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From Beirut to Houston: An Underground Success Story

Tue August 08, 2023 - West Edition #17
Joe Jancsurak – CEG CORRESPONDENT


As a  general contractor performing work on and installation of storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water lines and roadways, TCL’s major business is municipal work for the city of Houston and surrounding counties.
(Total Contracting Limited photo)
As a general contractor performing work on and installation of storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water lines and roadways, TCL’s major business is municipal work for the city of Houston and surrounding counties. (Total Contracting Limited photo)
As a  general contractor performing work on and installation of storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water lines and roadways, TCL’s major business is municipal work for the city of Houston and surrounding counties.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) Boutros Merhi (R) owns one of the nation’s premier underground utility companies, Houston’s Total Contracting Limited (TCL). The company is assisted by NED Salesman David Keys.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) Launched 12 years after Merhi emigrated, the firm has 55 to 75 employees depending on its work load, an impressive resume of municipal, residential and commercial projects.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) Today, the journeyman electrician oversees a business credited with 35 municipal, commercial and residential projects, resulting in annual revenue of about $20 million and year-over-year growth of about 10 percent. 
(Total Contracting Limited photo) The Kirby Drive project was a milestone achievement for TCL as it installed the first 14-ft. by 12-ft. box culvert in Houston’s history. The box was installed at 27-ft. deep.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) Discussing the Kirby Drive Project (L-R) are Luke Morganti, former TCL superintendent; Jeff Chuckwu, city of Houston (COH) project manager; Boutros Merhi, TCL general partner; Bill White, former COH mayor; and Daniel Krueger, former COH public works director.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) TCL’s Boutros Merhi’s meeting with Pope Francis was arranged by his church in Houston as a show of appreciation for TCL’s financial support of the church’s parking-lot remodeling project.
(Total Contracting Limited photo) Boutros Merhi, founder of Total Contracting Limited, shown in front of flags representing his homeland Lebanon and the United States.
(Total Contracting Limited photo)

He left his home in Beirut, Lebanon when he was 25, arriving in Houston in 1987 with just $20 in his pocket. Today, Boutros Merhi owns one of the nation's premier underground utility companies, Houston's Total Contracting Limited (TCL). Launched 12 years after Merhi emigrated, the firm has 55 to 75 employees depending on its work load, and an impressive resume of municipal, residential and commercial projects.

Boutros Merhi (R) and NED Salesman David Keys

Merhi traces his road to success to Beirut, where he did concrete work as a goal-driven teenager and into his 20s.

"In Beirut, there are so many concrete buildings, there was always work and my goal was to come to the United States, said Merhi, who saved his money to immigrate to Houston, where he had friends.

Once here, he worked tirelessly, attending Houston Community College where he received his electrician's degree while working long days for Simplex Construction Management, doing concrete and electrical work. In fact, for six years, Merhi worked 18-hour days, building both his knowledge and bank account that would eventually enable him to launch TCL .

"When I was doing electrical work for Simplex Electric," Merhi said, "I was also assisting the underground utility contractors and learning what it takes to prepare projects for the pouring of concrete slabs and what's necessary, all the while saving a significant amount to start my business."

Today, the journeyman electrician oversees a business credited with 35 municipal, commercial and residential projects, resulting in annual revenue of approximately $20 million and year-over-year growth of approximately 10 percent.

Working with National Equipment Dealers has been instrumental to the company's success.

"I've dealt with NED, formerly Four Seasons Equipment, since 1999 and I've known David Keys," Merhi said. "He is a great help to our company and we've grown together. Every time we need equipment, he was there to supply us. [David Keys] put priority to our company so we can meet our goals doing the job."

As a general contractor performing work on and installation of storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water lines and roadways, TCL's major business is municipal work for the city of Houston and surrounding counties. Such projects present a host of challenges, most notably those recently posed by a drainage system project calling for the city of Houston's biggest-ever concrete box culvert at 14-ft. by 12-ft. and used to channel water as part of a drainage system.

"The city of Houston initiated this project to alleviate the flooding in the Houston Medical Center at Kirby Drive," explained Merhi.

The box culvert, serving as an underground detention pond, called for the pouring of concrete 7-ft. deep and the installation of a wellpoint system for lowering the water table on a 27-ft. wide roadway. The lifting and positioning of the box called for a Leibher excavator 964 crane, which TCL owns, along with several Hyundai excavators, loaders, mixers, bull dozers, backhoes, brooms and rollers. The company performs all its own equipment maintenance.

"This project serves as an example of how TCL has grown steadily over the past 20 years, going from being a small concrete contractor to one of the area's largest contractors with extensive experience in water, storm, sewage and roadway construction projects, including structures," said Merhi. "We expect this growth to continue into the foreseeable future." CEG




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