BY STEPHEN J. PYTAK (STAFF WRITER)
Published: June 20, 2013
The Pottsville Republican-Herlad
CRESSONA - Northeast Prestressed Products LLC is working hard to overcome the lingering effects of federal charges filed in 2009 against executives of its predecessor, Thomas F. Koons, the president and chief operating officer of Northeast Prestressed Products, said Monday.
"It was a challenge getting people to understand that we were committed and dedicated to being in this business and that we were going to do business a little differently than they did it in the past," Koons, 63, of Harrisburg, said of his business, the successor to Schuylkill Products Inc.
Northeast Prestressed builds concrete beams for highway construction projects, as Schuylkill Products did before its executives became entangled in what prosecutors called the largest fraudulent violation ever of the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act.
On April 5, 2012, a jury convicted Joseph W. Nagle, Deerfield Beach, Fla., the former president and chief executive officer of Schuylkill Products, in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg of 26 charges stemming from the fraud.
Nagle has challenged his conviction and is free while awaiting a ruling from Senior U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo on his request for a new trial.
In April 2009, Nagle and Ernest G. Fink Jr., Orwigsburg, the co-owners of Schuylkill Products, sold the company to the Hawbaker family, Daniel Hawbaker and his two sons, Michael and Patrick, State College.
That year was a challenge for the new owners since, in April 2009, Schuylkill Products lost its ability to bid on federal projects, Koons said.
"In October 2009, the Hawbaker family got that back. We made some substantial investments in equipment. The business hasn't grown volume-wise since then, but I think it's grown market-share-wise. We're getting our market share back," Koons said.
Nagle was convicted of participating in a scheme which ran from 1993 to 2008, in which he and other executives at Schuylkill Products Inc. diverted more than 300 state Department of Transportation and SEPTA construction contracts to Schuylkill Products Inc. and CDS Engineers Inc. which were reserved for eligible disadvantaged business enterprises, U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith said in April 2012.
Concerning the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act, Koons said, "we sell products to true DBE contractors listed on PennDOT's website."
The plant superintendent, John Evetushick, 64, of Tamaqua, said Monday he's been working for the company for 25 years.
"It's a great place. We're growing. We're moving forward. We encourage our employees to think about what they do and how they do it and we've got a good management team," he said.
Northeast Prestressed Products is a big business in Schuylkill County in more ways than one, said Koons, who has been company president and COO since May 2010.
"It is a marvel in a way because the uniqueness of the size of our products," Koons said.
Among the bridge beams being assembled Monday at the factory at 121 River St., just off Gordon Nagle Trail, was a "bulb tee" which was 120 feet long and 39 1/2 inches high. It weighed 65 tons. "This one's going to Philadelphia," Koons said.
"It will be part of a pedestrian walkway, a new structure. I think it's going to South Philly along the river. That's a small one. We've made beams double that size," Evetushick said.
The concrete beam-making complex located on a 28-acre site includes 80,000 square feet of production space. A three-shift operation, the company has 145 employees, 95 percent of whom are from Schuylkill County, Koons said.
According to Troy Jenkins, the company's chief engineer, Northeast Prestressed Products is a "manufacturing marvel" because of its commitment to quality.
"We go out of our way to make our products right," said Jenkins, 35, of Lake Wynonah.
For example, the company takes care to prepare the steel "strands" which reinforce its concrete beams.
"We're strict on those tensioning methods, how we pull those cables and how we control those stress levels. Each individual strand is pulled to 33,818 pounds. State and industry requirements say that the tolerance level should be within 5 percent of the target. We hold it to 2 percent," Jenkins said.
The company buys its materials from numerous vendors. Some of its limestone comes from businesses in the county. So does its anthracite coal.
"We use anthracite to create the steam to cure the beams," Koons said.
Annually, the company brings "about $30 million" into Schuylkill County's economy every year, Koons said.
"Northeast Prestressed Products, Cressona, has an huge impact in our community and in Northeast U.S. They are recognized in the transportation infrastructure arena both statewide and nationally. Clearly, any employer has a very important economic impact as a job creator and provider. I am not sure of their employee count but I believe it to be significant and important. Local jobs mean local pay into the commerce of Schuylkill County," Robert S. Carl Jr., executive director of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, said Monday.
The company was established as Schuylkill Products Inc. by the Nagle and Fink families in 1950, according to Koons.
It manufactures prestressed/precast concrete bridge components, including I-beams, bulb tees, adjacent and spread box beams as well as bridge items not traditionally specified as prestressed/ precast concrete, according to the company website.
The company has its own fleet of trucks to transport its goods to 10 states in the northeast and Washington D.C.
"We have eight Peterbilt trucks and 12 steerable trailers," Koons said.
For more information, visit the company's website at nppbeams.com.