Ken Morrison has been instrumental in starting up Hanson's new plant in Houston.
Ken Morrison has been instrumental in starting up Hanson's new plant in Houston.

When it comes to what's happening on the topic of concrete pipe production, Ken Morrison is literally and figuratively right in the middle of things.

Literally, because his office is positioned almost in the middle of a straight line that connects plants representing what was and what will be considered state-of-the-art.

Figuratively, because Morrison is the linchpin of a forward-thinking capital initiative that's transforming his company's position in the Houston market from merely a producer to an important influencer.

It's a position for which Morrison has been well-prepared, and just as importantly, his corporate managers fully support him. Using almost a quarter-century of practical experience, Morrison has proven it is possible to recast concrete pipe from a commodity to a tool in implementing change and improvement. The last year has been an almost story-book tale of how a person with passion for this industry can help mold an image of corporate responsibility and bring about change.

The effort began about two years ago when plans to create the new plant were approved. Morrison, vice president of operations, helped coordinate the grand opening celebration for the Houston plant last spring. The event was a renewal of sorts, as Hanson shared its new operation with hundreds of visitors and customers.

Along with the customary tours and customer receptions, Hanson CEO Richard Manning added a bit of pizazz. Manning's management team announced it would extend the investment beyond the plant's perimeter.

After visitors ogled at the operation, Manning announced that Hanson Pipe & Precast had agreed to a partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science to celebrate the opening of the company's new, state-of-the-art, fully automated facility in Houston.

“We are proud to partner with such a prestigious leader of the Houston community,” said Clifford Hahne, Hanson's South Central region president. “We hope to aid the museum in fulfilling its mission of advancing the knowledge and delight of science education.”

A new path

For years before the new construction, visitors to the pipe plant saw a run-of-the-mill, drab operation. Now, when they take a sharp right hand turn off Hanson Drive, visitors see something vastly different.

The new site reflects the industry's latest technology. The sleek and modern 100,000-square-foot plant is the first of its kind in Texas. It is reported to have the highest capacity of any pipe plant in the country. As such, it has become the model of what Hanson Pipe and Precast sees as the future.

“Our management wants to show the community that our investment is more than just steel and concrete,” said Morrison. “We've worked hard to include our local community in our efforts. I was surprised at how many of these leaders were first-time visitors at our opening.”

Along with showing local community support, Hanson wanted to make a broader statement. Houston is one of its largest markets and a key part of Hanson's South Central operating region based in Grand Prairie, Texas. Its 27 facilities produce reinforced concrete pipe, drainage structures, modular bridges, and pressure pipe.

“In the last two years, after Hurricane Rita, there's been a lot of discussion about proper urban design,” said Morrison. Due to the city's flat topography, proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, and being only about 40 feet above sea level, residents became concerned that sooner or later, a hurricane would brings thousands of gallons of stormwater to their doorsteps. “We saw an opportunity to demonstrate our products' ability to provide a solution,” says Morrison.