Aaron Ausen’s profile as a third-generation precaster who is fully committed to his family’s business makes him an ideal member of the NPCA Educational Foundation Board of Directors. But what makes Ausen unique is his status as the first NPCAEF scholarship recipient to sit on the board since it was formed in 1989.
Ausen graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2006 with a civil engineering degree, aided in part by three years of scholarships from the Foundation and three other scholarships. “There’s really no way I could have gone to school without them,” he said.
After graduation, he immediately returned to Dalmaray Concrete Products in Janesville, Wis., to join the company full-time. He had been working at the plant Saturdays and summers since he was about 12, but armed with his civil engineering degree, he brought additional knowledge back to the plant.
“Getting the degree has brought a little different aspect to the company,” Ausen said. “You get a greater respect for the calculations and the codes behind the concrete work that you do. Taking the knowledge from school and applying it here in being able to calculate capacities of beams and pads and things like that really helps out.”
One of the major changes Ausen helped to institute was in the reinforcing of Dalmaray’s products, particularly septic tanks. “We have completely changed our way of reinforcing all our products,” he said. “The first day I got out of college I came back here and threw everything away, started over and recalculated everything.” The result was an immediate improvement in quality and higher customer satisfaction.
Ausen learned the precast business from both his father and grandfather. His grandfather, Robert D., bought the business from an uncle in 1957. His father, Robert J., earned an industrial engineering degree at Wisconsin in the early 1980s and brought that expertise to the company. Aaron’s civil engineering background added another technical aspect to the wealth of precasting experience. “We’ve got a lot of minds here working,” he said. “It makes for some interesting days, but it’s nice. You know one thing I never get sick of saying is that it’s so nice to work in a family business. It’s something not everybody can say, and it’s something I pride myself on – that I get to go to work with my dad and my grandpa and my brothers.”
As for Ausen’s younger brothers, Craig, 23, recently graduated from Wisconsin, and Kyle, 18, is a high school senior. They’ve been listening to older brother Aaron encourage them to apply for scholarships for years. “I’ve preached to them a thousand times, just fill out the applications and do the work to get those scholarships,” he said. “I think that the biggest thing we can do right now is encourage the younger generation to do the work to put together the application.”
As a new NPCAEF board member, he also believes strongly in NPCA’s educational courses. Both he and his father regularly attended NPCA conventions and trade shows and took advantage of the educational offerings. “Actually, I think I learned more about mix design from the NPCA schools than I did in college,” he said. “My dad and I took a lot of the classes when I was younger.”
In addition to his NPCAEF Board duties, Ausen also serves as the vice president of the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association and is active with the Wisconsin Precast Concrete Association. In 2010, WOWRA named him its “person of the year” for his efforts at advancing the on-site water recycling industry. Ausen has been an outspoken proponent for studying the effects of corrosion on septic tanks, and is part of the WPCA’s effort to understand the effects and then build tanks that can better withstand corrosion. All of these make Ausen well positioned to serve on the NPCAEF, according to Doug McLaughlin, NPCAEF president and vice president of the Precast Division for U.S. Concrete.
“Aaron brings a fresh perspective and a lot of energy to the Board, because he’s not only passionate about the precast industry but he’s also passionate about education,” McLaughlin said. His experience in the plant and as a former scholarship recipient gives him a well-rounded background for our Board.”
As a hands-on manager at a family-owned plant with about 15 employees, Ausen will be able to relate to the challenges faced by the production and management teams and bring that sensitivity to the NPCAEF as the Board considers educational initiatives that go beyond the scholarship program.
“I have my hands in a lot of different things,” he said. “I’m on the production floor some days as a production-type manager, but I also do a lot of bidding and sales calls. I go where I’m needed. There are some days when I’m sitting in front of my computer for 10 hours doing drawings and working up quotes, and other days I’ll spend 10 hours out on the floor.”
For more information about the NPCA Educational Foundation, visit http://foundation.precast.org.