By Mason Nichols
Photos courtesy of Mayer Brothers Inc.
NPCA members work together to implement a precast solution for a large-scale wastewater project with difficult site conditions in Maryland.
After a relaxing weekend, you wake up Monday morning full of optimism and vigor. You eat a healthy breakfast, pour some coffee and start the car for the commute to work.
As you pull out of the driveway, your phone rings. It’s a coworker. He warns you about a traffic jam on your route. Thanks to his heads up, you take a different road and arrive on time for your 8 a.m. meeting.
When you arrive at home later that day, you continue the improvement project you started over the weekend, but the tool you need stops working. Luckily, your neighbor lends you his tool to finish before the sun sets.
Navigating through life’s many obstacles can be challenging. Thankfully, we can rely on others to help us reach our goals. Such is the case in the precast concrete industry, where precasters turn to peers for advice, support and occasionally, direct assistance.
For more than 30 years, Nancy Mayer, president of Elkridge, Md.-based Mayer Brothers Inc., has worked hard to ensure the continued success of her company. During that time, she has also focused on building her industry network through the many opportunities made available by the National Precast Concrete Association.
“I’ve served on a lot of different committees and the board, so over the past 30 years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people,” she said. “I’ve built a lot of great relationships and made a lot of friends.”
One of those friendships took root in 2007 at NPCA’s 42nd Annual Convention on Maui. There, Nancy and her husband connected with Ginger and Tommy Jarrett of Ashland City, Tenn.-based Jarrett Concrete Products and Supply. Though Nancy had met Ginger and Tommy separately at previous events, she never had the opportunity to speak with both at the same time. The resulting conversations turned what was a simple work relationship into a close friendship.
Ginger said she and Tommy immediately knew that Nancy brought plenty of information and business acumen to the table. As a result, Nancy and the Jarretts continued learning from one another and working together in the years after the convention.
“We would visit each other’s plants and bounce ideas off one another,” Ginger said. “I found Nancy to be a wealth of knowledge.”
As a result of those conversations, Nancy and Ginger eventually worked together on a project involving the use of a new, innovative precast concrete solution developed by Jarrett Concrete.
The perfect solution
As on-site wastewater development ramped up in the ‘90s, Tommy recognized an industry need for a higher-quality precast tank, so he began devising plans for a new product. He perfected his design over the years, eventually deciding on a one-piece solution. The system, called Top Tight, is manufactured with risers cast in and no joints in the boots. It is particularly useful on projects with difficult site conditions.
In recent years, Jarrett Concrete manufactured hundreds of Top Tight tanks for a housing development in Mississippi. The tanks performed well and remained watertight even with the site’s high water table.
Despite Top Tight’s proven effectiveness, Ginger and Tommy needed a push to get the product into more markets – a problem they had discussed with Nancy. Nancy’s advice was to obtain a patent for the system, which could then be licensed to precasters interested in using it on their projects.
Nancy had worked with Rodney Smith of Smith-Midland Corp. decades earlier to obtain patents on two of her own products, so she connected the Jarretts with Smith to help walk them through the process.
“Ginger and Tommy visited me and we went out to meet with Rodney, who was delightful and very helpful,” Nancy said. “He opened his doors to them and hooked them up with the same patent attorney we had used years ago.”
Ginger expressed deep gratitude for Smith’s assistance.
“I found his information and time to be invaluable, and I’m forever grateful for him visiting with us,” she said. “He was instrumental in all of this.”
With Smith’s help, the Top Tight system is currently patent pending.
Southern Kent Island
In 2016, Nancy learned about a job on Southern Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County, Md. The $34 million project called for the installation of more than 700 on-site wastewater tanks over the course of four years. Each of the tanks will be connected into a new, 8-mile-long sewer line leading to a wastewater treatment plant. Initially, Nancy had no interest in the job.
“The contract specifications were really tight, because, essentially, these tanks are going underwater in some places,” she said. “They absolutely have to be watertight, and I know how hard it is to make a regular tank perfectly watertight 100% of the time.”
But the Jarretts knew about the project too, and were confident the Top Tight system would be the perfect solution. Plus, they were sure Nancy and Mayer Bros. would do excellent work.
“I knew that Nancy would manufacture the product correctly and with the highest quality,” Ginger said.
With the support of the Jarretts and the many advantages of the Top Tight system in mind, Mayer Bros. became the first Top Tight franchisee and placed a bid. Two other traditional tanks were preliminarily approved, but Mayer Bros. won the contract to manufacture all the tanks for Phase I of the Southern Kent Island project.
The timing couldn’t have worked out better for Nancy’s company, which had relied on the production of another type of on-site tank for years. But that product line had experienced a steady decline in sales.
“We had let the advanced treatment systems become a huge part of our business, but the governor of Maryland slashed the market for them,” she said. “Overnight, with one proclamation from the governor, we lost a lot of business. The fact that this contract was coming saved us.”
The result is a product that perfectly fits the needs of Mayer Bros. and Southern Kent Island. In addition to being consistently watertight, the Top Tight tanks also boast incredible strength. Because the tanks move wastewater from each home to the treatment facility, they are mostly empty. This, combined with external forces from the soil, means each tank is under a considerable amount of pressure similar to the loading conditions experienced in a traffic-bearing location. But thanks to the tank’s innovative design, it can stand up to these conditions and provide a long-term, durable solution for homeowners.
Mayer Bros. is committed to producing six Top Tight tanks for the project each week. All parties, including the precaster, contractor and owner, are pleased with the work completed thus far.
A little help
Before 2016, Ginger wasn’t actively involved in NPCA.
“Ginger and Tommy used to come to the conventions, but they weren’t on any committees and didn’t participate that much,” Nancy said. “Each year, as Ginger wrote her checks , she would say, ‘I don’t know if it’s worth it. I don’t think I’m going to do this again.’”
But Nancy offered Ginger one key piece of advice that changed her outlook on the future and inspired her to engage more with the association.
“Ginger, you’re going to get twice back what you put into it, but if you put nothing in, you’re going to get twice nothing in return,” she said.
As a result, Ginger is now an engaged member of the NPCA Water and Wastewater Product Committee and works hard to positively impact the precast concrete industry. She has seen the association’s value first-hand and is eager to participate.
Thanks to their ongoing relationship, both Nancy and the Jarretts are getting plenty in return, offering more proof that we can all get by with a little help from our friends.
Mason Nichols is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s external communication and marketing manager.