Tom Anderson may be feeling a little deja vu as he assesses the workload at Glacier Precast Concrete these days. It seems a lot like the economic boom of the early 2000s that preceded the national years-long recession.
“We’re completely overwhelmed,” Anderson said about the pace of business at his manufacturing facility south of Kalispell. “We’re building [septic] tanks at a similar rate to 2004 and 2005.”
And it’s not just concrete septic tanks that are in demand. Glacier Precast’s products run the gamut, from electrical vaults and water cisterns to well houses, box culverts, lift stations and fire fill sites. The business also manufactured the highway sound walls that are part of the U.S. 93 bypass project around Kalispell.
If you’ve walked through the pedestrian tunnel under U.S. 93 between Kidsports and Flathead Valley Community College, you’ve seen Glacier Precast’s concrete structures firsthand.
During a recent Manufacturing Day tour sponsored by the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Anderson led a group through the precast plant where workers busily handled a variety of projects as overhead cranes lifted and moved heavy pieces. Concrete grandstand sections for the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Eureka were one of the projects on tap, along with a rock fascia panel and structures for a local nursing care facility.
An upcoming project will be precast sections for leachate ponds at the county landfill. Those sections run 40,000 pounds apiece.
Manufacturing the sound walls for the U.S. 93 bypass was one of the most technical jobs Glacier Precast has handled, Anderson noted. The company made a sizable financial investment in specialized equipment to manufacture the panels.
That’s why it was disappointing for Anderson to learn about the recent vandalism on a section of the sound wall near Three Mile Drive. Whether the panels will be repaired or replaced has not yet been decided by the insurance company, but either way it will be a challenging undertaking, he said.
Glacier Precast does business throughout Montana and Southern Alberta, Canada.
“We’ll have 45 semi loads going to a stormwater project in Havre,” Anderson said. Bozeman, Great Falls and Libby are other communities where Glacier Precast recently sent products.
In 2010 Glacier Precast Concrete was the first precast manufacturer in Montana to be certified by the National Precast Concrete Association. A year later the company also obtained status with the Canada Standards Association.
“That governs a lot of what we do,” Anderson said. “It’s difficult to get certified and once you do that you’re favored.”
Anderson and his wife Tammy bought Glacier Precast Concrete in 1999 when it was a small three-man operation. It now has 25 employees with very little turnover.
The Andersons’ business venture was their own version of the American Dream.
“We scrimped and scrounged for every penny,” Anderson said. “I traded a horse for a pickup.”
Anderson has a long tenure in the construction industry. Prior to buying Glacier Precast he worked 13 years for NuPac and was superintendent there.
Ten years ago the Andersons built the facility in which they now operate, at 175 Alder Drive.
More than 120 tons of cement can be poured each day with the company’s automated batch plant.
Fifty-four cubic yards is a high-output day for the plant. In early October the crew was averaging 40 cubic yards of concrete daily.
LHC is the current supplier of sand and gravel used at Glacier Precast. In turn, “they buy a lot of stuff from us,” Anderson pointed out.
“The key to quality concrete is quality control,” he noted. Being able to make all of their own concrete assures a top-quality product.
Flathead Journal editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.