Case Studies

Pacific Coast Steel

A West Coast Success Story

One of Pacific Coast Steel’s (PCS) core values is going the extra mile for its clients. By adhering to this principle, PCS has left its competitors in the dust, evolving into one of the largest, most capable reinforcing steel contractors in the United States. According to ENR (Engineering News-Record) Magazine, PCS is number 74 on its 2011 Top 600 Specialty Contractors list (and number 13 on California’s 2011 Top Specialty Contractors list), and the company is poised to move further towards the top of the list. The company specializes in the fabrication and installation of reinforcing steel and post-tensioned products for reinforced concrete projects, including design-build, high-rise, heavy engineering, civil and public agency works of improvement. It fabricates and installs tens of thousands of tons of reinforcing bars every month.

The firm started in San Diego, Calif., in 1992, and in just little more than a decade became the largest reinforcement steel subcontractor in the city, quickly expanding operations into the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. In 2006 PCS entered into a general partnership with Gerdau Ameristeel (Gerdau), the nation’s second largest producer of reinforcing bar, followed shortly thereafter by acquisitions of Valley Placers Inc., D&R Steel and Century Steel Inc. By 2008, PCS was the largest company of its type in the United States, servicing the states of California, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho and Wyoming, and generating $500 million in annual revenue. PCS went the extra mile, kept on going, and never looked back.

What can be attributed to the unrivaled success of the operation is the adherence to certain core values centered on doing business the right way – specifically customer service through careful project management, continuous improvement, and ensuring employee satisfaction.

That isn’t to say that it’s been smooth sailing for PCS over the past five years. Like with most companies, the economy hit PCS hard. Revenues were cut in half, and overhead was cut. However, PCS has maintained its standing as the finest reinforcing steel subcontractor on the West Coast thanks to the conscientious, proactive stewardship of executives such as President and CEO David A. Perkins, Vice President of Operations Jon Scurlock Sr., Vice President of Sales Bing Drastrup, CFO Kent McBeth, and a team of experienced professionals. With an experienced, proactive team in place, the company is primed to emerge from the recession ready to grow again.

Reinforcing the West Coast Skyline

Eric B. Benson, who founded the company and remains on its Board, started the company by doing reinforcing steelwork for tilt-up buildings and other small structure projects. The business really took off in the late 1990s when PCS opened a large-scale fabrication plant in the San Francisco Bay area. This opened the door to larger projects, such as parking structures, bridges, reservoirs, water treatment plants, office buildings, schools, libraries and other municipal facilities.

Over the years, Benson and PCS increased the number of the company’s fabrication plants, and as a result the firm has worked on a number of large, high-profile projects, including some of the largest skyscrapers on the West Coast. The company now has eight different plants throughout the West Coast and Inter-Mountain area, along with a wealth of services to offer potential clients.

“Our niche is reinforcing steel, ‘rebar,’ which of course is reinforcing for concrete, so we do a mixture of project types, dams, bridges, lots of big stuff, major commercial concrete projects basically,” says Bing Drastrup, PCS senior vice president. “We both fabricate and install reinforcing steel, and before the market completely took a dive here a few years back we had about 1,800 iron workers in the field at our peak.” The company continues to employ an extensive workforce to execute management’s strategic vision.

With such resources to its name, the PCS name has been indelibly stamped up and down the West Coast. “Currently, in San Diego we are completing the architecturally stunning downtown city library project. It is an 8,000-ton project, and representative of the unique types of projects in which we are engaged because of our expertise. We’ve done a number of high-rise projects in the San Diego and other West Coast cities, including 15 to 20 towers that are between 25 to 40 stories tall,” says Drastrup.

In addition, the firm has begun a 36,000-ton project in Washington for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “That project involves the casting of some 30 very large pontoons that will form the base for a floating bridge. It’s a fascinating project,” reflects Drastrup.

The firm has also expanded into serving alternative energy sectors, thanks in part to government support and funding. “We’ve furnished and/or installed more than 35,000 tons of reinforcing bars for wind farm foundations up and down the coast. There’s a whole bunch of them in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River, and in the California desert – areas where there is an abundance of wind,” explains Drastrup.

All of these capabilities are reinforced through education and business opportunities available through the Associated General Contractors, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, Post Tensioning Institute, Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust, and the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California. Several of these organizations have acknowledged PCS with awards for safety and professional achievement.

Built To Last

PCS rode a wave of success to its apex in 2008. However, starting that year some momentum was lost as a result of the recession and the company was forced to cut back. In addition to the credit crunch, which had much to do with the decrease in construction activity, international factors also played a large role according to Drastrup, who explains, “Our largest and most unpredictable expense right now is the cost of reinforcing steel bars, and there’s been a lot of volatility in the pricing of that product over the past couple years driven by the international price of scrap the domestic steel mills buy for making steel.”

The uncertainty regarding the price of steel, combined with a struggling economy, has made it difficult to predict the industry’s future. As a result, PCS’ management has toned down short-term expectations. “Our philosophy right now is to survive the trough. There remains an over-capacity in the industry. The margins have been considerably lowered as a result of that. It’s a very, very competitive marketplace and many firms have gone out of business as a result,” says Drastrup.

However, with 20 years of experience executing projects on time and within budget, and with support from their partnership with Gerdau, PCS has the capabilities to assure any dips are temporary. It’s hard to predict when the marketplace will return to form, but PCS has created one of the greatest specialty contracting success stories of recent years. The company is strong, and, as long as it stays true to its foundation of customer service, employee satisfaction and continuous improvement, the sky’s the limit for Pacific Coast Steel.

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Spring 2018



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