On the morning of August 29, 2005, winds and storm surge from Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and
On the morning of August 29, 2005, winds and storm surge from Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Florida. Among thousands of businesses suffering severe damage at Katrina’s hands was Tindall Corp.’s Biloxi, Miss., precast/prestressed plant, which received millions of dollars in damage to equipment, finished product, and the 15-acre property itself.
Located on the Back Bay of Biloxi, behind the peninsula housing the city’s waterfront resorts and casinos, the facility set about clearing the debris Û including perhaps 100 boats from the nearby marina deposited on the property Û and determining when, or if, production could resume. Within 10 days, plant management and a great many returning employees (some of whom had lost their homes) had the facility cleaned up enough to pour the first post-Katrina product; in less than two months, the yard was back to nearly 100 percent capacity.
Still, the incident made clear to Tindall officials that a waterfront plant in a high-risk area for hurricanes was not something they wanted to operate any longer. Once we realized the damage done, says James (Jeff) Woodruff, vice president & general manager of Tindall’s Mississippi Division, we knew we had to relocate. We couldn’t afford the insurance any longer, and by the time we made the decision to leave Biloxi, there were some post-Katrina tax incentives to build in other areas.
As a result, in late 2007, Tindall opened its new $26 million, state-of-the-art facility in Moss Point, about 12 miles from the coast and 30 miles from the Biloxi location. Built on 45 acres of a 107-acre property, the 95,000-sq.-ft. plant manufactures a range of structural and architecturally enhanced products. The production team managed to open the new plant with no hiatus during the changeover from the Biloxi works. We built on the 107 acres as far away from any neighbors as possible, Woodruff explains. And even as we expand, we’ll keep that going. We want to be good neighbors.
THE CLEAN UP
After Katrina, Woodruff met with his operations team to assess damage and the future of the company’s Mississippi operations. We were lucky that we had a fair amount of returning laborers, most of whom lived in the neighborhood and were back to work almost immediately, he explains. We put everyone to work cleaning up. A convoy of equipment came in by the end of the week.
Offering more than just words of encouragement to their sister plant, the South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia divisions of Tindall rallied and immediately began trucking the necessary supplies and equipment to Biloxi. Employee volunteers delivered about 50 truckloads of food, water, fuel, blankets, clothing, as well as cleanup tools to the plant. The South Carolina division worked weekends for six to eight weeks to make up for Mississippi’s lost inventory and production time. We lost more than $1 million of product alone, Woodruff says. We broke it up, removed it, and eventually used it to pave the old yard.
Aside from the lost product, another major cleanup issue was the fleet of boats of all sizes and shapes that had landed on the property. Everything from kayaks to oyster & shrimp boats to million-dollar yachts to casino barges was deposited, Woodruff adds. If someone came and identified their boat, we used our crane to help them load it. But, we didn’t get the last boat off that property until about eight months ago.
Rental equipment, including cranes, dozers, tanker trucks with fuel, was brought in as was every other essential. You have to realize, there was no power and no commerce for months. Everything had to be brought in, explains Peter Helvey, facilities manager, Mississippi Division. And labor was difficult to find. It still is to a lesser degree.
According to Woodruff, state agencies offered various assistance, including low-interest GO Zone bonds. Key to the resurgence of the gaming industry along the coast was the state legislature changing the law to allow gambling within 800 feet of the water. Previously, gaming had been restricted to barges or structures built directly over the water. Since Katrina, Tindall has been involved in both rebuilding damaged casino-related structures and fabricating components for new casino garages. In this regard, we’ve come full circle since many of the garages we built originally; they’re why we moved to Biloxi to begin with, he explains.
MAKING THE MOVE
A family-owned company that came under the ownership of the Lowndes family in 1963, Tindall has been growing steadily in the Southeast ever since. The Biloxi facility was opened in 1995 on the site of property originally developed to produce bridge beams during the Interstate highway construction.
Today, the Moss Point operation produces double tees, flat slabs and wall panels, stairs, beams, columns, spandels, and components for parking garages. The plant’s primary products are 28-in.-deep _ 12-ft.-wide double tees, which can go as deep as 32 in. Jeff Woodruff anticipates 2008 output will consume 40,000 yd., with most product going to parking garage construction in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., markets, which are about 90 and 150 miles away, respectively. Our work in the Florida panhandle dried up, Woodruff says. The garage market seemed to go away with residential development.
According to Peter Helvey, the Moss Point plant has already experienced an uptick in business since its soft opening late in 2007. Compared to where we were pre-Katrina, the new plant has 25 to 30 percent more capacity than Biloxi, but that isn’t the reason our volume has increased since 2005. We’re up about 40 percent since then, and not just because of the larger plant. That’s revenue. There was some hurricane-related work, but a lot of it is new business.
Not surprisingly, the newly constructed plant has room for expansion in its main casting bed structure and where raw materials are delivered. The aggregate feed hopper, which is charged by trucks, includes a second pit if Tindall decides to take rail deliveries of raw materials, states Helvey. The rail line runs right along side the storage bins, so it wouldn’t take much effort to make that happen, if we decide to get involved with the railroads.
One unique aspect of the plant’s design is an Elematic automated concrete delivery system, which moves product from the Standley batch plant into the production bay using two overhead automated shuttles traveling on a 1,500-ft. looped track with 72 yd./hour peak throughput each. The equipment is standard but in this configuration is unique, the only operation with a dual shuttle, explains Woodruff. The prestress industry is resistant to change, and it takes some guts to install something you can’t see running somewhere else. But our operations manager and Pete went to Finland to see a system at work, and that’s what sold us.
SAN ANTONIO NEXT
The newly formed Tindall Texas Division has begun permitting and construction on a precast/prestressed operation in San Antonio, with initial production concentrated on correctional cell modules. The 114,000-sq.-ft. production facility is scheduled for a summer 2008 opening and will become the fifth Tindall Corp. plant. Company officials note that the advanced facility will mark a $25 million investment over five years and employ upwards of 250 when in full operation. Ten seasoned Tindall employees will transfer to San Antonio, to be joined by new hires in production, engineering, project management, sales, estimating and business development.