February 25, 2014

Leesburg Concrete Company building Easi-Set buildings

A concrete business decision

Brett Le Blanc / Daily Commercial
Austin Fuller | Staff Writer

In a recovering economy, when you operate a company that is heavily dependent on new construction, it pays to diversify.

And Leesburg Concrete Company has done just that, last summer becoming the only Easi-Set Industries building licensee in Florida. The buildings are made of concrete panels, and are assembled before being delivered.

Easi-Set buildings can include bathrooms, storage sheds, dugouts, equipment rooms, concession stands, press boxes, telecom buildings, guard houses, generator buildings and hazardous material buildings, according to Kirk Rouse, a vice president and one of the owners of the family-owned Leesburg Concrete Company.

Rouse said the buildings are unique, cost effective and extremely durable. He added the buildings can be made to look like whatever the customer wants, noting that recent buildings purchased for Lake County parks were made to look as though their exterior was wood.

"We're excited about the opportunity. We feel like there's a demand for these products, and we feel like we're very good at going out and finding the customers that need this type of product," Rouse said. "It's very encouraging right now. We're in the infancy, if you will, of this relationship... We’re very encouraged about the demand to date."

Easi-Set is just one component of the diversification that has been going on for the past two to three years at Leesburg Concrete Company.

Rouse said some examples include bathroom floors that went to the Bahamas, multi-story stairs in pre-cast concrete and metal, architectural components of the Withlacoochee Bridge and a project for the first phase of SunRail that includes pedestrian guard and hand rails and architectural art rails.

"We’ve always been metal fabricators here, but to go out and sell a project like that is part of our diversification," Rouse said of the SunRail project.

Rouse added the company has made well over a mile of combined guard rails and architectural art rails for the first phase of SunRail.

"It's a pretty good size job for just railing," Rouse said.

The diversification efforts were motivated by the opening of a new facility around 2008 and a decline in demand for concrete ramps and steps during the recession.

"The new facility obviously was a large part of that decision. We have a pretty good size facility here and needed to find products to utilize this facility that we have. Another is that because of the recession, the demand waned somewhat for the core line of ramps and steps, although we still do quite a number of those," Rouse said.

Leesburg Concrete Company was founded in 1972, with Rouse's parents, Lannie and Sue Thomas, buying the company in 1983. Rouse said he and Shawn Thomas joined the company in 2000, and both are currently vice presidents and part of the company's family ownership. According to Rouse, the company was a block company before his family took over and his parents added steps and wheelchair ramps.

"The company, if you look at it, has almost been in a state of diversification, if you will, from the beginning," Rouse said.

Rouse said the company has delivered eight Easi-Set buildings since last summer and has purchased orders for 10 more buildings.

"As a manufacturer, we're excited to have a line that we feel like there will be a consistent demand for. That's a stabilizing force for any business, to have an ongoing demand for a product," Rouse said.

He said there are a number of markets for Easi-Set buildings, including school districts, military bases, cities, parks, state and county entities and general contractors for private users.

Rouse added the company has sold products as far as California and Massachusetts, but focuses on the Southeast. They have sold Easi-Set buildings in Florida and Georgia so far, according to Rouse.

Leesburg Concrete Company also received the Best Photograph for an Easi-Set Building Project award last year, which was voted on by producers of Easi-Set buildings, according to Rouse.

"It was our very first building that we produced as a new licensee, so it was... very encouraging to get that type of recognition," Rouse said. Leesburg Concrete Company has 35 employees and Rouse said that number could grow. The plant is certified by the National Precast Concrete Association. Bobby Bonilla, a parks and trails division manager for Lake County praised the buildings in an email.

"The precast double concrete restroom buildings currently being installed in many of our parks and boat ramps provide durability, flexibility, convenience and cost effectiveness for long lasting security," she said. "They are ADA compliant and meet and exceed U.S. Forest Service specifications. They are aesthetically pleasing and easily blend with any surrounding and are available both with water connections and waterless."

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