August 28, 2008 in Voices

50 years of concrete

Central Pre-Mix Pre-stress celebrates milestone
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Chuck Prussack, general manager of Central Pre-Mix Pre-stress Co., talks with guests during a 50th anniversary celebration Aug. 21.
(Full-size photo)

Some of the largest structures in the Inland Northwest were built with products from a Spokane Valley company that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Last week, the company set up a tent and hired a caterer to put on a pair of celebrations – one for clients and customers on Thursday and another for employees on Friday.

Central Pre-Mix Pre-stress Co. specializes in concrete bridge components and pre-cast building materials that have been used in landmarks such as T.J. Meenach Bridge, the Imax Theater, the third power house at Grand Coulee Dam and the INB Performing Arts Center.

Today, a majority of bridges built in the U.S. are made with pre-stressed and pre-cast concrete components through a technique that was developed in Europe and brought to the U.S. in 1950.

The owners at Central Pre-Mix at the time saw the opportunity to establish a new niche in the construction industry by branching into the pre-stressed and pre-cast business. The company has been doing about 100 projects annually in recent years.

“This is a real milestone in our industry,” said Chuck Prussack, general manager of the company, during the lunch party with clients and customers last week. “Thank you for your support for the past 50 years,” he told them.

Pre-cast building techniques have been gaining greater recognition in recent years in the trend toward “green” building practices, said Chuck Merydith, communications manager for the pre-stressed and pre-cast industry. He said that recyclable materials such as fly ash can be used in pre-cast concrete panels, offering an advantage for builders seeking to meet environmental standards.

As a result, the industry is hoping to increase its $6.4 billion share of annual construction spending in the U.S., he said.

Central Pre-Mix was formed by William Murphy and a partner in 1930 to supply large quantities of ready-to-pour concrete in the Spokane region. Until that time, concrete was largely mixed on site and poured with wheelbarrows, according to news files.

The company grew under Murphy from its original location along Division Street just north of the Spokane River. Central Pre-Mix Pre-Stress Co. was started as a subsidiary in 1958. Murphy’s son, John Murphy, became president in 1959 and held the post to 1980. During John Murphy’s tenure, the parent Central Pre-Mix company acquired numerous other companies, including Inland Asphalt. The pre-stress and pre-cast work is done from a company facility at 5111 E. Broadway Ave.

In 1997, the holding company for Central Pre-Mix and subsidiaries was purchased by CRH plc of Dublin, Ireland, which has 90,000 employees in 32 countries. Its U.S. operations are run by its subsidiary, Oldcastle Materials Inc.

Since the sale of the company to CRH, Prussack said Central Pre-Mix Pre-stress has operated much as it did when it was family owned. The company currently has about 130 employees.

Pre-stressed concrete bridge girders have become a standard in construction. They are built with a technique in which high-quality steel strands, or cables, are stretched inside a form prior to encasing them in concrete pour. The stretching of the steel adds strength to the girder, making it capable of withstanding the various forces created by traffic, Prussack said.

The company supplies bridge components throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, he said.

Mike Prager can be reached at 459-5454 or by e-mail at mikep@spokesman.com.


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