A third-generation family business, Gossett Concrete Pipe Company, located in Greenville, SC, is celebrating 75 years with a plant expansion, acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment and a succession plan that sees the fourth generation preparing for the challenge when current owner A. C. ‘Bo’ Gossett III steps down. We spoke with Gossett and his two sons-in-law about the importance of family and about why reinforced concrete pipe is by far the best choice for storm drainage projects.
“We all live within a mile of each other and we’re a strong, close family,” says Prosser Carnegie, Vice President of Operations, who brings to the business a doctorate in physical chemistry. He’s married to Currie, daughter of A. C. ‘Bo’ Gossett III and his wife Donna, who has also worked for the company, and father to Logan, four and Lucas, 14 months. Meanwhile Currie’s sister, Janie, who works in the company’s HR and accounts department, is married to Vice President David Marchbanks, a former pitcher for the Florida Marlins, and they are the parents of Tripp, nine; Avery, six; and Baby ‘Bo’, a 19-month old girl.
With two sons-in-law being groomed to take over (Prosser Carnegie and David Marchbanks, both Vice Presidents) and five grandchildren, surely the future is assured in the company started by A. C. Gossett Sr. in 1944, a company with its roots in concrete.
“My grandfather was a motorcycle cop in Greenville and making concrete burial vaults in his backyard,” Gossett recalled, “and then he decided to get into the concrete pipe business. He started making hand-cast pipe through the late ’40s and in 1950 he put in two machines and started making machine-made pipe.”
Gossett’s father, A. C. Gossett Jr., took over the business in 1954, “after serving in the navy in the Korean Conflict, Dad served as President until I took his position in 1991,” Gossett said. One year after Gossett took over as president, he decided the time was right to expand by investing in the company, something he has continued to do to ensure its growth.
“We automated the company, built our first large plant in 1991, replaced a 40-year-old packerhead machine with a McCracken PH-48 automated machine, which was recently replaced with a new Besser Advantage A-60 Packerhead,” he told us. “Everything is customized. We make everything to design and to specifications and we deliver to the job site.”
A major opportunity came Gossett’s way in 1993 when BMW Corp. of America decided to build its American manufacturing facility in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson metropolitan area and accepted Gossett’s bid as a key drainage product supplier. “It was a big, big project,” says Gossett, “and we supplied all the pipe and concrete products. With all the expansions over the years, it has become an ongoing, signature project for us.”
Another significant project for Gossett was the provision of small- and medium-bore pipe for extensive South Carolina DOT work on Interstate 85, the main artery linking Greenville to Atlanta, two-and-a-half hours away.
Then in 2007 Gossett built a second plant on six acres of an adjoining site, equipped with a successor to the McCracken pipe machine — a Besser A-36 bi-directional (Bi-Di) Advantage Series machine.
A third plant was completed in 2012, with a new 120” Besser Vibro-Mac to support production of large-bore pipe (up to 120″) and added equipment to produce gasketed box culverts up to a 12-foot square.
Just recently, Gossett purchased a new XY Hawkeye feeder system to produce box culverts, which, Gossett says, “is safer and cuts down on manpower, so one or two people can run the plant, because the concrete is automatically fed into the boxes. It eliminates labor and makes a safer environment and a more consistent product.”
A new plant
Now, in the company’s 75th anniversary year, a new precast plant is under construction and will include a batch plant and a three-yard mixer. “So,” Gossett says, “it’s going to be a big facility producing a variety of precast items — all the stuff related to the concrete-pipe business: items and complementary products that go with a storm-drain project such as end walls, flared ends, lids, risers — everything used to build an underground infrastructure for a storm drain project.”
As well as the vision, determination and hard work of the first three generations, the success of the family-owned business owes much to membership of the American Concrete Pipe Association, a non-profit organization established in 1907, which provides research, technical, and marketing support to member companies in the U.S., Canada, and over 40 countries world-wide.
After sitting on the executive committee for several years, Gossett served as chairman of the international organization in 2016. Currently Marchbanks is on the government relations committee and both he and employee Kevin Kitchin serve on the infrastructure committee.
Through membership “we have developed a lot of great relationships and good friends,” Marchbanks says, “and from a business standpoint it has allowed us to improve through the Q-Cast Certification program and to really up our game in terms of quality and taking our company forward. It’s allowed us to stay up to date on things that are forever changing in our industry in terms of specifications and manufacturing practices, to allow us to have constant improvement for our products and for safety.”
The Q-Cast challenge
Q-Cast certification is a 124-point audit quality-control program that involves an annual plant inspection by a visiting independent contracting body. All 124 points under scrutiny are critical in order to be classified as Q-Cast. “It’s not too far removed from ISO and other external certification bodies, like those for the automotive industry, but it’s specific to concrete pipe,” Carnegie explained. “It’s a way of ensuring and verifying there’s a high-quality standard being met and allows us to verify quality products for state agencies in both Carolinas.”
Marchbanks explains, “The Q-Cast Program is a continuous program that must be kept up with on a daily basis. During the annual audit, every phase of our QC program is audited including raw materials, finished product/handling procedures, quality documentation, and quality management structure,” he says.
“Meanwhile,” he continues, “in our government relations committee, we focus on legislation that affects our industry on both the federal and state level. Every year, bills are introduced that have an impact on our industry, so serving on that committee allows us to stay involved and up to date on those issues.”
Simply the best
The government relations committee also provides the industry with an opportunity to educate elected officials about the benefits of reinforced concrete pipe as opposed to alternative products such as corrugated metal or HDPE (high density polyethylene pipe). “From a value standpoint, concrete pipe has a proven track record of resiliency and sustainability to perform throughout its entire design life. Our product doesn’t burn, float, deflect, or corrode, and the strength is delivered on the truck.”
“What that means,” Carnegie explains, “is that there is an inherent load carrying capacity in the pipe itself that doesn’t depend on the surrounding ground. We have a particular test for the load-carrying capabilities of concrete pipe and you can’t run that test on plastic or metal pipe as it will crush them immediately.”
“HDPE and corrugated metal pipe just provide a lined hole in the ground with the soil itself and expensive backfill and compaction providing the load carrying strength whereas concrete pipe itself can carry the load. And if there’s flooding, it won’t float out of the ground. It will stay in place and it doesn’t burn. There have been several instances where a truck carrying fuel flipped over and it burned out the pipe and then the road structure caved in.”
One of the biggest instances of fire and collapse occurred in March 2017 on Interstate 85 in Atlanta. A 92-foot section of a bridge collapsed because of an arson-related fire which started in the HDPE and fiberglass pipe stored under the bridge.
Reinforced concrete pipe can be more expensive than the alternatives, by price per foot, but Marchbanks says the real expense is not transparent, because the general contractor has to take into account the more expensive backfill required to support plastic or metal. “If you look at a price list, foot for foot, the alternatives look cheaper, but that’s not the reality.”
A better way
In an article entitled “Storm Sewer Construction Expedited with Precast Concrete Boxes” published in ACPA Concrete Pipe News in 2014, co-authors Bo Gossett, David Marchbanks, and Mike Wilson explain how the company was able to help the City of Columbia solve flooding problems caused by an outdated storm-drain system.
The solution was the construction of a parallel storm sewer, comprised of 3,099 feet of 5-foot by 4-foot precast-concrete boxes, which served as a relief drain to the existing system, with 14 special precast boxes manufactured with catch-basin access.
The original specifications for sealing the joints called for a butyl joint sealant, with joint wrap and steel bands on the exterior of each joint. However, Gossett believed that this method would increase the difficulty for the installer (McClam and Associates) because of unstable soil conditions and changes in stations and elevations due to existing utilities.
A South Carolina first
Instead, Gossett proposed using a pre-lubricated rubber gasket joint which met the standards of ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International and was accepted by the design engineers, LPA & Associates/Wilbur Smith.
This marked the first time that rubber-gasket precast box sections were installed in South Carolina. Each gasket supplied by Hamilton Kent, according to Gossett, “was glued to the spigot of each joint prior to shipment. In addition, lift inserts were cast into each box to eliminate lift holes. The use of lift pins helped speed up installation of the boxes by eliminating the need for lift hole repair.”
Although Gossett was aware of the unstable soil conditions in the area, he didn’t know that the summer of 2013 would be the wettest on record in South Carolina. However, “because the joints were gasketed, the installation progressed despite the inclement weather, because de-watering was not needed, and workers spent less time in the trench.”
Thrive at 75
It’s quite remarkable to see a family-owned company, like the Gossett Concrete Pipe Company, not just survive but stand poised for great success after three-quarters of a century. Their recipe? A strong, united family; continual investment in the business; and dedication to quality and integrity.
A. C. Gossett Sr. and Jr. would have approved, and his great-great-grandchildren, inheritors of a proud history, have much to look forward to.