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News August 29, 2002
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If the people of Weddle Bros

If the people of Weddle Bros. Construction Co. Inc. are ever left penniless in the bridge industry, the Disney family will surely take them in.

The Bloomington, Ind., outfit holds a unique position in the marketplace. Not only does it handle bridge jobs around the land of Indy cars and basketball, but there also are plenty of industrial and commercial buildings to tend to. Weddle Bros. can teeter between the two, and among its impressive client list includes Disney World-Florida, Sea World of Florida, General Electric, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the city of Evansville.

"One of the keys for our company is we don't just do roads and bridges," Lee Carmichael, president and CEO, told ROADS&BRIDGES. "One point in the early '80s we had one bridge job and we were able to survive by being diversified and doing other types of business--primarily building work. There's also been times when the building work has been very down and the bridge work hasn't."

Wherever the boom, Weddle Bros. has found a way of being a part of the economic firing squad. The company posts annual revenues of $60 million and finds work for anywhere between 175-400 employees.

"There are bigger road contractors, there are bigger general construction contractors," Scott Sieboldt, vice president--division manager, highway division, told ROADS&BRIDGES. "As far as doing both we're probably up there on the list. We think that's a good thing."

Growth related

It's been a two-man operation from the beginning. Maurice Weddle spit nails with the best of them. He was known for his superior carpentry skills and breathed a love for building things. Brother Harold lived with the same passion, and put it to peace-fighting use as a member of the Cee Bees in World War II. Harold was part of the squad that would hit the beach first and build compounds where the officers and soldiers would live and operate. In 1946, the two siblings formed a company, one that started in the housing, retail and small manufacturing building market. The breakthrough came a few years later, when Weddle Bros. constructed an RCA plant in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

When the opportunity came to enter the roads and bridges business, Harold and Maurice followed a successful pattern--they formed a partnership. Ralph Rogers and Co. (now called Rogers Group Inc., Nashville, Tenn.) was a major road contractor in the Bloomington area and owned several asphalt plants and quarries. Bridge construction, however, was the Weddle's game.

"We had a concrete expertise, and the partnership has been very successful," said Carmichael.

The DOT influence would come about 12 years later. Gus Sieboldt had ownership in Weddle Bros. and his son, Richard, signed on as president in 1977. Richard's background was with the Indiana DOT, and during his 20-year executive tenure concentrated on the highway side while Harold and Maurice worked the building business. Profits were promising.

"Richard was very key in our growth in the highway business. He helped bring in the DOT," said Carmichael.

The early '80s kept everyone from advancing a size or two. The market was reduced to a crawl, but Weddle Bros., focused on the construction of river bridges, invested for the good of the family once again by acquiring J.L. Wilson and Co. The Bloomfield, Ind., contractor specialized in bridge equipment, and the merger doubled Weddle Bros.' bridge capacity and offered up some much needed storage and maintenance facilities.

"That was very big for us," said Carmichael. "We acquired some very good people."

For more on the story, read the September issue of ROADS&BRIDGES.

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