Up to the Challenge
STABIL Concrete Products LLC is a company known for being able to do the things that other companies cannot or won’t do – the challenging projects. Working with innovative materials that enable architects to design stunning, durable, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly buildings and hardscape applications makes the company stand out from its competitors…
Business in Focus spoke at length with STABIL President Del Hight and Executive Vice President and General Manager Gerry Flach about the company’s extraordinary success and powerful reputation for excellence.
STABIL’s mission is to build a sustainable future by utilizing quality, eco-friendly materials and innovative technology. Combined with unmatched leadership, skilled employees, and outstanding customer service, that mission enables the company to be the premier architectural concrete supplier in the Southeastern United States.
STABIL was not always focused on architectural projects, however. The company was first known as A-Z Precast when it was purchased in 2006 by Managing Director Graeme Malloch, who changed the company name to STABIL Concrete Products, LLC. At the time, the company specialized in smaller precast projects like storage facilities and equipment rooms. By developing relationships with two sizeable, southeast construction companies, it was able to attract and secure larger and more innovative projects.
In 2007, STABIL contracted a multi-million dollar project involving thirty-three buildings at Fort Benning, in Georgia. In 2008, STABIL worked on two prestigious medical buildings in Tampa, Florida, and the management began to alter the company’s focus to attract more architectural precast concrete projects. Also in 2008, Jeff Nolan joined the firm as Senior Vice President of Engineering. That same year, STABIL became a certified concrete fabricator with the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI), the highly-regarded technical institute for the precast concrete structures industry.
In early 2010, Del Hight joined the company to lead marketing and business development. STABIL worked on the VA Bay Pines eye clinic, another Moffitt facility, among other notable projects that underscore the company’s growing reputation in the healthcare and institutional sector. Gerry Flach joined the firm at the end of 2010, having worked in conjunction with the company for years helping to secure projects like the buildings in Fort Benning.
STABIL acquired more significant architectural precast projects in Florida and continued to seek ever more challenging and artistic projects such as the Elliott Museum, St. Joseph Hospital, FIU Century Bank Arena, The University of South Florida Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation (CAMLS) building, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Valencia College, and the Selmon Expressway Gateway.
STABIL became known as the precast company that could be relied upon for innovative solutions in architectural precast manufacturing – a company that could fabricate things that were difficult for other firms to achieve. It could meet the building schedules of architects, general contractors, specialty contractors and building owners to get the work done on time and within budget. This spurred growth and helped the company evolve to provide full service and be ready to take on some of the most architecturally stunning projects in the Southeastern United States.
In 2012, STABIL worked on the Broward County Courthouse building in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a twenty-two story structure with more than 220,000 square feet of architectural precast concrete.
As president, Del Hight has guided the business to where it is today. The extraordinary growth, tripling sales revenue, was due to his strong strategic leadership, cultivating and retaining key personnel, and keeping product quality as high as possible, while completing one-of-a-kind projects.
Most important, the company has benefitted from an owner who has the patience and vision to guide the company deftly through the hard times. The recent global recession was an extremely challenging period for any in the building and construction sector. According to Gerry Flach, the secret to STABIL’s survival of the recent economic downturn was its nimble size and the strategic management of its resources.
The breadth of the company’s technical skills has also helped them to expand. “Not only will STABIL continue to deliver high-quality products to our customers, we also have the capabilities to advise them on what can and cannot be done within the framework of the project. This has helped turn STABIL into a solutions provider in the concrete manufacturing industry to builders, architects and contractors in this region,” notes Gerry Flach. STABIL is certainly in growth mode.
Beyond growth, the company has also garnered much critical acclaim within its industry, winning multiple awards for its most artistic and challenging projects. One example is an exceptional Bell Tower constructed for the New College of Florida in Sarasota. Philanthropist Beverly Koski agreed to fund the project but wanted something truly original that would reflect the college’s educational opportunities.
“The innovative precast concrete design accommodated Koski’s unique vision, but the Bell Tower wasn’t easy to create. The shape, finish, and cast were some of the greatest challenges to overcome,” says Del Hight. “The durability is what makes the high-performance precast concrete design stand out. Using white cement and aggregates along with totally enclosed electrical connections, ensured a resilient, maintenance-free monument for the school.” The Bell Tower received the Best Custom Solution Award from PCI for the outstanding result.
The Valencia College building on the Osceola Campus in Kissimmee, Florida, also demonstrated the company’s diverse capabilities that bring the vision of the architect to life. “STABIL technicians used varying finishes, different levels of sandblasting, different patterns, and three different colors – all highly articulated and with good repetition. This project really showcased what STABIL can do – all varying facets of architectural precast,” stated Gerry Flach.
STABIL’s Opal Sands Resort project presented real challenges for embedding artwork on the side of a building. The architect was looking for a dimensional design and color accent to highlight an all-white structure. Glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) was selected, not only for its flexibility and strength, but also because GFRC allows for any size or design shape to be created. In addition, the wall thickness of GFRC is thinner, resulting in significantly lighter weight pieces than precast concrete.
The architect was excited to see how the concrete color changed with varying depths, widths and lengths of the GFRC pieces, creating gray tonal and visual nuances. At project’s end, more than five hundred individual GFRC pieces were handmade and mounted in a staggered pattern, to add more graphic dimension and visual impact to the building. The result was an efficient wall system and an architectural work of art.
The company is also known for making functional projects aesthetically beautiful. STABIL’s work on three Florida airport control towers, for example – one in Port Charlotte, one in Sarasota and one in Lakeland – are some of its most challenging and creative projects. Each tower was highly specialized due to structural requirements and various distinctive aesthetic features to reflect each town’s individuality.
Projects like these help STABIL to continue to build its reputation as the precast company that can take on the most challenging projects and get them done on time and within budget. Its work on the Key West Fire Station, with a structural load bearing wall panel, is another such project. STABIL worked with the architect to produce an integral gutter system with the precast wall panels in custom colors. The result is an aesthetically stunning structure that captures the island ambiance of the community.
STABIL has also excelled in the area of hardscapes. For the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida, it created and installed beautiful planters to adorn the walkway to this celebrated museum. The company has also won awards related to its work in hardscapes.
STABIL, in cooperation with Sweet Sparkman Architects, won the 2016 Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects’ Honor Award of Excellence for Renovations/Additions for the Siesta Key Beach Pavilion. The precast stunning white-toned concrete of this hardscape project was made into modern picnic shelters, benches, landscaping, and edging, as part of a full renovation project for the popular Siesta Key Beach area.
STABIL’s many awards and its ability to take on ever more challenging projects is due in large part to its ability to cultivate and maintain an extremely skilled workforce. This is no small feat, since there is no specific trade school devoted to teaching how to work in architectural precast concrete. The challenge with working in concrete is that you have to think backwards to design molds and forms.
The company recruits workers with high levels of creativity and with some experience in formwork and finish carpentry, then provides extensive in-house, on-the-job training and mentors its new employees, so that they can continue to learn. Its best employees are then encouraged to share knowledge and experience with team members.
What does the future hold? Beyond ongoing progress on projects like the Melbourne Airport Control Tower, The Wekiva Expressway, and projects for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, STABIL has plans to expand its new residential and commercial line of custom GFRC products called OSSO Concrete Design for interior designers, architects, homebuilders, and homeowners. This expansion will bring the company’s skills and aesthetic design expertise to a new consumer market.