1.) Tell us what the precast industry was like when you got started.
The precast industry was smaller than it is today. Companies were more locally owned. Products were smaller and less complicated. There was less emphasis on standards, quality, safety and inspection. Precasters had no common voice with specifying agencies.
We were a concrete pipe company with mostly machine-made products. Our sales territory was much smaller and our product line was limited. Products that we routinely supply today were constructed in the field. There was plenty of skilled labor and contractors had a mindset against using precast.
2.) Why did you get involved with NPCA and decide to become chairman?
Rodney Smith, of Smith Cattleguard Co., called and asked me to join the National Precast Concrete Association, which was going to Europe on a study tour with BIBM, the international concrete congress. I joined and went on an 18-day trip with a group of strangers who would turn out to be lifetime friends. From then on it was trips, plant tours, meetings all over the world and a true learning experience. It was also a chance to build my business.
I did not just decide to become chairman. It was a natural progression from participation in the sections and committees, work on the Planning Council, serving on the Board and serving on the Executive Committee that led to going through the chairs to chairman.
3.) What was the best thing you accomplished as chairman?
I cannot take credit for most of what was accomplished during my term as chairman because it was a team effort among myself, our Board of Directors and our past chairmen helping to steer our course. Highlights of my chairmanship included establishment of NPCAEF, or our Scholarship Fund as it was first called. Mary Beth was instrumental in founding the partners group of NPCA Spouses, which was enjoyed for many years.
4.) What’s your favorite NPCA memory?
My favorite NPCA memories include time spent on our first BIBM trip to Switzerland, Austria and Germany getting to know the members, seeing my daughter Mimi Coles become NPCA Chairperson, seeing my wife Mary Beth receive the Yoakum Award and receiving the Yoakum Award myself.
5.) How has precast as a product changed over the years?
Precast has withstood the test of time, all the while improving with new methods, new designs, new admixtures, a concentration on quality and plant safety, and a network of precasters and associates who join together to promote the acceptance of our products.
6.) How did the friendships formed via NPCA impact your business and life?
NPCA is one extended family to us. When we travel we have friends in every city. When we need some information about our work, we can always remember a plant where they have already “invented the wheel” and are ready to help their fellow precaster with a solution to the problem.
7.) When you first got involved with NPCA, did you envision it becoming what it is today?
When we first joined NPCA, we saw a bright future for the group because lots of parents brought their children to the meetings as a vacation. Through the years, those children have become the new leaders of our industry with fresh ideas to guide us to greater heights; building the network for the future and continuing to represent the spectrum from small, family-owned plants to multiple operations.