Patriot Erectors, LLC is one of three companies in Texas that is dual certified in steel fabrication and erection by the American Institute of Steel Construction, providing a turnkey service in a market with varied demands.
The company was established in 1991 as a small-business steel erector, beginning with just a single truck, welding machine and some hand tools. Patriot ran on little more than hard work and a desire to provide a reliable service on which customers could depend. The company grew over the next few years, but by the year 2000, the founder and majority owner was ready to move on. He called on two employees who had been there from the start and gave them “30 days” to find a way to buy it. Parley Dixon and Rex Webb recognized that there was a great deal of value and opportunity in what had been built at Patriot, so they put a deal together and purchased the company.
At the time of this first transition, Patriot was primarily a steel erector, with only 10 to 12 percent of revenues coming from fabrication. Under this new leadership, a plan was developed to expand the company to include more comprehensive fabrication services. The duo’s vision included offering a turnkey service to better meet customers’ needs and to have more control over that market segment. Approximately six years into this plan, 95 percent of revenues were generated from turnkey fabrication and erection operations.
“Our goal was, and still is, to be the company nimble enough to meet the needs of our customer’s project, large or small. Each customer should feel like their project is the only project that matters to Patriot. It’s a delicate balancing act, but we strive to provide the best service and value for our customers,” said company President and Chief Executive Officer Parley Dixon.
In 2018, Webb retired, and Dixon had a decision to make: retire, scale back or continue to grow the company to foster a place for employees to thrive. Dixon decided on the latter, but he wanted more for the company, and after much research, he engaged new equity partners and recapitalized the company. In February of the following year, Patriot acquired a fabrication company in Trinity, Texas, with very similar corporate values to Patriot. Shortly thereafter, Patriot also purchased a vacant fabrication facility in Rio Vista, Texas.
With the new focus and strategy, the company now has more than 178,000 square feet of fabrication capability between the three locations, expanding its support to customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Houston area.
“We’ve enjoyed a long history of providing steel fabrication and erection services,” said Dixon. “There are not many companies that can survive five or 10 years in business, let alone 25 or more. Further, few companies survive a succession; we’re on our second – the first at the 10-year mark, the second at nearly twice that. It’s pretty unique for a company to withstand all that change, but that success is mostly due to the talented and committed professionals we have on our team.”
Over time, the company has gained expertise in challenging, high-end projects using ornate, architecturally exposed steel components. However, the company still supports smaller projects worth a few thousand dollars. Bottom line – it’s whatever the customer needs.
The company’s portfolio includes several award-winning projects for both athletic and educational facilities for the University of Texas, many Texas airports, commercial developments, and industrial facilities. Growth has been directed not toward a particular project or market type, but toward the ability to handle the varying scope and complexity for the diverse projects that a customer might bring to the table.
“We are not a commodity establishment that tells customers what we will provide to them and how, but rather we aim to focus on the customer’s needs and helping them to find solutions. We want to be the best overall value,” said Dixon. “Patriot provides full-service solutions that are worth a great deal more in the long run rather than just being a low price. As a result, customers often come to Patriot asking for assistance on projects with a broader, more complicated scope,” he explained.
“As Patriot has grown, we have worked hard to hold onto the culture and values of safety, teamwork, ethics, enthusiasm, and leadership that have been present since the beginning.” Patriot’s leadership has taken care to build a workforce that respects these ideals as summed up by the STEEL acronym, and it operates accordingly, with an enthusiastic attitude and with accountability. By holding to this foundation, the company has earned the trust and confidence of its customers to keep projects on schedule with the utmost consideration for safety.
This ethos is the key to the company’s success, and a driving factor in what Patriot looks for in prospective employees. Dixon said his goal is to always be in a group of people who are much smarter than him. “I truly believe that I’ve surrounded myself with excellent people with the highest integrity, who are intelligent, driven, and fit the model of what our goals are,” he said. “I’m confident that our team can accomplish any goal that we set our sights on.”
Dixon believes that the construction industry can be a place of redemption, where people who have made mistakes can turn their lives around and better themselves by becoming self-reliant – not just at Patriot, but in their communities and homes. The company empowers all of its employees with the ability to better themselves while contributing to the success of the company. The success seen in this highly competitive market is greatly due to ensuring Patriot’s employees believe in the culture and values of the company. By hiring the right people and empowering them to perform at their best and be leaders, Patriot has enhanced and refined the efficiency of its operation and expanded growth opportunities.
The work in this industry is high-risk, and much trust is required on the part of the customer. By hiring a company that offers a turnkey solution, much of the risk can be better mitigated, which helps to generate confidence and security in the mind of the customer. On the fabrication side of the business, many of the company’s competitors are moving toward automation. This can reduce costs by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fabricate a given component, but it also limits the breadth of work a company can do. Some projects still require the timeless skill of the craftsman. Patriot aims to foster and develop its capacity to work on those kinds of projects while still embracing technological advances to compete in the more general market.
Of course, there are some limits to the type of work Patriot can do. When a project calls for expertise outside the company’s wheelhouse, Patriot will provide the customer with references or referrals to entities that might better execute a given scope of work. In some cases, the company will even help a customer manage a subcontractor buyout, all in the interest of providing customers with the best outcome for their project. “Effectively, we want to be positioned to facilitate whatever the need of the client is – self-performed or just providing a great referral,” he said.
Patriot plans to take advantage of the growing construction market while it lasts. Construction is a challenging industry; a hot market is not always available. Patriot is growing, and its leadership plans to continue on that path. It has developed an approach that many customers in the market have come to trust, and that approach has enabled the company to find success in good times and bad. Having a workforce that believes in the company’s vision, its values, and its goals has helped to foster that confidence.
After nearly 30 years in business, Patriot Erectors has grown to be a leading steel fabricator and erector in Texas. “We’re in a very unique and fortunate position,” said Dixon. “We’re in one of the greatest states in the greatest nation in the world. If you look at what America can offer an individual, it’s truly remarkable. We don’t take that stewardship lightly. We want to empower our people to see that they can effect change, that we can do positive things. Not just at Patriot, but within our industry, within our communities, and within our families.”