By Becky Hurley

President: Dave Bourgault

Colorado Springs

No. of employees: 230

Dave Bourgault and concrete maker Stresscon are thriving – with new materials and operating guidelines cast from the depths of the recession

Since 1967, Stresscon, an Encon Company, has designed, erected and reinforced hundreds of millions of dollars of precast/prestressed concrete components used by the building industry throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

The Colorado Springs Airport, the Arapahoe Centre Point Plaza, El Paso County’s Terry R. Harris Judicial Center, the Denver International Airport West Parking Garage, Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, numerous state and federal DOT (Department of Transportation) projects as well as Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium are just a few of the company’s signature projects.

Today, however, it’s in the midst of re-inventing itself after a recession-driven near-death experience.

“I had just taken over as president in 2008 when the economy began its historic freefall. This recession was unlike anything we’d ever seen,” President Dave Bourgault says, adding that by 2010 30 percent of Stresscon’s competitors had shut their doors. He was not alone. Between 2007 and 2012 the construction industry — which had previously employed almost one-sixth of all American workers — saw 2.4 million jobs simply evaporate.

Bourgault estimates his firm’s project pipeline is back to 65 percent of capacity, up from “an all-time low” three years earlier. The 230-employee roster includes prestress concrete laborers and fabricators, field service workers who assemble finished components on site, office staff, an engineering department and numerous technicians. That’s about half the number employed during the market’s height.

With challenge has come innovation.

As one of the region’s largest suppliers of double tee and hollow-core concrete deck components, it has developed sophisticated new high performance, energy efficient insulated wall systems with architectural concrete finishes including acid-etch, exposed aggregate, sand-blast and thin-brick inlay.

In addition, Stresscon’s management has implemented smarter, more efficient production methods at its plants and continued its “total package” business model, relying on the expertise of its experienced staff. Facing fewer RFPs in a tight economy, a flood of competitors might vie for the same contract, so Bourgault says his team also found new ways to distinguish the company and win contracts.

In-house planners, for example, have found ways to speed up the production and the on-site precast assembly process. He points to resort communities like Vail, Beaver Creek or Aspen, for example, where it’s smarter and less expensive to erect precast/prestressed buildings given the challenging mountain work environment and shortened building season.

“Where it might have taken two or three months in the past, now once the valve is turned on, we can get a job completed in a matter of weeks,” he explains.

At the same time, management identified a growing need for precast concrete solutions with increased durability and strength to counter everything from tornados to terrorist threats. Production of insulated, steel and carbon fiber reinforced prestress components has increased. From its fast-tracked award-winning Fort Carson Brigade Complex/Company Operation Facility, designed to withstand potential blasts, to growing demand for tornado-proof “safe rooms” in public buildings, correctional facilities and schools, Stresscon’s insulated concrete product offers an energy efficient, practically invincible, maintenance-free building solution.

Looking across a 68-acre expanse of precast forms, batch plants, product storage and transportation yards, Bourgault remains upbeat about his company’s future.

Vastly improved product performance, precast concrete market opportunities and hiring again are all reasons to be optimistic, he says.

Opportunities: “In trying times, we see an opening to grow our institutional business, to expand our market outside Colorado, to do more pre-construction consulting using the latest 3-D modeling tools and to implement new technologies like carbon fiber that will strengthen and change the way we build wall panels.”

Needs: “Quality material suppliers for our prestress concrete components that can provide a consistent and dependable source and competitive pricing.”

Challenges: “We’re definitely strategic about finding clients and partners who share our commitment to quality – and refuse to cut corners, no matter how tough it gets, and to work as a team.”

Dave Bourgault