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CitySteel Builds Strong Foundation on ‘No Excuses’ Credo

The Waterford, Michigan-based company specializes in just three things: floor decking, roof decking, and studs.

“President and owner.”

That’s Joe Sova’s official title at CitySteel, the Waterford, Michigan-based company that he founded in 1998. But he’s also a manager, superintendent, and instructor.

Unlike many other companies of CitySteel’s size, Joe isn’t content sitting in an office behind a desk looking at numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s why he’s out in the field every single day, running work, and traveling back and forth to projects.

“When I used to have a partner, we’d have conflicts,” Joe says of his time in the industry before starting CitySteel. “I’d say, ‘You’ve got to get out of the office. The job’s over there. You need to go out there.’ That’s the way I run my business. I’m there. I go out there and I know what’s going on.”

As a second-generation ironworker, Joe started as an apprentice when he was just 18 years old. He started CitySteel nearly 20 years ago with the purpose of providing just three services: floor decking, roof decking, and studs. CitySteel is a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), a certified Michigan Minority Business Enterprise (MMBE), and qualifies as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).

CitySteel’s work with Barton Malow has been extensive. Joe established a positive relationship working with Barton Malow prior to starting the company, a relationship that carried over when CitySteel was formed. Among the projects Barton Malow has contracted CitySteel on include the GM Flint Metal Center, GM Fort Wayne Assembly Plant, the Shinola Hotel, and the Ohio State Stadium renovation.

“Wherever the steel erector is, we’re two weeks behind,” Joe explains. “They start erecting, two weeks later, we start laying the deck right after them. We solve problems, we make the job easier. We’re very specialized, there’s a reason why the deck gets subbed out on every major project. There are so many variables, you need that specialization. We don’t make excuses, we find a way.”

CitySteel has grown to about 50 employees – about double its size from when it began nearly two decades ago. And while Joe is always eyeing growth, he says it has to be sustainable growth – the type of growth where the company can continue to provide the high level of service that it currently does on every project with a quality workforce while maintaining profit margins. With little overhead and ownership of all its tools and equipment, Joe says CitySteel currently has an ideal balance.

One thing that Joe and his wife, Jeanine, do have their eyes on is keeping CitySteel in the family.

“When our son and daughter decided to go into the business, it changed our long-term goals,” says Jeanine, CitySteel’s VP of Operations. “When they got involved, it changed everything. It’s going to continue now because they want to do this for the next 40 years. And if they weren’t as good as they are, things would obviously be different.”

But don’t think Joe is close to hanging up his steel-toed boots anytime soon. In fact, the next time you pass by a Barton Malow project that’s setting steel, there’s a good chance CitySteel is laying the deck. And if CitySteel is on site, chances are Joe is there or will be there soon.