The Spancrete Group Inc.

Many structures in Wisconsin, and in other states, have been built using systems and components designed and built by Waukesha-based The Spancrete Group Inc.

Spancrete makes pre-cast concrete panels, columns, stairs, beams, girders and related products in five different manufacturing plants in Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida. The company’s components can be seen in landmarks such as Miller Park, Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station, the Petit National Ice Center, Camp Randall Stadium in Madison and countless hotels, office buildings, hospitals, parking ramps throughout the state and the Midwest.

Spancrete’s panels are now being used to construct U.S. Bank’s new parking structure in downtown Milwaukee.
“Pre-cast concrete can be aesthetic or structural and we do both. The bulk of our business is structural,” said John Nagy, president and CEO of Spancrete. “Pre-cast is a building system. You can use components of it with steel, masonry and poured concrete or you can use a whole pre-cast system.”
When construction workers are erecting a building, such as the Petit Center in West Allis, using pre-cast concrete pieces the panels are lifted and then welded into place. Because pre-cast concrete is poured indoors under controlled conditions, it is frequently stronger than other building materials, and allows construction workers to work faster, Nagy said.
Spancrete pours its concrete pieces inside where it can be cured at controlled temperatures and the company is able to make both very large and small parts.
“We’ve made 160-foot long concrete girders for the whole Marquette Interchange,” Nagy said. “The pre-cast walls (for the interchange) were also made at our plants. But we can also do things like decorative canopies, copings, balustrades, stairs and stairwells.”
Some of the company’s most popular products are its Spancrete hollowcore floor and roof planks, which are used in commercial buildings, as well as multifamily and single family homes, Nagy said. When the panels are used for flooring in single family homes, they are typically paired with in-floor radiant heat systems.
“Concrete is a green building material,” Nagy said. “When you add in the thermal capabilities of concrete, especially Spancrete, with the voids and hollow cores it has, it really adds to efficiency.”
Both the commercial and residential construction industries are well off their historic highs from earlier this decade. As a result, Spancrete has seen lower sales and demand for its product over the last few years, Nagy said.
In late 2007, the company had about 725 employees. Today, it has about 475.
“It’s been all over the place for the last two years. Business has been terrible,” Nagy said. “2010 is going to be similar to 2009. Money will be tight. Builders are having trouble getting projects funded and into the ground. It’s scary.”
Spancrete’s engineering department routinely partners with its customers to help them design their facilities and the pre-cast concrete elements that will be incorporated into them, Nagy said. The company’s engineers are now designing new products for new markets like alternative energy, which will help Spancrete recapture some of the business that has been lost in commercial construction.
Current wind power generation systems are supported by steel towers. Spancrete is now designing larger and taller towers using pre-cast concrete.
“The new generations of tower are going higher with larger turbines and they’ll reach a limit (steel towers) can’t get to, but we will,” Nagy said. “The markets we had four or five years ago aren’t going to come back like they were before. We have to look at what we can build. If (high speed) rail comes through (in Wisconsin), we will have to look at making pre-cast ties like we did in the 1970s.”

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