J.T. Lendrum, NPCA President, 1975
1.) Tell us what the precast industry was like when you got started?
Most producers started in the burial vault industry, which gave them some common background. Most were small by current standards. Products were typically septic tanks, small products and steps. Product lines were not as diverse as today for most members. A big factor in the beginning was the Canadian producers who were a major part of the group.
I did not attend the first meeting, our partner Reese Lawyer attended. He reported back that, like us, everyone believed it was a great idea and should be followed up but he questioned whether this was the group. Our primary motivator, Bob Yoakum, died before the meeting which created some confusion.
2.) Why did you get involved with NPCA and decide to become chairman?
Part of my interest might be mercenary. We had a mold and septic truck business and everyone was a potential customer. On the other hand, I knew almost all the producers and, in many cases, may have helped them get started.
My father, A.M. Lendrum, was on the road selling equipment a great deal of the time and this made my name public. With this start, it was a natural position and I was honored when the group selected me.
3.) What was the best thing you accomplished as chairman?
Bob Walton created our home base with his company. I believe I had a lot of influence bringing Bob on board as our director and establishing NPCA’s home office. Bob had the experience to make NPCA more than it was and without his steady hand the association probably would have faltered.
4.) What’s your favorite NPCA memory?
My favorite memories are creating close relationships with the members, particularly at our conventions and on-site trips. Our family developed relationships that we still have today. I had many friends from the U.S. and Canada, which means a lot to me. I like them all. We learned as much during the social interaction sessions as we did in the meetings. I guess the modern term is networking!
5.) How has precast as a product changed over the years?Precast is more a story of materials and handling equipment. As the equipment improved and got larger, it permitted the size of items cast and product lines to evolve. Also, the need for quality control became key to our product line. Possibly above all is the willingness of NPCA producers to try anything, “You dream it, we will produce it.”
6.) How did the friendships formed via NPCA impact your business and life?
In just about every way –aside from my friends in our community, my closest friends are in the precast industry along with a few hangovers from the military. It was nice to be able to converse and socialize with people that had the same experiences. We had some wonderful trips and great experiences with NPCA friends. Some of the fun we had is better left unprinted.
7.) When you first got involved with NPCA, did you envision it becoming what it is today?
No way. Most organizations dry up after a few years and it was probably the late ’80s before I figured NPCA was strong enough to survive. We had times where they had to pass the hat to cover the cost of meetings and even then there were some difficult times for NPCA. The group was built on the dedication of primarily small family companies with great spirit and work ethic. We must keep bringing in the new blood and, most important, the Bob Waltons and Ty Gables of the world must be well considered by producer members.
Editor’s Note: NPCA celebrated 50 years at its Annual Convention in Minnesota, October 2015. This year-long series honors past chairmen who helped establish the association as a leading voice for the precast concrete industry.