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Bernalillo plant manufactures for the nation

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Darren Trancosa, a fabricator and welder works on pieces of cut steel at Amfab Steel, Inc. in Bernalillo. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Nearly hidden on a side street off N.M. 313, on the southern edge of Bernalillo, is a steel powerhouse that brings millions of dollars into New Mexico.

Amfab Steel Inc. has grown from a small fabrication shop that made architectural rails and stairs for customers in New Mexico to a group of companies with more than 120 employees that work together on major building projects for casinos, hotels, hospitals and office buildings throughout the Southwest and in California and the Pacific Northwest.

The value of the projects Amfab is working on in 2017 is close to $50 million.

“We are probably known more nationally than we are locally,” Amfab President Mark Mosher said.

The company recently invited dozens of local architects, engineers and other industry professionals to “Steel Day,” an event where Mosher gave a presentation at Bernalillo High School on the company’s capabilities. Afterward, visitors had a chance to tour the Amfab facility at 100 Calle Industrial.

Opened in Albuquerque in 1984, Amfab moved to Bernalillo nine years later when the company purchased its present site. Now, it has 32,000 square feet of workshop and office space plus equipment yards spread out over around 13 acres. Although most of Amfab’s work is out of state, some of its New Mexico projects are local landmarks, including the Sandia and Isleta casinos and UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center hospital in Rio Rancho. The company is currently working the Presbyterian Healthcare Services medical center in Santa Fe, scheduled to open in 2018.

Mosher began working for Amfab in 1990 and shortly after that the company branched into structural steel; working with the steel beams, columns and braces that form the skeleton of a steel-framed building.

Early on, Mosher said, Amfab identified two ways to stand out in its field; by being able to build faster and more cost effectively than competitors.

“Our solution was to bring better ideas to the table,” he said. “So if we knew a better way to build something faster and cheaper, we would present that and most often win the bid.”

The majority of the projects they do now, they either do design and build or they assist the engineering company on the project with the design. Mosher said this means they are financially vested in the project.

“We have agreed to provide a building for a certain cost, so we are spending our money and the client’s money. So, instead of looking at it (the project) one way, we will look at several different ways to figure out the best way to build,” he said.

Over the years, Amfab has developed into a group of interconnected companies that perform different project functions. Amfab does the structural steel fabrication and manufacturing. Phat Steel does the miscellaneous fabrication that Amfab originally started with. DTL’s is the detailing firm that produces drawings the fabrication shop works from. ESteel, jointly owned by Amfab, DTL’s and Chavez-Grieves Consulting Engineering, is the structural engineering consultant on design-build projects.

Mosher said they can model different building options so the owner can choose which best meets their needs and budget. They have developed their own in-house software that enables them to take a model all the way from the design through to a detailed cost estimate.

“The way we do it, is not done by anybody else, not anywhere in the world,” Mosher said. “Our policy is, if it doesn’t exist, we invent it.”

Amfab and the other companies in the group are privately held. In recent years, Mosher said, they have made some key longtime employees partners so they have a vested interest in ensuring the future of the companies.

Early this year, Amfab and Phat Steel received money from New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive program to expand its operations in Bernalillo. Amfab received $608,868 to add 43 jobs. Phat Steel received $168,374. As of mid-September, Amfab had 92 employees, Phat Steel 23 and DTL’s 14. Most of the workers are from the Albuquerque metro are, Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Cuba. Some DTL’s employees work remotely from other states because people with their skill set were not available locally, Mosher said.

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