Macon General Contractors

Agricultural storage solutions in the Midwest
Written by: 
Matt Dodge
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Macon General Contractors was founded in 1971 by Larry Endress. Based in Bradford, Illinois, the agricultural construction firm was originally named Endress Equipment and focused largely on the construction of farmer grain bins. In the 40 years since its inception, Macon has branched out to offer more storage solutions for commercial agriculture clients both in Illinois and throughout the Midwest.

Focusing on attention to detail and customer satisfaction right out of the gate, Macon was able to expand the business to include both agricultural and general contracting work. Larry took an interest in hoop storage buildings in 2005 and by 2007 decided to make it a bigger part of Macon’s business.

He wanted to incorporate it as part of our business, and we basically took it to market,” says his son, Ben Endress. Ben, along with his brother Adam, had been operating independently as commercial general contractors, but when Larry called on his sons to help him realize a more elaborate vision for the AG construction side of the business, they jumped on board.

“We grew up putting up bins for him when we were kids,” says Ben, who is now president and CEO of Macon, sharing co-owner duties with his brother Adam. As the Ag side of the business took-off, Macon shifted its focus away from general construction projects. Today, hoop buildings encompass half of the projects completed by Macon along with commercial-grade Brock grain bins.

Jumping through hoops

The hoop storage buildings designed by Macon are a valuable resource for Ag clients. The fabric-covered buildings can be erected quickly on-site, helping to store and protect a harvest. To help meet the diverse needs of clients and cement their reputation in the field, Macon has developed its own brand of hoop buildings called Cornbelt Fabric Structures. The team has also entered into an exclusive relationship with Sioux Steel Company to build trusses and continues to develop the patented "Grain Curtain".

Macon’s Cornbelt Fabric Structures provide an alternative facility option for the bulk storage needs of their Ag clients. The structures can be insulated and heated to accommodate different products and activities. Macon Cornbelt Fabric Structures can be used for everything from traditional AG uses like grain storage to commercial warehousing and equestrian arenas.

The Cornbelt Fabric Structures allow an Ag producer to store goods for as little as 99 cents per bushel. The building’s engineered trusses are built on 10-, 12- and 16-foot centers, and customers can support either a belt or drag conveyor directly from the trusses without any support from below. The high-quality fabric cover comes with a 16-year warranty from Macon and allows sunlight through, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Endress points to a Cornbelt Fabric Structure project in Dewitt, Iowa as a prime example of Macon’s expertise in hoop building construction. When River Valley Cooperative came looking for a storage solution to help serve their livestock and grain producing members throughout eastern Iowa and western Illinois, Macon delivered with a 180-foot by 400-foot hoop building that can store up to 2.1 million bushels of corn.

“That was noteworthy because we self-performed a majority of the project,” says Endress. Macon has in-house concrete, millwright, building erection and fabrication divisions, and only needs to call in subcontractors when it comes to dirt work and electrical needs.

Bringing the curtain down

Macon might not have invented the hoop building, but the company is trying to help perfect it for agricultural customers. The company holds a patent for a mesh curtain that can be installed in hoop buildings as a way to increase storage.

“It allows the end user to pile grain taller than they would normally be able to,” says Endress.

Developed by Larry, the black mesh grain curtains are installed on each hoop building, where they are attached to the trusses on either side of the foundation. The net lends some structure to the pile, allowing for increased storage capacity. “We went through the patent process and we pretty much have [the market] cornered with that,” says Endress.

Waves of grain

Endress says the chief advantage of having so many in-house capabilities is the ability to control their own timelines. “Managing timelines is the most difficult piece,” he says. “It is why we have expanded to have different divisions instead of relying on subcontractors’ timeframes.”

Macon employs 75 people and runs three or four crews at a time during the busiest part of the year. Endress cites inclement weather and its impact on construction schedules as a constant concern, but says that Macon has come to earn a reputation as a dependable contractor that can be counted on to deliver a project on time.

“It’s rewarding to get a project done on time and see it that first year at harvest,” he says. For an agricultural concern like a grain elevator, Endress says it’s all about immediate return on investment, and Macon’s roster of professionals can ensure that it’s right and done quickly. “That’s why they entrust us with the job,” says Endress.

Macon is planning on expanding its clientele to the south, with aims on Indiana and Tennessee. Endress says that an expansion of the firm’s fabrication division is also on the horizon, which will allow Macon to do more bridge and tower work in-house.

For now, Macon General Contractors will continue to serve the construction and storage needs of agriculture clients throughout the Midwest with a focus on timeliness, in-house capabilities and innovative storage solutions. 

Strategic Partnership(s): 
J.L. Hubbard Insurance and Bonds