November 2020 Vol. 75 No. 11


People, Service Drive Mears’ Continued Success

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Mears Group.

Founded in 1970, Mears today is an industry-leading energy infrastructure solutions provider serving multiple markets that include gas distribution, pipeline and facilities construction, pipeline integrity, horizontal direction drilling (HDD) and Direct Pipe (DP) installations. Mears isalso active in the electric transmission and distribution, telecommunications, and water and sewer markets.

As it has for 50 years, Mears’ headquarters remains in the small town of Rosebush, Mich., but it now has locations in 24 other states.


In 1969, Herb Fluharty was a project engineer for Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) in Chicago.

“I had grown up working on pipeline construction for the company my father founded, Welded Construction,” said Fluharty.

Although he was then employed at a large organization, Fluharty recognized and appreciated the challenges of owning a small business. When his father passed away, Fluharty wanted to move back to Rosebush to be closer to his mother and family.

About the same time, a friend started a land surveying and civil engineering business. “He encouraged me to go in that direction,” said Fluharty.

In June 1970, Fluharty, his wife, Chris, and three young children returned to Rosebush where he started a small surveying business. By 1974, the company was serving pipeline clients in central Michigan, and the scope of its services expanded to include machinery, engineering, accounting, repairs and sales.

In 1975 the company was renamed Mears – an acronym using the first letter of each word in its list of provided services – Engineering. It started, and remains, as a family matter, Fluharty owned and operated, and with an extended Mears “family.”

Scot and Herb Fluharty

“Remember,” Fluharty said, “we come from Rosebush, Mich., a town of 300; we were family. I had my son, Scot, and nephew, John, who came alongside me early on and have always been essential to Mears’ success. Some would say: ‘Herb could get in the door; John could convince the customer we can do the job; and Scot was left to get it done and make some money doing it.”

Somehow the feeling of “family” has been retained as the company has grown to more than 5,000 employees. It’s clear they are all proud of their company and enjoy working there.

“I believe it stems from respecting and appreciating people as individuals blessed with differing gifts,” Fluharty observed. “I grew up on the pipeline and was exposed to many folks with various talents.

“My father, who was a welder himself, taught us respect for those who did the work. He told me often, ‘Remember, these are the people who really make us our living.’ That, along with, ‘You don’t have to know everything, just bring together those that do,’ has always stuck with me.

“I believe Mears has been blessed with incredible talent, leadership that recognized that, and allows people to do what they are good at.”

Continued growth

“The most valuable resources Mears has is our people,” said Scot Fluharty, Mears president since 2000. “Having begun as a true family business, we maintain that culture today. We are focused, as leaders, at making Mears the best place to work in the industries we serve. It is our passion.

“Our focus as leaders is to enable our workforce to perform the work. We do this through investing in them – we have extensive training programs and resources – supporting and resourcing them and empowering them to make the decisions necessary.”

Mears’ timeline shows a progression of events that have resulted in a logical pattern of growth and expansion into new specialties.

“Basically,” said Fluharty, “Mears transitioned from a business in the 1970s that primarily provided pipeline related engineering services, to be more pipeline integrity focused.

“Pipeline integrity services,” he continued, “led us into construction work that quickly grew to be a major part of our business and led us into the horizontal directional drilling market.”

A summary of the company’s expansion is as follows:

  • 1970s – pipeline engineering services
  • 1980s – pipeline integrity engineering and construction services
  • 1990s – HDD and telecom construction services, and international operations
  • 2000s – became a member of Quanta Services, gas distribution construction, and HDD capabilities expanded to larger, more complex projects.

Particularly significant in the company’s growth, “is the cathodic protection data management system, AnodeFlex, cathodic protection, and turning to directional drilling as a method of installing AnodeFlex,” added Fluharty.

“The Cathodic Protection Data Management System was our first effort that brought national attention. In 1983, we hired several local college student programmers to develop microcomputer software to help us better manage the cathodic surveys we were performing
for Dow Chemical, our first big customer,” he pointed out.

“We started advertising this software and got attention from pipeline customers around the country. This provided us the opportunity to start performing pipeline integrity surveys nationwide.”

Transco (now Williams) hired Mears in 1985 to perform some of these surveys and became a large customer. That’s when Mears was introduced to AnodeFlex, which Transco was experimenting with, but having difficulty installing.

“We devised the plowing system (later patented) to facilitate efficient installation of the product,” Fluharty explained.
“This became a major part of our business nationwide. When the first HDD rigs started to be developed, we recognized the potential to install the AnodeFlex product in environmentally sensitive areas and purchased a 7,000-pound Straightline rig in 1991.

With a number of oilfield drilling contractors also being based in Michigan, there was a strong pool of recruits for running the HDD rig and Mears “quickly realized we had a good team for pursuing potentially larger crossings,” he continued. “From there, we ordered one of American Augers’ first track rigs – a 70,000-pound machine – and began performing longer and more complex crossings.”

Today, Mears is one of the world’s leading directional drilling contractors operating 15 large HDD drill rigs (400,000-pound to 1.5 million-pounds of pullback force), and more than 100 smaller drill rigs used throughout gas, electrical and telecom operations.

Mears specializes in shore-approach and water-to-water crossings and long, complex intersects. In 2009, Mears set a record for the longest HDD installation of 24-inch steel gas pipe with a 7,457-linear-foot crossing of the Elizabeth River in Hampton Roads, Va.

Mears also operates two Direct Pipe (DP) spreads. The trenchless DP process combines the benefits of HDD and microtunneling.

In 2000, Mears joined the Quanta Services family. It was not a typical corporate “takeover.”

“Quanta has a unique, entrepreneurial model that is decentralized, and encourages and facilitates business growth,” said Fluharty. “Our entrepreneurial culture was a perfect fit and has provided tremendous growth opportunities for Mears.”

Secret of success

Looking back over the last 50 years, Herb Fluharty considers what has been responsible for Mears’ success.

“I really believe it’s customers giving us opportunities to do things we hadn’t done before and then providing quality service they can rely on.

“A good friend – we were doing Bible study – advised me: ‘It isn’t always about how you act, but often how you react.’ Mears has made it a priority that if a customer is displeased, we always make the extra effort necessary to make things right.

“Finally, I truly believe Mears is where it is today because of the talented people along the way having great integrity and commitment to providing quality service.”

During the formative years, Fluharty continued, “it really came down to having a customer trust the company enough to let us do for them something our resume might not yet support.

“Mears has always believed the customer you have is the most valuable opportunity. Our interest, therefore, has been to find other services the customer needed that we could fulfill.

“That is how we really progressed into all the different disciplines and services – satisfying customers with an additional need.” •

For more information: Mears Group, (281) 448-2488,


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