Southern States Rebar
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Brandon Bagley
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Chip Wilt has been in the construction industry his entire adult life. On the day of his 18th birthday, he began working as a rod-buster – a rebar ironworker (first union, then non-union as the industry went through changes). For over 20 years he worked for two companies in this highly specialized part of the building industry. In 1993, drawing from his experience with these successful, service-conscious companies, he saw an opportunity to fill a regional Carolinas-area service gap and began building the framework for Southern States Rebar, a leading service contractor offering timely installation of reinforcing steel and post-tension (PT) cables based in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“I was working as a rebar ironworker about 22 years ago when I relocated to a small town in South Carolina to work with my brother Paul,” Chip recalls. “He had found pretty consistent work in the Carolinas, but the subcontractor we were working for there seemed insensitive to the fact that they were operating as service contractors. They would leave a jobsite at 3:30 in the afternoon when there was still critical path work left to do. I just knew it could be done better.”
When work fell through during the recession of the early 90s, Chip started his own company, emphasizing his now well-known “whatever-it-takes” attitude. Picking up side jobs with a handful of part-time trainees, he managed to build a strong reputation in the market as a customer-oriented operation. Quality has always been a priority for Southern States Rebar and the team continues to deliver value to customers throughout the southeastern United States.
Chip currently serves as president of Southern States Rebar and vice president of Southern Concrete Services. He is part-owner along with two more members of the company’s strong and ethnically diverse management team. Melody Wilt, who runs the companies’ business offices, is majority owner and company president of Southern Concrete Services, and vice president of Southern States Rebar. Antonio Martinez is another part-owner and is the field operations manager. His primary job is to schedule 200 men or more onto every jobsite every day, sometimes reacting on less than an hour’s notice. This juggling act encompasses two goals: to meet every schedule obligation and to keep every employee busy every day. Project manager Ron Wilson tracks the 30 to 40 active projects constantly and is integral to business growth and development.
“As one example of our responsiveness, when a local pedestrian bridge collapsed two nights before a major sporting event, our crews responded within two hours,” says Chip. “They worked around the clock until a complete remediation of the entire bleacher structure was completed.”
After more than 20 years of sustained growth, the business has built a strong niche in the southeastern construction market. Southern States Rebar employs more than 200 people, dedicated professionals providing reinforcement services throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and surrounding states.
The team has been involved with a wide range of private commercial projects. Southern States Rebar is a frequent presence at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. “We’ve done five gigantic parking decks over there,” says Chip. “These involve major concrete, rebar and PT cables. The largest of the five decks had over 10,000 tons of rebar and 3 million pounds of PT cables, a large structure by any account. We like parking decks because most of the contract is earthmoving, formwork and reinforcing. It’s heavy on the initial phase; after you pour concrete, you paint stripes on it and you’re about done. There’s very little left to do once the frame is poured out.”
Southern States Rebar has established a large and diverse portfolio. Recent work includes data centers, apartment buildings, tire factories, paper plants and other industrial and commercial projects. The business works exclusively in the private sector and has longstanding partnerships with several regional general contractors and specialty concrete contractors.
“We’re currently working on a big project in Anderson, South Carolina,” Chip states. “It is a paper plant for First Quality Tissue. We also built a Bridgestone Plant in Akin, South Carolina, and a new Boeing plant in Charleston, South Carolina. We also wrapped up a massive industrial plant project for Wacker a few years ago, which I believe was one of the largest concrete projects in the southeastern U.S. with the exception of nuclear projects.”
Despite a challenging market throughout the recession, Chip and his colleagues have been able to build and sustain growth in recent years. “We expanded our services when the economy fell out,” he explains. “As a specialized, service-oriented company, we diversified geographically. We found we were able to do the same work but spread out across the country.”
“We also took projects at a very marginal rate,” he continues. “We considered ourselves fortunate to break even at some points, but we were able to keep our workforce in place. Now that the economy is back, we’re often the only ones with sufficient manpower, so we are involved in many projects. We are taking on big opportunities other companies can’t capitalize on.”
While Chip credits financial responsibility with much of the company’s success over the years, he says the business’ sustained growth is more about Southern States Rebar’s reputation. “The bible says ‘a good reputation is to be valued more highly than silver and gold,'” Chip notes. “We’ve striven to build and maintain a strong reputation of dependability and service at a fair price – that’s what sets us apart from everyone else.”
With more projects and opportunities coming down the pipeline, Chip says 2015 is going to be a good year for the business. Markets are growing throughout the company’s service area and Southern States Rebar has the experience and resources to take on challenging work as construction picks up.
As the industry undergoes growth in the coming years, Southern States Rebar will continue to maintain a reputation as a quality reinforcement installation contractor, serving customers throughout the Southeast with efficiency and integrity.
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