1.) Tell us what the precast industry was like when you got started.
Before I became involved in the precast concrete industry, I was a dairy farmer who had grown up on a farm. After completing my military obligation, I began farming on my own. I decided to change careers after seven years. At the time, my father had a small precast business making septic tanks. So, I moved 100 miles from home to set up my own septic tank manufacturing plant.
The state of Wisconsin was changing specifications for septic tanks that required them to be watertight and one piece below water level. We checked with several form manufacturers. My father had designed and built our own septic tank and drywell forms. We used my father’s designs and started to learn more about concrete products. All I knew at the time was that mixing cement, sand, gravel and water made concrete. We used extra cement in our mix and our septic tanks were a higher quality than our competitors. In six years, we had the majority of business in our area.
As business prospered, we kept getting more requests for more precast concrete. At the time, I received a lot of help from engineers of our cement suppliers, plus the Portland Cement Association had an engineer assigned to the agricultural market and our admixture suppliers. These men spent a lot of time at Wieser Concrete designing products and different mixes.
We then received a one-page flyer in the mail about a group having a meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., for an organization of precast concrete producers. We were a group of concrete manufacturers interested in advancing our industry. In the early years, I was also involved with ASTM establishing the standards for our industry.
2) How has precast as a product changed over the years?
Over the years, precast concrete has become more exact and of higher quality. There is still a lot of work to be done for owners, engineers and suppliers to think about precast concrete first before other industries. Plant certification has done a lot to improve the image of precast concrete. It has also helped get precast concrete specified and accepted on many jobs.
3) Why did you get involved with NPCA and decide to become chairman?
We got involved with NPCA at our first meeting in Buffalo, N.Y. Everyone we met was so kind to us. We asked a question about precast concrete and they would answer us. They all wanted to help this farm boy from Wisconsin. My relationship with the early founders of NPCA grew from there. At first, I was the Agricultural Products chairman. I also served as the chairman of Production and Distribution Committee for many years.
The first meeting to start plant certification was held in my motel room in Denver, Colo. In the early years, the Portland Cement Association assigned a person to work with NPCA on advertising and marketing. For two years, this person from PCA, Bob Walton with NPCA, and I met at O’Hare Airport once a month to work on marketing for NPCA. The reason I became so involved was because the more involved I was with NPCA, the more I learned from the people I was working with. Bob and Janet Walton were very family oriented. Our wives were always welcomed at our activities. Becoming chairman was a natural move after serving on the board for three terms.
4) What was the best thing you accomplished as a chairman?
I became president or chairman during the time Bob Walton was positioning himself for retirement. The association was moving to a full-time president and staff. The Board and Planning Council spent many hours discussing the services NPCA should provide for its members. I also served five years on Long Range Planning Council, where all ideas were discussed in detail at a three-day meeting.
5) How did the friendships formed via NPCA impact your business and life?
NPCA became a very big part of our social and family life. Our family scheduled our life around the family business. Our children have many lasting friends around the association. The parents are friends of ours. Now, the children carry on the tradition, like with the Lindsay, Gavin and Vaughn families. When we went on motor home trips, we always stopped at precast plants.
6) What’s your favorite NPCA memory?
My favorite NPCA memory was the year I received the Yoakum Award, Gimmicks and Gadgets Award, and was elected secretary/treasurer all in the same convention. One of the main things NPCA did was the many study tours of Europe, England, Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and BIBM conferences we attended. I learned so much about plant design and business management. We would all get back in the bus and discuss what we saw. I also remember the time E.C. Babbert and I went to a meeting in Chicago about septic tank design at the Hilton. E.C. did not have a room so we shared my room. The room was so small we could not get out of bed at the same time.
7) When you first got involved with NPCA, did you envision it becoming what it is today?
When I first got involved with NPCA, it was a group of precasters working together to help themselves and the industry.
No, I am not surprised how the association has grown and moved forward because of the attitude of the members wanting to help each other and themselves. There still is a lot of room to grow. Mary and I cannot thank NPCA enough for all the long-term friendships and all the help growing our family business.