Ben Woolard of Irving Materials Inc. has worked in the concrete industry for 62 years; he has been with IMI since 1973.
“It's been a hell of a ride,” he says of a career that began when he was 14 years old. Woolard got his start doing odd jobs for Debolt Concrete in Richmond, Indiana. “[I started out] just washing windows and doing this and that.”
The concrete world has gone through dramatic changes in the past 60 years. Since 1947 Woolard has seen the development of decorative concrete, the first concrete sports dome at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill., and the introduction of fiber reinforcement to strengthen concrete. Woolard's ascension has reflected the growth of the industry around him. Spending almost his entire life in concrete, Woolard rose from a window-washer and completer of odd-jobs to a manager of five plants in Northeastern Indiana.
“Just moved up,” Woolard says frankly of his career. He began his time at IMI managing its plant in Cambridge, Ind., before he rose in the ranks to manage five plants for the company.
Woolard has seen the industry transform. He saw ready-mix trucks switch from front- to rear-discharge mixing and the price of fuel leap from a dime-a-gallon to $3. “The first concrete I ever sold was $13 a yard, now it's over a hundred dollars,” he says.
Woolard's first job at IMI was as a plant manager and he was a manager at the company for 30 years. When he started, the plant he managed was one of seven IMI owned; today the company has 130 concrete plants. “It has been great seeing the growth,” he says.
Six years ago Woolard semi-retired and became the manager of IMI's used equipment sales. Woolard works less now, but he is still right in the mix at IMI, watching the world of concrete grow.