Whether it’s collaborating with an environmental consultant or speaking to laborers in the field, Niles Owen is comfortable doing it all.
Now only 25 years old, Owen was first introduced to the industry at age 19, when he was looking for something to fill his free time when it was the off-season for the junior hockey league he was playing in. He ended up working for an underground-construction company in Michigan, from March through September.
He liked the work so much, he went back to the job for both the following off-season and the one after that.
“I loved being outside, I loved working hard,” Owen said. “I liked how every day it was something different.”
Owen eventually found his way to Michels Corp., working first as an intern in May 2015 after finishing his sophomore year at Marian University. He spent that summer and the following one working on the Wisconsin Public Service’s system modernization project, or SMRP, which involved moving of hundreds of miles of overhead power lines to an underground system.
Owen was charged with overseeing the project’s environmental-protection requirements. Specifically, he worked with an environmental consultant hired by the utility company to ensure no soil being dug up found its way into nearby wetlands.
“My job was to protect wetlands from soil erosion,” he said.
This was no small task either, given the area’s soil conditions and the number of crews working on the project.
Two years later, he graduated from Marian with a degree in business administration, then joined Michels full-time as an estimator in the company’s Underground Line and Cable group. For now, Owen specializes mainly in putting together estimates on smaller, local projects in the state.
Owen said he finds satisfaction knowing that his work will usually help improve life for anyone affected. He has done everything from installing fiber-optic cable to bring people faster internet service to doing work to stabilize power grids.
Michels officials note that Owen, at only 25, has experience working both in the office and in the field. As a result, he’s comfortable collaborating with just about anyone.
“He is eager to learn as much as possible, and is able to work easily with customers, suppliers and colleagues,” Josh DeBruine, general manager of the company’s Underground Line and Cable group, said in nominating Owen.
What’s more, Owen has found a way to share his success story in the construction industry with those who may never have considered it for a career. He routinely tells students at Marian, where he graduated not even a year ago, about career opportunities.
“I definitely think it will broaden students’ horizons to understand … any kind of degree you get, you can find a place in construction,” he said.