Dant Clayton Corporation
Bruce Merrick and his father always had a passion for sports, at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Thus, in 1979 the two found a way to combine their appreciation for sports with career goals. Together they founded Dant Clayton Corporation, a top-notch outdoor seating systems manufacturer for sports venues that earns more than $40 million annually. “Our primary market focus is collegiate and K-12 outdoor sports facilities. Secondarily we are a specialty contractor for professional sports facilities,” Bruce explains.
Dant Clayton is now one of only a handful of companies designing, manufacturing and installing aluminum bleachers, stadiums and grandstands. The company manages to stay ahead of its competition thanks to “our focus on customer needs in terms of product and process,” Bruce shares.
Stilling working from Louisville, Ky., Bruce has successfully led the company to complete projects throughout the United States and in Canada. “The scope of our services begins with design and engineering work, moves to fabrication and finally erection work,” Bruce explains. The company has produced such innovations as a welded deck system, improved underside water channeling and non-skid walking systems, color-matched powder coating and architectural vertical closure systems.
To make its range of services efficient, Dant Clayton has an in-house fabrication plant that is split into two separate houses. One handles steel fabrication, while the other handles aluminum fabrication. Combining the two separate units, the company’s total fabrication facility is 350,000 square feet.
Through its in-house capabilities, Dant Clayton is able to handle several project approaches. “In our particular products there are very few projects that are clean design-build or design-bid-build. They seem to have elements of both in most projects,” Bruce clarifies. “Our preferred delivery method is design-build because of the value to the end user. The projects that have the best outcomes have the architect, general contractor, principle specialty contractors and owner at the table from the beginning.”
Growing on Success
No matter what the approach, Dant Clayton’s more than 100 employees have plenty of experience putting together seating systems to meet all project owner needs. There are those occasions, however, when Dant Clayton uses additional subcontractors “for small portions of the contract that require expertise beyond what we have,” Bruce states.
Recently Dant Clayton was “in the final stages of building a new football stadium for Southern Illinois University. They have a good sports program for a small school. This stadium will have about 14,000 seats,” Bruce shares.
Meanwhile, Dant Clayton has worked on three separate stadiums at the University of Pittsburgh. Although they are separate buildings, Dant Clayton set to complete all of them in the same week. The stadiums are for baseball, softball and soccer teams.
At the professional sports level, Dant Clayton worked on the recent improvements at the Yankee Stadium. However, as are most things involved with the Yankees, Dant Clayton’s work there is confidential information.
Regardless of the project type, Dant Clayton’s biggest expenses are materials followed by labor. “The insurance market is soft right now, our premiums have reduced, and I don’t see that changing this year or next. It will come back at some point, but not soon,” Bruce expects.
While the insurance premiums are down, Dant Clayton has other challenges to overcome. “Our focus over the last couple years has been to accelerate our continuous improvement process. If we used to have to get better at something based on X rate per year, now we have to get better at 2X rate per year,” Bruce compares.
To implement these improvements, “we have increased our training, brought in new production equipment, and added new software implementation. This will help us as we go into new markets,” Bruce says.
With so much opportunity on the horizon, the only things keeping Bruce awake at night are “federal debt and state budgets.” His concern for these topics matches his economic outlook. “I believe it’s going to be 2013 before construction business returns to any kinds of normal levels, like the levels of 2007,” he predicts.
During the interim, Dant Clayton is looking to innovate his business and capture larger revenue. “We’ve introduced a new product that will take us into new market segments. It’s a prefabricated, pre-engineered, precast concrete stadium structure,” Bruce hints.
Combining growth opportunities from this new product with its well-established commitment to cooperation, collaboration competence and coordination, Dant Clayton Corporation is poised to capture increasing market share of its unique niche.
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