Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group President Ben Johnson couldn’t wait to share the big news. Literally, he cut his vacation a little short to announce to the entire Pittsburg family on October 1, 2021, that PTTG was officially 100 percent employee-owned.
“ESOP is much more than employee ownership,” said Allstate Tower Drafting Manager Jeff Webber. “ESOP closes the loop and binds us all to our future together. We spend about 80 percent of our waking hours with our co-workers and then go home to our separate lives. Now we are all bound to the future together with a common purpose. That truly creates the PTTG family!”
Ben first announced the creation of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) during the company’s Christmas party in late December 2019. The announcement came after a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Pittsburg’s founding.
Established in 1919 by Joseph Boyd McClelland, the company focused on water tanks and smokestack maintenance. His son, Cloyce, took over the company in the 1940s and moved it to Pittsburg, Kansas. Donna McClelland sold the company to longtime business associate Don Johnston in 1983, and he relocated Pittsburg to his hometown of Henderson, Kentucky.
Under the Johnston family, Pittsburg transformed into a full-tank service supplier, doing everything from erecting tanks to repairing them to tearing them down. The family also added Allstate Tower, a communication tower and agricultural accessory company in 2003, and purchased LEC, a tank diving company, in 2018.
Looking for ways to continue to grow the company and ensure it remains for the next 100 years, Ben Johnston felt it best to transform Pittsburg from a family-owned company to an employee-owned one.
So, after much research and deliberation, the Johnston family decided to place 30 percent of its shares in a trust. That meant that 30 percent of the shares were available to allocate to employees over 10 years.
Being 100 percent ESOP means any increased value goes to the shareholders – AKA the employees – because there are no outside shareholders. Employees will receive more shares each year into their ESOP account. That also means that everyone’s hard work and efforts to increase the company’s profitability are rewarded in rising share prices. As PTTG profits increase, so does the value of the ESOP shares.
“Having ESOP makes me have a greater sense of purpose when coming to work,” said PTTM Project Manager Nick Nation. “It pushes everyone to be the best version of themselves.”
The ESOP shares are distributed over time to ensure shares will be available throughout an employee’s career at Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group. Eligible employees are allocated shares to their ESOP account each year at no cost to the employees. To be eligible, employees must work at least 1,000 hours in a calendar year, and be employed by Pittsburg on December 31 of that same calendar year.
“ESOP has increased in me a level of pride and loyalty that I’ve not known with any other employer, said PTTG Financial Analyst Angela Garrett. “I recognize that my co-workers and I owe it to everyone to be the very best at what we do. We are not individuals at PTTG but are a family unit – all working for the betterment of one another. I believe that a successful PTTG employee will embrace the family mentality and perform accordingly.”
ESOP is an additional retirement plan. Pittsburg will continue to invest in employees’ 401(k) plans, which are separate from ESOP.
“This is more than a paycheck,” Chief Wellness Officer Dylan Phelps said. “This is way beyond the deal we signed up for. At the end of your career, you’ll have an opportunity to retire with an incredible amount of financial dignity.”
Pittsburg employees received their first ESOP statements this spring, during a presentation at the Henderson Preston Arts Center on Henderson Community College’s campus. It was a joyful occasion. While most ESOP companies’ share value declines in their first year, Pittsburg’s ESOP grew by 15 percent.