Hands-On Management Cements Success for Gillespie


Two years ago, Corrado Construction Company of New Castle, Delaware, called Gillespie & Son with an offer the company could easily refuse: manufacturer and deliver 1,500 feet of a large precast trench, and do it in two months.

Delaware City Refinery was building a crude oil rail unloading facility in order to take advantage of the more economical Bakken shale oil transported by rail from North Dakota. The oil would replace other crude products shipped to the facility by barge. The unloading facility required a 6-ft.-wide by 7-ft.-deep open-top concrete trench alongside the rail tracks to house the 2-ft. diameter unloading header pipe. Railcars would connect to the header pipe inside the trench, which would flow to a massive pump station that would then carry the oil another two miles to the refinery.

“At first they planned on pouring the concrete trench in the field but that would have taken too long,” said Jim Gillespie, president of Gillespie Precast of Chestertown, Maryland. “They needed the trench complete and installed in two months and they were headed into winter, so they called us. We said, ‘There’s just no way this can be done. The timing is impossible.’”

After several days of negotiations between the contractor and Gillespie’s management team, the impossible turned into the possible. “We said, ‘If we set up more forms, hire more people and work seven days a week, we can do this job.’”

And they did. They poured eight sections a day for a total of 176 sections. Each 100-in.-long section weighed 16 tons. It was, as Jim put it, “a lot of concrete.”

“We met their deadline. Now they’re unloading crude oil every day. We were so successful they asked us to do two more similar trenches. For us, it was pretty amazing.”

Even more amazing is how far the company has come since 1922, when George Edward Gillespie made 500 concrete blocks by hand each day on his farm in Dudley's Corner, Maryland. Today the company is run by fourth generation sons Jim and Todd, with input from their father Ed. The firm has several divisions, including a ready mix unit headed by Todd, with 100 employees producing concrete and aggregate products for the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.

Todd attributes the company’s success to a number of factors that include diversification into manufacturing precast concrete and the family’s active role in managing the business.

“For a lot of companies, as the business grows, the family gets less involved. That hasn’t been the case with us. We’re there every day. To have a well-run business, you have to actively manage it.”

Getting the product successfully to market is also vital. For that expertise, Gillespie turned to Mack Trucks and Joe Jacoby at Harvey Truck Center in Delmar, Maryland. To augment its fleet of 30 trucks, more than 90 percent of which are Mack, the company purchased a pair of Mack® Granite® axle-back models to serve as a mixer and a boom truck. Jacoby spec’d the mixer with a 365-HP MP7 engine, automatic transmission, 20,000-pound-capacity front and 46, 000-pound-capacity rear axle with a steerable lift axle. He spec’d the boom truck with a 395-HP MP7 with 8LL manual transmission and 20,000-pound-capacity front axle, 46,000-pound-capacity rear axle and Mack air suspension.

For their next purchase, the Gillespie brothers amped up the horsepower, buying a Mack Pinnacle® axle-back model with 445HP MP8 engine.

While Todd Gillespie is impressed with the quality of service from Harvey Truck Center, he’s amazed at the design of the vehicles. “They are rock-solid trucks. Mack provides an integrated package. The emissions system is much better than the competition. The parts are interchangeable. And Mack is the only manufacturer that builds a truck for the ready-mix industry.”

That’s an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or as he put it, “If I thought there was a better truck out there, I would own it.”