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Pres-T-Con CEO Jan Landreth-Smith doesn’t mince words when describing the state of the industry on the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad. “The stagnation in the construction market has gone a lot longer than we thought it would, and it has impacted us quite a bit,” he says. “From 2010 to today, we have really had to batten down the hatches and hold on tightly, because it has been difficult.”

The Arima, Trinidad-based company has been able to survive this tumultuous climate though refocusing its operations and embracing new construction methods. The company, formed in 1966, designs, manufactures and installs precast and pre-stressed concrete products.

“A lot of companies have gone out of business, and we are still here, surviving during extremely difficult times,” Landreth-Smith notes. “When the economy started to turn, we all got together and talked about how we can work in a matter that is smaller, faster and more efficient.

“Because of the continued stagnation of the construction industry in Trinidad and the rest of the Caribbean Region, we must continue to be very vigilant from month to month and tightly monitor our expenses in order to survive another day when our industry turns around,” he adds.

While this meant staff and cost reduction measures, the company retained the quality of work for which it has been known for 45 years. “Our workers have really gone the extra mile to get us to where we are today,” he adds.

Pres-T-Con operates out of two facilities. Its manufacturing facility sits on 20 acres and has the capacity to manufacture 4,000 cubic yards of precast/pre-stressed concrete per month. It also maintains a marine docking facility, which includes an equipment yard. From the dock, the company also exports its products to various job sites in the region.

The company also maintains its own equipment fleet and line of 16 cranes for land and marine projects. It also has 9 piling rigs ranging from 30 to 165 tons to install deep foundation piles.

A Critical Capability

Pres-T-Con’s involvement in one significant road project has helped it manage through the last few years.

Since 2009, Pres-T-Con has been serving as a subcontractor to general contractor Vinci Construction of France on the construction of an interchange between two of Trinidad’s largest highways. Vinci is leading efforts to build a flyover that will cross the Churchill Roosevelt Highway from the Uriah Butler highway. Pres-T-Con is providing precast concrete slabs, concrete AASHTO IV beams and piles for the project.

In June, Pres-T-Con began an embankment soil improvement as part of the construction. This involves installation of 1,200 continuous flight auger (CFA) piles. CFA piles differ from standard driven piles in that they are the result of drilling with grout being pumped into the ground during augering, instead of being produced in a factory pre-stressed and then driven into the ground.

Pres-T-Con first started using the CFA piles in 2009, when it collaborated with contractor Morris-Shea Bridge of Irondale, Ala., on the foundation of a refinery upgrade in Trinidad.

“This is one of the most critical new types of work we’ve been performing in the last few years and a major part of our revenue,” Landreth-Smith says.

Guiding Values

Pres-T-Con was founded in 1966 by John and Ann Wood to manufacture pre-stressed concrete for the construction industry. Neal and Massy Holdings Ltd. purchased the company in 2006.

In Neal and Massy Holdings’ 80 years, the company says it has developed a reputation for integrity and fair play. That mentality matches Landreth-Smith’s personal philosophy of doing business.

“It’s critical to keep your core values of integrity, professionalism and pride,” Landreth-Smith states.

These values will continue to guide the company as it rides out the economic downturn, which Landreth-Smith hopes will turn around in 2013.

“We’re hoping that in the coming years, more investment will lead to a turnaround here in Trinidad and the rest of the Caribbean,” he adds. “Until that happens, we will have to keep doing what we are now and fighting for projects from one month to another. We are in a battle which we plan to win.”

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