Custom built trusses often start out at the desk of designer, George Kubicki, who has been with the company since 2001.
Structural Integrity Sustains NORTH GEORGIA TRUSS
By Clare Adrian
Cartersville, Ga.—Like the product it manufactures, North Georgia Truss remains firmly established, bearing the load of whatever external forces the construction industry compresses upon it, braced with strength and stability. What sets it apart and assures meeting goals and survival during challenging times is a commitment to maintaining standards, set above and beyond those of the industry, along the way.
The elements of its mission statement guide the Cartersville, Georgia-based company on its journey to meeting the needs of the building industry with precision-engineered roof and floor trusses. From the core of its faith-based tenets, it demands conducting business with the highest degree of honesty, integrity, and fair market pricing, cutting edge industry systems and products, and caring, lasting relationships with business and trade partners as well as employees in carrying themselves and the company forward.
311 Designer Michael C. Kettmann Jr. considers the style requirements of a custom truss order.
Company president, Steve Powell and investor, Tola Haynes, partnered in 2008 when Powell bought the company from his parents, shortly before the economic challenges of 2009 set in, a timing similar to that of a 1989 fire that destroyed the business his father, Tom Powell, started up in 1987. The senior Powell had transferred his skills in the roofing business to a small already operational truss plant for sale at the time. The fire forced a move from the parched Adairsville, Georgia location, to a salvage lumberyard on three acres in the current location, a move that has turned out to be a positive one. Family added solid support one by one, Powell’s wife, Elizabeth, upon retirement in 1996 and current president, son Steve, in 1998 after working in the homebuilding industry and moving to the area.
The company now operates out of 3 buildings, the 11,000 square foot press room which houses the main Mitek saw and roof truss production line, the 8,000 square foot floor truss production room, and the 5,000 square foot main office and storage building.
No one could have foreseen the 75 percent drop in the area’s home building permits over the course of 2009 and at times, Powell had questioned holding on. Growth within his own company slowed below the 3 to 5 percent annual growth the company was enjoying. “No one fathomed the depth and length of this, always prepared for rainy days but not a flood. “And the number of his employees dropped from 28 in the normal market to 15, as many clients became unable to pay their debts.
Even amidst the crisis, like his father, he’s managed to make lemonade out of the ingredients. “Many made personal
The entire floor and roof truss crews, as well as fork lift operator, Tim Lee, 4th from right and shop manager, Pedro Muniz, 6th from right, wearing red baseball cap.
sacrifices, it’s been a huge learning experience and extreme challenge, but honestly, we’re thankful. We’re better people and company for what we’ve learned.”
Powell can see the light at the end of the tunnel as he continues on in the mission backed operational practices. Automation starts only after each piece of the 1,200,000 board feet of lumber he buys annually is handpicked to minimize defects for life-long support of the building. That number is down from the amount he’d been purchasing for the past ten years, which hovered around 2 ˝ million. The strongest softwood available in the South is Southern Yellow Pine, which Powell purchases in 2X4, 8- though 20-foot lengths, No. 2,3,1, 2X6 No. 2 and SS, 12-though 18-foot lengths, 2X8 No.1, 14 through 18-foot. Since the economic downturn more materials are bought through brokers such as Lumber One Georgia, G-Plex Forest Products, and Botkin Lumber. Many orders are filled direct from small mills around the states of Georgia and Florida, such as Gilman and Tolleson Lumber.
Truss orders that pass through the yard foreman’s hands specify the style design from common, scissor, attic and gambrel, to miscellaneous configurations or floor trusses, all which are custom built to precision, usually progress on to the Mitek Smart set pro component saw. Pieces are labeled and brought to the roof or floor room for assembly. Alpine Plates, a division of Illinois Tool Works supplies plates that hold the trusses together, which exit through the finish press. They’re then stacked on either of two trucks for delivery, a 1998 Mack tractor/trailer or 1990 International flatbed, depending on length, roof trusses to 66 long and floor trusses, from 20 to 200 per load. As volume dictates, leased trucks are used.
Members of the roof crew at work on the building and assembly of roof trusses.
North Georgia has historically been serving the Metro Atlanta residential market, yet the vacuum left by the death of home building demanded spreading into the commercial sector and widening the sales territory into Mississippi, Southern Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
A new product stream promises to help float the company to the top again. North Georgia Truss now buys, assembles and sells to wholesalers and lumber yards, SpaceJoist Trimmable End floor truss systems, a combination wood I-joist-open web truss designed flexibility to allow field cutting up to 12-inches on both ends to suit on-site needs and easy passage of duct work, plumbing and electrical wiring.
The benefits are, described Powell, “It’s a cash and carry specific item versus custom and opens up a lot of markets. The open web provides the ability to get mechanicals through and are used in situations that may need adjustability, and can fit in many situations.”
As confidence in survival builds, Powell can focus on the long term goals of the company, to move to a new location and expand shop capabilities, by building a new facility or moving to a larger one, grow the SpaceJoist business, and concentrate on sales and marketing throughout the Southeast.
Underlying any changes is the steady beat in the mission formula of concern for employee goals, within the company and personally. “We might be a stepping stone for them to go on to bigger things in the industry or move on to a different one. For some, North Georgia becomes a career and several have been here as long as I have. Plant foreman, Pedro Muniz, has been with the company since the early 90s.” Whatever level or direction they’re headed, employees have a variety of training options available through the company, from industry technology to team building.
The floor group members at various stages of floor truss assembly in the 8,000 square foot floor truss production room.
Powell, member of the Homebuilders Association and Structural Building Components Association, looks to the near future for the industry to get back to normal and his own company to have a promising one. “We’ve always had the ability to be competitive with large companies in design and production and still have small business values and customer service. For those who are making it through this, it’s made us more efficient and smarter, something new companies won’t understand. It’s been life changing not just business-wise but personally. It’s been tough, but it’s really a blessing.”
North Georgia Truss operates out of 3 buildings, the 11,000 square foot press room which houses the main Mitek saw and roof truss production line, the 8,000 square foot floor truss production room, and the 5,000 square foot main office and storage building. Pictured is the production facility.