In September 2017, Matthew Gabrielse became president of Gabe’s Construction in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is a member of the fourth generation of the Gabrielse family to lead the company, and he succeeded Tim Gabrielse.
Since its first contract to install fiber-optic cable in 1985, Gabe’s Construction has installed 5,500 miles of cable. In 2006, the company built its first DAS, eventually becoming at one time the largest DAS contractor in North America.
With the formation of a new division, Gabe’s Wireless Solutions, the company has expanded its wireless engineering and construction services. The company provides a turnkey, end-to-end solution for indoor and outdoor DAS, small cells and venue-based wireless networks, serving wireless carriers, neutral-host providers and building and venue owners throughout North America.
In my role as president of the Northeast DAS & Small Cell Association (NEDAS), I interviewed Gabrielse. He talked about Gabe’s Construction’s recent acquisitions and how the company sets itself apart in a competitive industry. He also shared his long-term vision for the organization and discussed the effect of emerging technologies on the wireless community. What follows is the interview, edited for length.
Your appointment to be the new president of Westshore Companies and Gabe’s Construction comes as the organization celebrates 75 years in business, during which it has flourished in both good and challenging economic times. What are the key attributes or core values of Gabe’s Construction that have enabled it to be such durable force in the industry?
Gabrielse: One of the key attributes that has enabled Gabe’s Construction to become such a durable force in the industry has been our ability to adapt to change for the past 75 years. We started out installing drain tiles for farm fields in the 1940s. The company then grew into the public works construction business, and in the 1960s, we entered the natural gas market in Wisconsin. Moving to the 1980s, Gabe’s Construction began building the backbones of today’s communications infrastructure, and in the early 2000s we entered the wireless business, building networks from coast to coast and border to border. Many of our current employees possess more than 15 years of experience, and we have had many retire from Gabe’s with more than 25 years of service. The idea that we are a close-knit company that understands the importance of treating our employees like family is something I am very proud of and has provided our company stability over the years.
Gabe’s Construction made a major acquisition in its recent purchase of PCTEL’s assets. What new markets, customers and projects will this move enable Gabe’s Construction to pursue?
Gabrielse: This acquisition will allow Gabe’s Construction to expand its wireless-based customers. We have installed thousands of small cells throughout the Midwest markets and this will allow us to expand our client offerings and add network engineering services to our implementation services. I am looking forward to expanding our services in the Midwest and other areas of the country.
How will this affect your vision for the company in the short and long-term?
Gabrielse: Gabe’s Construction is always looking to grow the business in all areas of our company. We recently signed a multi-year agreement with one of our long-standing clients and look to grow the maintenance side of the company as we continue that relationship. In the long term, we anticipate growth in the wireless solutions division and other divisions within the company. We have such a great team from our wireless group to our horizontal directional drilling group, to our utility construction group. Our team is second to none.
Gabe’s Construction has completed tens of thousands of indoor and outdoor DAS networks, small cells and venue-based wireless projects across the United States and Canada. When you look across the landscape at your competitors, what sets Gabe’s Construction apart from the pack?
Gabrielse: On all sides of the business, I believe one thing that sets Gabe’s Construction apart is our focus on safety. We were one of the first contractors in Wisconsin to hire a full-time safety director. Another core tenet is our commitment to our customers. We value each customer and the relationships we have developed. Gabe’s Construction has many customers with whom we have done business with for more than 15 years because of our commitment to safety. We recently completed a major project in Pennsylvania for one of our customers, and I am proud to say we sent everyone home without injury, and that includes our crews and, more importantly, the public. One of the things my father taught me was that as a family-run business, Gabe’s Construction is able to focus a little more on our customers and give them the best service possible.
What emerging technologies or market conditions — whether the coming of 5G, the expected exponential increase in mobile traffic, or the connectivity to support the internet of things — do you anticipate will have the most profound effect on your business?
Gabrielse: Most definitely, all these trends and emerging technologies will have a profound effect on our business. The demand for mobile technology is not going to go away. Everywhere you look, you see people on their mobile devices. The demand for more speed and faster connectivity to social media will drive Gabe’s growth on the wireless side of the business as well as provide added construction projects to support the infrastructure needed to deliver the wireless signal.
What core competencies come into play that positions Gabe’s Construction to best serve the technological, logistical, project management or other demands for these projects?
Gabrielse: The experience of our team positions us to meet the demands of these projects, while our passion in helping our clients ultimately positions everyone to succeed.
Representatives of Gabe’s Construction and Gabe’s Wireless Solutions recently attended the inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco. What were your key takeaways from the event?
Gabrielse: One major takeaway is the importance of being at events such as MWC Americas. This was a fantastic opportunity for Gabe’s Construction to meet with multiple vendors, clients and friends in the industry and bounce new ideas off each other. The opportunity for our wireless team to network with other professionals in the industry is priceless. We get to hear speakers on the latest and greatest ideas and products. And we get to listen to our customers and better understand how we can help them deliver their projects on time and under budget.
For more information about Gabe’s Construction, visit www.gabes.com. Ilissa Miller is president of the Northeast DAS & Small Cell Association. She is the founder and CEO of iMiller Public Relations.