pieces) into place,” he said.

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