YOUR HOMETOWN — Harrisonburg: After 60 Years, Concrete Firm Still Mixin’ It Up

Superior Celebrates Six Decades At The ‘Ready’

Posted: April 24, 2013

Daily News-Record

Superior Concrete CEO Lawrence Wilt (left), 72; President and General Manager Tony Wilt, 51; and Vice President of Operations Keith Wilt, 38, pose Thursday in front of the company’s first new truck in six years. They painted it to celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary this year. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
Superior Concrete driver Jake Castellano hoses off a truck while it mixes a fresh load of concrete on Thursday at the firm’s Harrisonburg loading facility. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
David Turner controls the loading of concrete trucks, all computer-controlled, from Superior Concrete’s headquarters in Harrisonburg. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
HARRISONBURG — As much as the key ingredients of concrete have kept Superior Concrete around — for 60 years, to be exact — so has its blend of customers.

Universities, the agricultural community and Rockingham Memorial Hospital, to name a few, have called on the city business through the years.

“You don’t see big, huge projects like you see in the cities,” said Tony Wilt, Superior’s president and general manager. “We have a good mix where we don’t always depend on one thing.”

Added his brother, Keith, the vice president of operations, “We’re very diversified.”

Superior Concrete supplies ready mix concrete to job sites in Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page and northern Augusta counties, as well as Pendleton and Hardy counties in West Virginia. In addition to the Harrisonburg plant, the company has a seasonal facility in Broadway.

The family run company on Country Club Road was established in 1953. The Wilt family entered the picture when Lawrence Wilt, now 72 and its CEO, started as a concrete salesman in 1976.

In 1982, he purchased the company from a bank that took over after a Fredericksburg holdings corporation went bankrupt.

“I had nothing to lose because I was going to be without a job,” the elder Wilt said of buying the company. “The key to [survival], in my opinion, the economy had just simply bottomed out.”

The only direction to go, he added, was up.Yet his sons — Tony, 51, and Keith, 38 — think their father is sidestepping credit for saving the company, saying his integrity paved the way for Superior’s future. Keith Wilt says his father’s early business decisions and the partnerships he formed were crucial.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good comments over the years about what a good person he is, a fine person, a charitable person,” Keith Wilt said. “We try to make it a really great, family atmosphere.”

Tony Wilt joined the company in 1980, two years before his father bought it. Since 2010, Tony Wilt has been a Republican member of the House of Delegates, representing Harrisonburg and parts of Rockingham County.

He recalls his father making the most out of the company’s truck fleet in the early 1980s, taking parts from one vehicle to use on another. That saved money compared to buying new mixers.

“We jacked those trucks up,” Tony Wilt said. “We made do with what he had.”

Keith Wilt said the last few years have been much the same, since the 2008 economic collapse. However, the company recently added its first new truck since 2007, decorating it to showcase the company’s 60th year of existence.

By far the biggest change in operations through the years is how trucks are loaded, the Wilts say. Computers have replaced the old mechanical method of pulling levers and watching a big scale for the amount of concrete — a device similar to those at a doctor’s office.

“Nasty, nasty work,” Lawrence Wilt said of the former. “We can [now] load the truck in Broadway from [Harrisonburg].”

But one aspect has stayed true during Superior’s run: The company sticks primarily to ready mix concrete, versus adding other services.

“We try to keep it small, manageable. Do one thing real good, instead of several things kind of good,” Keith Wilt said. “Dad always said, ‘That’s a good idea, but let somebody else make some money off it and deal with all the headaches.’”

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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