Ted S. Miller: Integrity and a desire to do the right thing drove this salesman

2013 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

By Marcy Marro

Ted Miller

As this year’s Legacy Award in the Contractor/Installer category, Ted S. Miller has been described as a total salesman. Always working to better the industry, he believed in doing the right thing. After a 10-year battle against Stage 4 colon cancer, Miller passed away in October 2012.

Starting out

Miller’s 40-year career in the metal construction industry began as an award-winning sales engineer for Pittsburgh-based H.H. Robertson Co., working there from 1972-1979. It was there that he met and became friends with Dave Clapperton. As colleagues, Miller and Clapperton had the chance to work together on a number of projects, developing a chemistry together. “We found out that his strengths were often my weaknesses, and my strengths were his weaknesses,” Clapperton says, “and by blending the two, we were a stronger whole.”

When he and Clapperton became disappointed with how Robertson was treating them, they decided to start their own company. Although they ended up leaving Robertson sooner than expected, The Miller-Clapperton Partnership Inc., officially started on October 15, 1979. With the support of their wives, and the products from four manufacturers to sell, Miller and Clapperton set up shop in the Miller’s home in Smyrna, Ga.

For three years, the two worked as manufacturer’s reps, meeting with architects, contractors and engineers. When architects began asking them how to help solve problems with metal that couldn’t be solved out of a product catalog, Clapperton explains that opened a door for them to become a specialty subcontractors of metal solutions. They then started going out and sourcing fabricators that could meet the needs of the architects they were working with and developed specifications accordingly.

By 1984, the company also moved out of his house and into an office down the street, where Miller’s lifelong friend Doug Bruton joined the business as their first employee. As the group worked together, Clapperton and Bruton began to develop a strong bond because of their focus on the production side of the house. Miller, however, was extremely talented at calling on the architects and making the promises. “Doug and I learned how to take Ted’s commitments and promises and turn them into reality,” Clapperton explains. In 1990, Bruton became the third full partner in Miller-Clapperton.

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Ted Miller

In 1988, Ted met with Kit Emert at Reynolds Metals Co., Richmond, Va., to help introduce a competing aluminum composite material product to what was previously a monopoly market. From there, Miller-Clapperton continued to grow and moved out of their offices to a 5,000-square-foot warehouse to open up its first fabrication shop. It wasn’t long before the company expanded into the space next door. Today Miller-Clapperton operates from a 45,000-square-foot building in Austell, Ga.

Since 1989, the company’s focus shifted to aluminum composite material. The company has completed ACM projects all over the United States, mainly in the Southeast, along with Puerto Rico and Mexico. They even dabbled in the international market, beating out 11 international competitors for the Beijing International Airport-Terminal 2 project and supplying a 30-story office re-clad in Hong Kong. Today, as a specialty subcontractor fabricator, Miller-Clapperton provides employment for more than 120 people.

MCA involvement

Emert introduced Miller to the Metal Construction Association (MCA), where he went on to be a board member and awards committee chair. Miller also founded the MCA’s MCM Fabricators Council, was its first Chairman, then chaired the committee to establish the Certified Premium Fabricator program. “[The MCA] was an environment that allowed Ted to flourish, and the more he got involved with the MCA, the more he wanted to be involved,” Clapperton shares. “Not only to grow and to expand the MCM’s fabricator’s council, but to go on and be involved as a board member, and to do things such as chair the program committee.”

In January 2013, Miller was posthumously awarded the MCA’s Larry A. Swaney award for exemplary service to the metal construction industry.

Teaching others

Bruton explains that Miller was most happy to teaching others the proper way to work with metal composite material (MCM), putting on programs in China and South America to teach architects. Miller-Clapperton also held a Reynobond University in Atlanta to teaching dealers, fabricators, distributors and architects about proper MCM techniques.

In addition to writing a weekly blog for Miller-Clapperton, he penned a monthly column, Ted’s MCM Corner, for Metal Architecture magazine. Miller was also a member of the construction advisory board for Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga.

A family man, Miller was a devoted husband to Jo Dendy Miller for 41 years. His two children, Zane and Zeke, are both heavily involved in the business. In his spare time, Miller also served as Deacon, Sunday School teacher, choir member and was on the leadership team of Smyrna First Baptist Church.

As Clapperton explains, Miller’s whole life was an example of integrity. “Ted’s word was his bond … ask anyone who ever worked with him or relied upon him to deliver upon a commitment. His expectations of others were based upon his expectations of himself.”