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Prestressed Bridge Beams – Evercast Continues to Expand

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Growth and stability are terms that may seem oxymoronic in regard to business building. After all, growth usually requires the outlay of resources – whether that is time, money, or manpower. Inherent to the expenditure of resources is risk. So, if a company is looking to grow, surely its stability will come under duress. Well, Evercast Concrete has spent the last several years putting the lie to that notion. Utilizing a dual-pronged strategy, the company has greatly enhanced its foundational strength while simultaneously scaling up. Between acquisitions and organic growth, Evercast has created a flywheel of success, where its forward momentum serves to bolster its stability, rather than leaving it susceptible to the vagaries of chance. And the company’s most recent foray into the pre-stressed bridge beam sector is just the latest example of their strategy in action.

Strategic business acquisitions represent one side of the company’s model and as such Evercast purchased pre-cast concrete outfit, MST in 2021. Based in South Carolina, MST is both a natural fit with the company’s existing precast line of products and also a significant growth asset due to its geographical significance. According to Evercast CEO Jeff Chastain, “When we acquired MST in May of ‘21, we knew pretty quickly that this market was an area that we felt could be a strategic part of our precast business. Also, we felt that it was a place for us to expand our prestress operations. From a 250- or 300-mile radius from the facilities, having the upstate of South Carolina with prestress capacity allows us to really fill in some gaps that we have in the southern North Carolina market, the entire South Carolina market and also allows us to service the North Georgia market.”

Here is where the company’s two-pronged strategy really shines. The founding brand of Evercast is Eastern Vault, which has decades of experience working in precast, and more significantly, prestressed concrete bridge beams. This institutional knowledge makes expanding further into the bridge-building sector a less risky proposition than it could otherwise be. That risk comes in multiple forms as well. It is both a risk in terms of capital outlay but also in complexity. Prestressed concrete is an inherently more dangerous product to work with. This risk is mollified by having a surfeit of expertise already under the company’s wings. Chastain recalled, “we said, OK, let’s take the folks up at Eastern Vault who have been making these bridge beams for decades. Let’s help them be a part of the design implementation and the on-boarding of our new prestress facilities down here in South Carolina.” Acquiring Eastern Vault years ago paved the way to bring MST into the fold, turning a possibly risky expansion into a comfortable next step in the evolution of Evercast.

This dovetails perfectly with the other half of the company’s strategic model, organic growth. The company identifies areas where “population growth and aging infrastructure cross”. The MST acquisition offers a perfect opportunity for Evercast to service the Carolinas and Georgia market where both of those conditions can be found. It is a perfect illustration of how the company can continue to scale up while simultaneously bolstering its foundations. Chastain said, “If you think about where we are in the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast United States, we have a really good cross section of those two market dynamics happening. So aging infrastructure plus a big influx of people moving into the market mean that there’s more demand for this. And with the US infrastructure bill passing, that’s going to be focused a lot on repairing some of the older bridges that have reached the end of their service life.” As a result, the company will be able to expand its customer base and product line in the region – that organic growth they aim for. Having that broader range of customers and products continues to make the company’s base stronger, allowing it to weather any difficulties more ably along the way.

“We minimize a lot of that risk because we have the skill set within the Evercast umbrella.”

Part and parcel of increasing its footprint in the prestressed bridge beam sector is aligning with the Georgia and Carolinas Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. Certification with the PCI is highly important due to the aforementioned complexity of bridge building. There is quality control at literally every step of the process to ensure everyone’s safety. However, being a certified PCI company is not only a regulatory matter, but a way into better understanding of the market, customers, and institutions. Describing their involvement, Chastain said, “It has been a great way for us to introduce ourselves into the industry and then also learn who in this market are the decision makers, so we can make sure that we’re aligning our capacity with where their demand is. It also allows us to really make sure that we’re staying up to date with the latest trends, the latest demands from the market, and the latest specs. So, we’re making the products that our local customers in the markets really want to see.”

There are further benefits to the PCI as well, which include what Michael Barnes, EVP of Sales and Marketing refers to as “power in numbers”. A state’s Department of Transportation doesn’t want to deal with individual manufacturers, but instead with Associations like the PCI, so they know they are operating on a set of rules and not an array of unique situations. This massively facilitates communication and understanding for the company when they are putting together large civil jobs.

The prestressed bridge beam lines that Evercast is now offering in the South Carolina and Georgia markets are a totally different technology than the precast offerings MST has previously offered. Wet and dry utilities require a very different manufacturing process, different products, different everything. So, within this new venture it comes back to that term risk again. Chastain said, “It was a pretty substantial capital investment for us, but one that we felt was important. We minimize a lot of that risk because we have the skill set within the Evercast umbrella.” There is the crux of the matter. The in-house expertise allows for aggressive new ventures. The new ventures afford the company the chance to organically grow its footprint in new areas, strengthening its base. That stronger foundation reduces the risk of growth and expansion, allowing the company to do exactly that. Chastain continued, “We’ve also built into our plans the ability to expand our precast or prestressed capacity here in South Carolina. So, I think there’s a lot of upsides there and the question for us is going to be really not if we continue to expand, but what product lines we want to expand. Because, there’s several different types of prestressed bridges you can make and as we get more comfortable in the more southern parts of our bridge business, we’re going to learn more. And we can tailor our expansion around those learnings as we continue to move forward and go with the line that we have in place today.”

It’s remarkable how the two aspects of the Evercast growth model work in perfect lockstep, providing a platform to venture ever upward while only growing more solid at the base. Prestressed bridge beams are just the latest burst of energy feeding that flywheel. That’s serious momentum.

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