Buena Vista, Colorado
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Precast concrete structures
Owner and President Derrick Eggleston is riding a wave of growth using innovative materials.
Eggleston's parents, Frank and Vicki, bought Valley Precast from founder Jim Burrow in 1995. After teaching at a high school in Vail, Eggleston moved south and joined the company a year later. "They wanted to be closer to the grandkids and we wanted to get out of Vail," says Eggleston, who took over day-to-day operations when Frank and Vicki retired in 2000.
A native of eastern Wyoming, Eggleston studied chemistry and earth sciences at University of Wyoming in Laramie. "Believe it or not, my education actually set me up pretty good for this job," says Eggleston.
The company makes precast concrete tanks and other precast structures, largely for use in stormwater and wastewater management. "About 60 percent of our business is manufacturing concrete structures," says Eggleston. "The other 40 percent we offer other people's equipment that we build into our structures and sell as complete systems," including fire protection and pumping systems. "We work with a lot of different materials from a lot of different suppliers."
Valley Precast was a first mover when the concrete industry made a big shift in the last decade. "In our manufacturing process, we're one of the first companies to bring SCC, or self-consolidating concrete, into wastewater products," he says. "We were able to pioneer SCC tied with a plastic fiber rebar."
Not only is it safer and easier to install, but SCC is a superior product, Eggleston says. "The mix actually revolves around a superplasticizer that allows for less water but makes for stronger concrete," he explains. "It allows it to flow better, more like a pancake batter."
It's also proven a big catalyst for growth, and it all stems from Valley Precast building a new plant on four acres in 2012. The design and equipment revolved around the move into SCC.
"The State of Colorado changed a lot of requirements for wastewater products in 2014," says Eggleston. "We saw it coming. A lot of companies went out of business because they didn't plan enough ahead. It's done nothing but elevate our business."
SCC now represents a full 95 percent of Valley Precast's sales as the entire precast industry has moved in the same direction.
With a focus on the residential and commercial markets, Valley Precast services a wide swath of the Rockies. "We cater to the Western Slope and the Intermountain region," says Eggleston. The company has customers in 25 Colorado counties in all, from "Steamboat all the way down to Blanca," not to mention some jobs on the Front Range and neighboring states. "We have gone to southern Wyoming, and we've dipped into New Mexico."
Valley Precast has grown from two employees in 1995 to 18 in 2017, and sales jumped by 28 percent in 2016. Eggleston expects a similar number in 2017. "Obviously, the economy's growth has helped a lot," he says. "Our trademark is a quality product and great service. We've packaged that for 22 years and people keep coming back."
Challenges: "For my company, along with every other company in mountain towns, it's the ability to find employees," says Eggleston. "To find blue-collar workers who are willing to jump in and get dirty, it's becoming a struggle."
But Valley Precast has "a great crew," he adds. Eggleston's HR strategy: "Pay them well, and fight tooth and nail to get them health insurance."
Opportunities: Working with engineers to get involved with their development projects. "We try to cater to engineers who design projects and get in at the front end," says Eggleston. "A lot of our growth is driven by that."
He adds, "It used to be we knew engineers within a 30-mile radius. Now it's a 200-mile radius."
Needs: Eggleston's looking at buying a couple new trucks for the business, but otherwise feels Valley Precast is nicely positioned for continued growth. "We're in a pretty good spot," he says. "We're fortunate."