In 1980, the Engelmans purchased Bethlehem Precast, a residential and commercial precast facility 15 miles from Engelman Construction headquarters. The facility, which is certified through the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA), produces roughly 120 yards of concrete a day and does its rebar work in-house. A recent downturn in business at Engelman Construction has coincided with a surge in business for the precast facility, resulting in Bethlehem Precast hiring some of Engelman Construction's key employees.
Bethlehem Precast is geared toward custom jobs, with the company often taking on small runs that large precast facilities don't want or aren't set up to handle profitably. Jobs come in from general contractors, erection companies and large precasters. Some of Bethlehem Precast's more popular residential offerings include entrance stairways, egress window systems, bench ends, retaining walls and flower planters. "We are set up to do custom work," explains Tom Engelman, president of Bethlehem Precast. "Some other precasters have seen what we've done and copied us, but that's why we always want to stay on the cutting edge and out ahead of the competition."
In recent years, Bethlehem Precast has found a few niche products that have helped expand its market and increase sales. The company has gotten into cable concrete, used as erosion control mats; light pole bases that save an electrical contractor 20 to 40 percent over alternative methods; and stair and landing systems for stadiums and auditoriums. Another recent innovation at Bethlehem Precast has helped high-rise builders gain efficiency and safety on the worksite by using precast stairs over cast-in-place concrete stairs. "As they're working up a building, the stairs are placed in so they don't have to worry about steel pans or ladders. This eliminates a lot of safety problems," Engelman explains. - RW