On a cold wintery and blustery day, Jackson Concrete can be a tough place to find. Nestled on top of a steep rise, just below the timberline of a heavily wooded hillside, it's mid-day before the sun burns off the area's mist to offer guests a clear view.
While not exactly on the beaten path and not really hidden from view, visitors arriving in bright daylight often have a hard time recognizing the steel and concrete modern building for what it is. The structure's sleek, straightlined form is often misidentified as one of the high tech industrial manufacturing operations that dot the outskirts of the picturesque town of West Bend, Wis.
But to the trained eye, the operation's outward trendy appearance suggests there is more to learn. Driving past the parking area, visitors glimpse space for a fleet of about 15 front-discharge ready-mix trucks, suggesting something about volume. No material stockpiles are in sight. Finally, parking in the visitors lot just outside the contractor store entrance, the visitor sees several examples of decorative flatwork concrete.
There is something special here. Within its 45,600-square-foot enclosed building is as modern a concrete operation as any in North America. The whole scene is an enigma of concrete production. But to the hundreds of fellow producers who have travelled from all parts of the world to see it, this plant a few miles north of Milwaukee offers a glimpse of future efficient concrete production.
And that's the way John “B.J.” Meyer likes it. “We have created a well-managed concrete plant, but we also try to operate below the radar of our competition,” he says. “They know we are here, but we just want to be successful on our own terms.”
Meyer owns and operates the company with his family. He bought Jackson County Concrete more than 17 years ago, when his previous employer of a dozen-plus years wanted out. The affable Meyer says his “employee” purchase, was the culmination of a lifelong dream to own a concrete company. It was more an act of commitment to his fellow workers and loyal customers to create something long lasting. His choice has worked so far. Many of his current employees have remained with Meyer, along with key customers.
When he bought the company, Meyer inherited a plant that had seen better days, was located on a permanent quagmire, and had barely enough supplies, much less cash, to keep running for the next month. With the help of family, employees, and customers, Jackson Concrete moved to a site next to an aggregate operation and quickly developed a strong relationship with the area's construction community.
In 2006, the aggregate operation wanted his leased space for development, so Meyer had to move. That was when he knew he had the chance to design and construct the plant of his dreams. Meyer used the opportunity to transform his company for the next decade. “When you're a family business you have to plan on what will be left for the next generation,” he says.
Thus, the result of the dream is more than a new plant hidden in the mist. Jackson Concrete's new operation should be the goal of every producer. His business strategy incorporates all key company functions: delivery, product quality, and customer support.
READY WHEN THEY NEED IT
For producers who operate in northern climates, profitability comes from efficient winter operations. “Construction here doesn't stop when it snows,” says Meyer. “So when I designed my operation, I wanted to start things up and never worry whether I could operate efficiently in the worst of weather.”