Middle-Age Momentum

In 2006, construction interests marked the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System launch. The Interstate era opened the way for countless entrepreneurs

In 2006, construction interests marked the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System launch. The Interstate era opened the way for countless entrepreneurs who helped shape construction materials production, including those who in 1957 founded Blair, Neb.-based Concrete Equipment Co. and Tompkinsville, Ky.-based Stephens Manufacturing Co. Both companies can point to a legacy of achievements and industry contributions over the last half century, advancing equipment standards on their own and through support of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association-affiliated Concrete Plant Manufacturers Bureau. The two manufacturers kicked off 50th anniversary celebrations earlier this year at World of Concrete in Las Vegas, offering up these reflections.


Concrete Equipment Co. grew out of a production arrangement involving Challenge Cook, one of the industry’s leading post-war mixer truck manufacturers, and Omaha-based T.J. McShane. Bob Milek, a McShane engineer, designed a mobile batch plant for Challenge Cook. The latter company’s focus on mixer trucks prompted Milek to establish Con-E-Co and continue plant equipment development over a 32-year period.

Con-E-Co officials today reflect on a 50-year history by noting a series of milestones that have ingrained their brand in transit and central mixed, plus portable concrete operations:

1957 First product rollout, introducing the Challenge Runabout mobile concrete plant
1964 Construction of the first Con-E-Co factory building in Blair, Neb., on the site of current company headquarters
1972 Introduction of the first live bottom aggregate batcher for uniform blending and delivery into mixer trucks
1975 Patent received for the LO-Pro cement batcher and LO-Pro portable batch plant
1983 Rollout of a nationwide Dealer and Representative Distribution organization
1986 First use of computerized drafting and design tools for concrete batch plants
1994 Introduction of 12- and 15-yd. central mix drums

2004 Acquisition by Oshkosh Truck Corp. and integration of resources with McNeilus Cos.

Affirming a tradition of stability, growth and commitment to customers, Con-E-Co General Manager Neil Smith notes, It’s just the beginning. Though proud of our accomplishments, we realize the best is yet to come. Smith led a partnership that acquired Con-E-Co from the founder in 1989, and has continued through the Oshkosh and McNeilus integration. Û www.con-e-co.com


Celebrating 50 years in concrete plant manufacturing, Stephens builds to client specifications and Concrete Plant Manufacturers Bureau (CPMB) criteria at its Kentucky facility. Chaired by Stephens President and CEO Max Stephens, the Bureau establishes minimum standards for rating concrete plant components to provide assurance and protection for users of equipment bearing CPMB plates.

Max’s father, Bill Stephens (1992-2003), founded the company in 1957, when as a local ready mixed producer in Tompkinsville he set out to build a silo to store bulk cement. Upon selling one silo after another, before finishing one for himself, Bill Stephens recognized a good business opportunity. The small family-owned enterprise began manufacturing conveyors and aggregate bins to complement the silos and offer a complete concrete batch plant. In the early 80s, company officials assert, Bill’s son Tommy Stephens (1947-2004) continued development of product offerings until what was previously considered a lightweight, economical plant became known as one of the most solid, best-built systems on the market.

Over the years, a full line of dust collectors and ready mixed reclaimers was added to provide the necessary equipment to run an efficient, environmentally sound batch plant. As growth in product offerings demanded facility expansion, a 141,000-plus-sq.-ft. building was constructed to accommodate office and manufacturing functions. CNC torches, lathes and AutoCAD drafting equipment were among innovations the company adopted to remain competitive, representatives note, emerging as a global batch plant source with installations throughout the Americas and part of Africa.

Nonetheless, company principals emphasize, Stephens Mfg. still operates with the values of a small, family-owned business. Under Max Stephens’ leadership, they add, the company continues to stand on the bedrock of customer service and a treat others like you want to be treated policy. Û www.stephensmfg.com