Building business on ‘The Rock’

It started with the simple quest to evaluate a partially-completed rig owned by a company in bankruptcy. Just over two years later, it has become a 350 employee company with a vision centered on faith. Loadcraft Industries in Brady held a grand opening of a new plant in Brownwood last Friday. The highly-specialized machine shop has state-of-the- art metal-working machines. The main purpose of that facility is to build and assemble specialized parts to be used in the construction of drilling rigs built at the Brady plant. “This plant in Brownwood stemmed from the search for a way to improve our productivity in the construction of the draw works housings for the rigs we use,” said Terry McIver, president of Loadcraft. “The draw works are extremely specialized and a major portion of each rig we build. We were relying on parts purchased or made by six or seven different vendors and our production times were dictated by the schedules of each of those vendors. “Since we started this business in 2004, we have spent more than $2.5 million on purchasing parts that are used to make these units. This plant in Brownwood was designed specifically to deliver a draw works component to us that is complete, built by us to our specifications and ready to put in place.” The new plant in Brownwood was formerly an old brick manufacturing plant that was more recently a hardwood floor manufacturing warehouse. The 42,000 square foot facility was completely renovated and the 41-acre lot on which it sits was virtually cleared. State-of-the-art machines de-signed to produce specialized metal parts have been purchased to keep the 27 employees busy supplementing the efforts and needs of the Brady plant. It’s all about the people With only two people on staff when the company was purchased in October 2004, McIver and his fellow investors began the rebuilding process that soon began to take on a life of its own. By February 2005, there were 43 employees. When June rolled on by, the total had risen to 137 and by February 2006, 219 names were on the payroll, and the company was still growing. “Another fact is that we have not had any layoffs and don’t anticipate any in the forseeable future,” said Reece McIver, vice president of manufacturing operations. “To the contrary, we are planning to continue adding to the workforce in the weeks and months ahead.” In talking about how the daily operations of the Loadcraft facility have flourished over the past two years, Terry McIver firmly states that everything traces back to one main theme’Jesus Christ. “The entire reality of this plant and everything that has been happening here since we began back in 2004 is that God has anointed this business from the beginning,” said McIver. “Nothing that you can see here at Loadcraft today could have happened without God being involved in every aspect of every decision made. And just as important as our faith are the people who work here. God has brought them here, and they are the reason this company has been successful.” There is a trio of employees who have been with the company since the beginning, and even before, when it was under the guise of a different name and different owners. These men take faith and prayer to heart with weekly prayer vigils in the conference room of the facility. Each Monday for the past several years, Bobby Covey, Dennis Cook and Gary Weatherman have spent time praying for the company, the workers and the families that are directly and indirectly affected by the mission that has become one of the largest employers in the area. “It’s not just the praying, but it is believing that God is in control of this business,” said McIver. “Without that faith and belief, we would not be where we are today.” Commitment to the People and the Community The Loadcraft facilities were initially created in the 1940s and 50s during the early growth of Brady. Since that time, the facilities have seen several different owners perform numerous different types of businesses. When the company was purchased in 2004, the industry just happened to be poised for a boon that would soon have Loadcraft management scrambling to bring the facility up to code as well as to keep up with production demands. In the first two years of business, more than $2.5 million in improvements and expansion have been put back into the Brady facility to provide better equipment and improved production capabilities. An additional $500,000 has been spent on electrical upgrades to the plant to improve the safety of the working environment. “We have put a tremendous amount of money back into the business to show our employees that we are committed to a safe and productive facility,” said McIver. Besides upgrading the facilities and expanding their capabilities, Loadcraft has also focused on rewarding their employees for their hard work and dedication. Payroll for the company now averages $1.1 million each month with that number expected to increase with the opening of the Brownwood plant. An employee bonus program has been part of the motivation that has upped the income potential for those who qualify. Company profits are placed in a pool that is shared by employees who are dedicated enough to meet the necessary requirements. Allocations for those who do not meet the standards are placed into an employee- administered benevolence fund. “This program is all about rewarding the people who make this happen,” said McIver. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be here today.” The success of the company in the first years has also allowed for the purchase and renovation of the Brownwood plant to be made virtually without debt. Other than the cost of the newest high-tech machines available in the industry, the entire plant has been paid for by funds already on hand. Challenges As with every business, challenges face management on a daily basis. Throw record-setting growth into the mix and problem solving and planning begins to take on a life of its own. In a town with only 6,000 people, finding skilled laborers to meet the specialized demand has posed a virtual staffing nightmare for management. Having tapped out the area market on hiring skilled workers, management was still faced with backlogs of work that were continuing to pile up. To supplement the labor, visa workers from Mexico were brought in several months ago to help get the production log cleared. “We have employed 26 workers with skills specific to our needs through the H2B visa program,” said Reece McIver. “We have virtually tapped out the surrounding market and have been forced to find other ways of keeping up with production. Another approach the company takes is the belief that, if they can train unskilled laborers in-house, they can improve their workforce from within. A full-time in-house training facility is set up to give those who are interested, an opportunity to advance within the company. Another program that is unique to the thriving business is one that management wishes was not required, but nonetheless has embraced. A faith-based drug counseling program is staffed by volunteer mentors from the local community. The company also has one full-time and two part- time staff members dedicated to counseling and working with employees on the drug and alcohol issues as well as a variety of social issues. “When you have a workforce of this size, you are bound to have some issues come up,” said McIver. “This program is designed to work with the individuals and help them deal with the problem rather than turn our backs on them and tell them they don’t matter. “We have a three-strikes and you’re out program because you have to have things in place to deal with issues, but our mission has been for our counselors to do two things’build a relationship with the employee and to show them the love of Jesus. “We try to keep the ones who test hot working and involved in the program and not turn our backs on them. What we don’t want is to throw them back into the problem that is the root of the issue. “Success is never 100 percent, but we are 100 percent trying to make it work.” With the past well behind them, the management and investors of Loadcraft are looking to the future. They continue to grow and expand the capabilities of the local plant. Their personal challenge has been to re-create an image that is visible to anyone with whom they come in contact’that image is one that is centered around sharing the word of God.

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