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History

Family-owned for three generations, dating back to 1957.

Designing Excellence. Building Trust.™ That is the foundation upon which the MSI General family is built. As this veteran-owned, family-oriented business moves into another decade of service, we are proud to share with you the story of our past.

Humble Roots with a Solid Foundation

Located in Nashotah with deep roots throughout Lake Country, MSI General has a rich history spread over three generations of Debbink family ownership. Anchored by employee-written core values and rooted in family and community service, MSI General continues to focus on the future by guaranteeing the work made to create our clients’ visions.


Time has really taught me that the more you give, the more you get back in ways you never could have imagined. – Dirk Debbink, Chairman & CEO since 2012

Founded in 1957 by Claude Debbink and his son Pete under the name Metal Structures Inc., the company was one of the first fully integrated DesignBuild companies in the state. The story of the business begins with modest roots in the Debbink’s Oconomowoc home where the office was located from 1957 to 1963 and Dirk’s mother was the bookkeeper. The shop was in the carriage barn on the property where Dirk started working when he was around 13. As with many companies just starting off, there were struggles and challenges to endure and overcome.


But all of those challenges, in hand with our core values, define us and make us stronger. – Dirk Debbink

From 1963 to 1974, the company operated out of downtown Oconomowoc at the four corners, where Pete Debbink’s office was right on the corner, overlooking the intersection. Dirk used to stop by the office when he walked home from Junior High…stopping at the Daytime Bakery (long gone now) to buy a day-old donut for a nickel. MSI General moved again to its current location in 1974 and just two years later, officially changed their name from Metal Structures Inc to MSI General Corporation.

In 1983, Dirk officially joined the company and by 1991, rose to president. His naval career called him back to active duty in 2007 when he transitioned to Chairman of MSI General and left to serve as chief of navy reserve on the staff of chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. His distinguished naval career of 35 years started with his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering, and included 11 years on active duty and 24 years on reserve until he retired as a three-star Navy Vice Admiral in 2012.

On his return to MSI General, Dirk found a company that had grown but was ready to step up to the challenge of leading the company once again. With deep family ties, the need to balance work and family is an integral key to success that is enforced through the company’s core values of integrity, commitment, trust, passion, and teamwork.


One of our biggest responsibilities is not just to our employees, but to their families and our community. I take that very seriously. – Dirk Debbink

Timeline:

1957
Metal Structures Inc. is founded in Oconomowoc, WI by Claude Debbink and his son Pete at their family home.

1963
Moved office to downtown Oconomowoc.

1965
Richard R. Bertrand joins Metal Structures Inc.

1974
Moved office to current Nashotah location.

1976
Changed company name to MSI General Corporation as business expanded beyond metal structures.

MSI General shop facility constructed in Hartland, WI.

1983
Dirk Debbink, Pete’s son, joins the team.

1986
Richard Bertrand becomes President of MSI General.

1991
Pete Debbink retires, Dirk Debbink becomes President, and Richard Bertrand becomes CEO.

Single Source Responsibility™ is trademarked.

1998
MSI General renovates Nashotah office.

1999
Designing Excellence. Building Trust.™ is trademarked.

2007
Dirk Debbink becomes a Three-Star Admiral in the Navy, taking over command of the Navy Reserve.

Dirk becomes Chairman of MSI General as he is called back to active duty for the Navy.

2013
Dirk Debbink retires from the Navy and returns to MSI General as the chairman.

2017
MSI General celebrates 60th anniversary and completely renovates interior of office.

2017 • 2018 • 2019
Milwaukee Business Journal awards MSI General:

  • Top Veteran-Owned Firm
  • Top Architecture Firm
  • Top Construction Firm