There’s a framed picture outside Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group President Ben Johnston’s office that shows an elevated bolted tank that Pittsburg erected in Iraq as part of the United States’
infrastructure rebuilding efforts. While working as a project manager in the mid-aughts, Hugh Haire oversaw what was, up until that point, the largest project PTTM ever completed.
“I concentrated on that job solely for a year or so until it was finished,” he recalled. “I had to write a construction manual and then have it translated into Arabic.”
Hugh said this was the most memorable project in his long career with PTTG. A pair of his uncles talked Hugh into joining Pittsburg Tank in June 1997. He estimates that roughly 30 members of the extended Haire family have been employed by Pittsburg at one time or another. He worked in the shop for a few months before an office job became available. Hugh eventually rose to the position of vice president of operations for Pittsburg Tank & Tower Maintenance Company.
Hugh is responsible for the field operations at PTTM. “The duties remain the same every day,” said Hugh. “The challenges of performing those duties are different from day to day.”
Jobs can range from something as simplistic as cleaning out a tank and installing a vent to something more complicated like demolishing a water tower, replacing a container, or cutting down a tank, moving it a few miles down the road and then rebuilding it.
One of his main duties is overseeing the nine field crews, which have between two to four people on each crew. He also supervises and assists the employees that make up the production side of the PTTM Company. They are Mike Wethington (project coordinator), Clay Bolin (project manager), Paul Blanford (project manager), and James Haley (administrative assistant).
Mike Wethington has been within the Pittsburg family since July 2001. After graduating from Henderson County High in 2000, he was looking for a job. “I filled out applications at about everywhere in the Tri-State and Pittsburg Tank & Tower was the only one that ever called me back,” he joked.
Mike started out as a laborer at the old Fifth Street location. He admits he knew nothing about water tanks at the time but for a steady paycheck he was going to give it a try. He is currently the project coordinator. Mike’s responsibilities include drafting work, makes sure items are ordered and identified correctly in the shop, and schedules transportation deliveries.
After earning a degree in criminal justice from Murray State University in 1999, Clay Bolin became part owner and the head golf pro at the Player’s Club golf course in Henderson. Upon leaving the golf course, he began looking for a new opportunity that would keep him in Henderson where he’d already established roots. While coaching basketball at South Middle School, Clay learned about a job opening at Pittsburg Tank from a player’s parent.
“I knew absolutely nothing about water tanks and here I am 15 years later,” he said. As a project manager, he’s now very knowledgeable on water tanks and oversees projects from start to finish. One of the more enjoyable projects that Clay oversaw was for NASA. “Just being able to be down there on base and being able to interact with everything that is going on,” he said.
Paul Blanford graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 2017. A few short months later, he landed a job at Pittsburg. Like Hugh, Paul has a few relatives at Pittsburg and was familiar with what they did. He said he also “knew it was a good place to work.” Paul started out as an administrative assistant but was bumped up to project manager after a little more than a year’s time.
Paul inherited a project in the Marshall Islands when he became a project manager. The project was truly a collaborative one – with the ground division
erecting the water tower and maintenance crews painting it.
James Haley has been with Pittsburg for a year. The 1997 Todd County Central High School graduate worked down the road at Sitex for 10-plus years and more
recently for Phoenix Fabricators for a year. Hugh knew James through Sitex and invited him to interview for a position at Pittsburg. As the administrative assistant, some of his duties include sending out introduction letters to customers, finding rental equipment, and research.
Time management, organization, and the ability to multi-task are all skill sets that the project managers hone. It’s all about the ability to “adapt and overcome,” said Mike, adding he likes the problem-solving aspects of their fast-paced jobs.
“We get to play detective and try to figure out what is going on,” he said. “That’s kind of fun.”
The project managers think outside the box.
“We’re willing to try just about anything but we’re also kind of open and honest, sometimes brutally honest,” Hugh said. “If you don’t want to know our answer, you probably don’t need to ask us the question because we are going to tell you. By having that type of honesty within these four walls, it allows us to accomplish more.”
As well as everyone in the department gets along, their opinions can differ from time to time. If there’s a disagreement they discuss their options, arriving at a new solution if necessary.
“We’re not a one-trick pony,” said Hugh. “If it’s something that needs to be done, we can generally figure it out.”
Ground tanks, concrete tanks, underground tanks, elevated tanks, bolted tanks, riveted tanks, wooden tanks – whatever style of the tank – the maintenance department has worked on it.
“There are not too many individuals in the organization that can say they are as diverse or know a little bit about each one of those as the people in here,” said Hugh.
Hugh said the project managers’ office has been able to mesh personalities so well because they all share the same characteristics and goals.
One of their goals is to have no recordable accidents. “We need everybody to be healthy and safe,” said Hugh.
Aside from shared traits of trustworthiness, honesty, and the ability to handle criticism, he noted that they are all willing to learn and listen to new ideas.
Clay praised Hugh’s ability to keep the department connected and working together as a cohesive unit. He said he looks forward to coming to work every morning, which wasn’t always the case.
Hugh has seen several changes in his lengthy career with Pittsburg, including the evolution of the company’s safety culture. He’s also seen Pittsburg double its employees in the span of 20 years. Mike agreed, “Pittsburg was on the boom when I started and I just kind of rode the wave up.”
Clay, who’s been with the Maintenance Company the longest, said the efficiency and quality of the department have improved tremendously since he started.
As a whole, PTTG is now a collection of companies rather than separate companies. A fourth company – LEC in Billings, Montana, was added just before the close of 2018. By the end of its centennial year in 2019, the Johnston family announced its Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
James appreciates the extra benefits Pittsburg provides like voluntary Bible study sessions and the wellness program. Pittsburg Tank has a gym that’s available to its employees 24/7. James can often be found taking advantage of the gym.
“By far out of all the companies I’ve worked for, they’ve had the best wellness program, period,” said James.