There was a media storm around Janesville, Wis., the second week of October as the Republican candidate for the presidency openly – and very publicly – feuded with the Speaker of the House, who just happened to be back in his home district of Janesville with the election three short weeks away.
But between the nearly wall-to-wall coverage on cable TV and lead stories in all the national news programs, Speaker Paul Ryan slipped away – and took a plant tour at Janesville’s Dalmaray Concrete Products, a third-generation precast plant and longtime NPCA member. The Speaker was not disappointed.
Hosting the elected official who is third in line of succession to the presidency is not your usual plant tour. The security protocol started a week before the visit, said Aaron Ausen, who hosted the tour with his brother Kyle, his father Rob and his grandfather Bob.
“There was a team of about 20 agents who walked through the plant last week,” Ausen said. Then on the day of the visit, “they came early and walked through again to make sure nothing had changed.”
As the agents took up strategic positions throughout the plant, Ausen was prepared for an entourage and a grand entrance by the Speaker of the House. But it didn’t turn out that way.
“He walks in and goes, ‘What’s up, guys?’” Ausen said. Then he almost immediately started asking questions – about the company, the people and the precast. Speaker Ryan may not have known a lot about a precast concrete plant when he walked in, but he certainly did when he walked out.
Ausen showed him the “Take a New Look at Precast” video, told him about NPCA’s involvement with the industry and gave him a brief on two legislative issues important to the precast concrete industry. Then the Dalmaray employees conducted a pouring demonstration to show Ryan the flowable properties of self-consolidating concrete. They ran him through some QC testing and then walked him through a display on Dalmaray’s work on the Rock River Solar Project. Ryan peppered his hosts with questions throughout the visit.
“He’s so smart and so inquisitive,” Ausen said. “He was asking questions left and right about precast.”
But with all the pre-election buzz swirling around, did the nine-term Congressman really want to be there? Apparently he did. Dalmaray’s employees were talking with the security personnel during the visit, wanting to know if the Speaker was enjoying himself. It wasn’t a campaign stop, because the media were not allowed in the plant. A photographer from the Speaker’s staff and Aaron’s wife Ashley were taking pictures, but there were no media cameras.
“He really loves doing this,” the security guys told the Dalmaray employees.
“I think he was actually glad to get out of that spotlight for a while,” Ausen added.
With a rare opportunity to lobby for precast at the highest level of government, Ausen said he wanted to get one point across: that the options with precast are limitless. “We always say that around here, and we made a point to show him a wide range of projects that we’ve done.”
Ryan was impressed with the nearly infinite possibilities, mentioning several times that “precast really is limitless,” Ausen said. Before he left, Speaker Ryan took photos with the three generations of precasters, and he signed a hardhat that will likely be on display in the Dalmaray office for years to come.
“He’s a great guy,” Ausen said. “I think the world of him.” And now, maybe the Speaker of the House thinks the world of precast concrete!