Since 1961, the Lindsay family has been growing its successful precast business one product at a time.
By Bridget McCrea
There’s a lot to talk about at Lindsay family Thanksgiving dinners. The past year’s vacations, new additions to the family and health issues naturally come up, as do plans for the upcoming holiday season and, oh yes, the family business. The latter doesn’t always hold center stage at the family-oriented events, but with such a percentage of the clan involved with running Canal Fulton, Ohio-based Lindsay Concrete Products and its constituents, shop talk is bound to come up more than once.
Luckily, most of that talk is positive, according to Ron Lindsay, company president and son of founder Roland Lindsay. “We’ve had a very good run of it, with very few negatives,” says Ron. “I grew up in the business and as such have learned the value of hard work through the first generation. I consider myself very lucky for the family and the associates whom I’m surrounded by.”
As a bona fide family business “success story” that’s already pondering a third generation of ownership (most of whom are still in elementary school at present), Lindsay Concrete’s management team includes Ron; Roland; Linda Lindsay (Roland’s wife), secretary/treasurer; Tim Gesaman (Roland’s brother-in-law), vice president; Randy Lindsay-Brisbin, vice president and general manager at Colorado Springs-based Firebaugh Concrete and Mike Hoffman, general manager at the Ohio plant (both of whom are Roland and Linda’s sons-in-law); Steve Ries, CFO; Buzz Morgan, general manager at Alachua, Fla.-based Southern Precast; Aaron Wilson, general manager at Raleigh, N.C.-based Stay-Right Precast; and Jeff Augustine, director of corporate marketing and new product development.
Together, this dynamic team oversees a 350-employee, five-location firm that ships about 300,000 tons of precast concrete products annually. Starting with just five products and one location in 1961, the company has grown its product line to more than 200 offerings that include high-strength concrete vaults used by banks all over the country. By relying on strong family values and a desire to further the success of a company founded by Roland and Linda 44 years ago, the team at Lindsay Concrete knows what it takes to succeed in a competitive industry.
It also knows what it means to deal with challenges that non-family firms don’t think about too often – such as having key family members move away when a new location opens up across the country. “When Randy and our daughter Melanie moved to Colorado to run the new plant out there, it was tough because they took two of our grandchildren with them,” recalls Roland. “Otherwise, everything has worked out very well.”
Spreading its wings
In the 1960s, Roland was a septic tank installer who was hard-pressed to find quality tanks to install at customer locations. Seeing a need in the market, he did as any good entrepreneur would: He started making them himself. From there, he moved on to precast manholes, which at the time weren’t being used in his area. “They were made out of brick,” says Roland. “Through education and perseverance, we were able to convince contractors and municipalities to accept precast instead.”
Roland stuck with his “grow the company by introducing new products” business strategy, introducing everything from drain structures to utility vaults to pump stations along the way. Today, the firm’s major product lines also include catch basins, architectural products, commercial sewage plants, agricultural products, bank vaults and doors, and automatic teller machine enclosures, among others. The company serves a nationwide audience of customers, and has also shipped product overseas to Russia, China, South America and Europe.
As one of Northeastern Ohio’s leading precasters, Lindsay Concrete has enjoyed a “steady and orderly growth,” according to Roland, who admits that some years have been better than others. He adds that the firm has doubled in size over the last seven years based on an annual 10 percent growth in sales. Its Ohio location is the largest of the five, and includes 75,000 square feet of production space on 35 acres of land. The company recently opened a second plant in Ohio, a 12,000-square-foot facility just two miles down the road from its headquarters location to accommodate growth.
In Florida, Southern Precast has a 20,000-square-foot production facility on about 75 acres, while Stay-Right in North Carolina will comprise 27,000 square feet on 64 acres at its new facility. Out west in Colorado, Firebaugh Precast’s two locations include about 45,000 square feet of manufacturing space on 75 acres.
Lindsay Concrete started its geographical expansion in 1986, the year it purchased, in what Ron calls “pasture land” in Gainesville and built Southern Precast from the ground up. Why Florida? According to Ron, the site selection was customer-driven. “We were working to develop a bank vault system for a particular customer and wound up shipping truckload after truckload of product to them in Florida,” says Ron. “It got to the point where they asked us to set up a plant there in order to save on freight costs.”
It would be another 10 years before Lindsay Concrete would again branch out geographically, this time in Colorado. In 1996, the firm purchased Firebaugh Precast, which was owned by NPCA member Bill Firebaugh. Much like the original Lindsay Concrete location, the new addition started out making septic tanks and manholes and has moved into a wider range of products over the last nine years.
“We continue to make septic tanks, but have greatly expanded the manhole business as we’ve gotten involved with more sanitary and storm sewer work,” explains Randy. His two facilities produce about 100,000 tons of concrete products annually, as well as underground utility vaults and bank vaults.
The most recent addition to Lindsay Concrete’s portfolio is Stay-Right Precast, which in conjunction with Southern Precast currently produces about 100,000 tons of precast products each year. The 68-year-old company, which Lindsay Concrete purchased in 2001, specializes in utility products and is currently undergoing an expansion.
“We’re slowly adding more products to the lineup, but we were landlocked there,” says Ron. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the NPCA plant tours, it’s that you can never have enough room. Realizing this, we invested in 64 acres of land just north of Raleigh where we’re going to build a new Stay-Right facility.”
Within a 50-mile radius of Lindsay Concrete’s Ohio plant, there are at least three other large precasters, not to mention the myriad of smaller shops scattered throughout the area. The competition has been both a blessing and a curse for the firm. On one hand, the very existence of such prominent firms makes precast more likely to be the “material of choice” on projects. On the other, it forces the precaster to sharpen its pencil, hone its customer service skills and churn out top-quality products on a continual basis.
“It has forced all of us to be more efficient at what we do,” says Tim Gesaman. “We’ve all pushed for the promotion of the precast advantage, but in doing so we’ve also had to learn how to effectively compete against firms like ours.”
So far, so good for the firm’s five plants, which boast an impressive array of successful (and interesting) projects completed over the last few years. They range from making the security vaults that protect our nation’s Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights; manufacturing a chest for the Smithsonian Institute that now holds the Hope Diamond; building the underground tunnel that leads to Daytona International Speedway’s infield; and creating (in a short amount of time) a 16-foot by 4-foot box culvert that required 50 pours weighing about 25 tons each.
Another of Lindsay Concrete’s claims to fame is its proficiency in making high-strength concrete of 15,000 to 35,000 psi. “We’ve been working with high-strength concrete longer than most people even realize because of our work in the securities industry, making bank vaults and doors, and ATMs,” says Roland. The precaster’s expertise in this area dates back to 1981, the year Diebold Inc. approached the firm about developing precast bank vaults and doors during an era where steel was the material of choice for such products.
“It was all new to us at the time, but attack tools had become so good that steel no longer provided adequate protection against break-ins,” says Roland. “We built a prototype out of high-strength concrete and had it UL-tested to see how long it would take for someone with jack hammers, drills and/or torches to break into it.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Lindsay Concrete makes three different bank vault doors, with the variations based on how long it takes to break into them: half an hour (Class 1), one hour (Class 2) or two hours (Class 3). “The customers decide what kind of rating they want for the vault, based on how much insurance they want to get on its contents,” says Roland.
For the Class 1 vault, the precaster uses a 5-inch panel
that provides the same degree of protection as an 18-inch poured-in-place structure. Precast is also a more flexible option, says Tim, that allows for physical movement to new locations (if so desired by the bank), whereas poured-in-place does not.
Another advantage, he adds, is the fact that the IRS classified the precast structures as machinery/equipment, which permits its owners to depreciate it over a five-year period (as opposed to depreciating for a longer length of time, such as for a building). “That was another big advantage when the precast vaults first hit the market 24 years ago,” says Tim.
More to Come
As an active member of NPCA, Lindsay Concrete’s commitment to quality is demonstrated by its charter membership in the organization and the fact that all of its plants have met the certification standards set forth in the NPCA Quality Control Program. In 2004, four of its plants received a plaque for 15 years of continuous certification.
Lindsay Concrete has also spawned two NPCA presidents – Roland and Tim – and both have played key roles in the growth of the precast concrete industry. Tim is a recipient of the Robert E. Yoakum Award of Merit, and the firm has also worked in the NPCA’s Plant Certification Committee and was among the first plants to be certified. “I really can’t say enough good about the NPCA,” says Roland, who attended the organization’s first meeting in Dayton and hasn’t missed an annual conference since. “The support and camaraderie we received when we were starting out is just unbelievable.”
And as they wait for the next generation to make its way through school and hopefully into the family business, the Lindsay clan is focused on continued, steady growth and success. Some of that growth may be organic in nature (such as the expansion of the Stay-Right plant) while some may come from new acquisitions. Regardless of how it comes, the company’s executive team says it will rely on its stable of dedicated, hard-working employees to help Lindsay Concrete reach the next level.
“Mike, Randy and I have inherited a wonderful thing here,” says Ron, “and we’re just trying to build on the success of the founders.”