ACPA Honors Founding Companies at World of Concrete

On March 1, 1974, a group of concrete pumpers, manufacturers and distributors gathered aboard the iconic ocean liner Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. They met to discuss promoting concrete pumping as the choice method of placing concrete — and how to educate the industry on safe pumping procedures.

Led by Bill Drake, founder of Hydracrete Concrete Pumping, the group elected officers and hired a professional management team to oversee its operations. Later that month, on March 18, the American Concrete Pumping Association was officially incorporated as a State of California nonprofit corporation. And so our journey began.

As part of ACPA’s 50th anniversary celebration during World of Concrete in January, the association honored the seven original founding companies that have remained active supporters (see their profiles below). Each was presented an ACPA Golden Member award to recognize their contributions. These companies and their leadership played pivotal roles, from serving on the ACPA board of directors, executive board and various committees to donating money to keep the association afloat during difficult economic times.

Today, the ACPA is a thriving and respected organization in the concrete construction industry, thanks to the support of our founding members.

CF&T Concrete Pumping

Based in Haywood, California, CF&T’s deep roots in concrete construction can be traced back to the turn of the 19th century. In 1906, Harold E. Casey founded H.C. Casey Co. to produce and sell dry construction materials. The material supplier played a key role in rebuilding San Francisco after a devastating earthquake and fire — considered one of the most significant natural disasters in the U.S.

The company eventually expanded to include a construction division alongside its four concrete ready mixed plants. In 1955, Pete Fogli joined H.C. Casey Co. and became vice president. During this time, H.C. Casey merged its ready mixed operations with another and retained the construction division, growing in both size and scope. In 1972, Fogli bought the construction company and renamed it Casey-Fogli Concrete Contractors.

As the concrete industry evolved, concrete pumping equipment became increasingly dependable, offering efficiencies that were never experienced previously. Norm Tavares joined Casey and Fogli in 1974 to form CF&T Concrete Pumping. CF&T pumped concrete for Casey-Fogli in addition to providing pumping services to other general contractors and concrete subcontractors throughout the greater Bay area.

In 1977, Joe McDonald, owner of Available Concrete Pumping, joined forces with CF&T. Changing its name to CF&T Available Concrete Pumping, the company continued to service the Bay area through December 2020.

In 2020, the sister companies reorganized as subsidiaries of Harbor Linx ESC, a holding company based in Alameda, California. With the acquisition, CF&T Available Concrete Pumping changed its name back to CF&T Concrete Pumping. The company expanded services into the Sacramento and Central Valley markets to serve all of Northern California.

General Manager Art Fink, who joined CF&T in 2021, is ACPA’s 2024 Past President. He served as board president in 2023 and as vice president in 2022. Fink is passionate about his work and even more so about safety in construction. Through CF&T and his involvement with ACPA, Fink has helped develop safe and sustainable practices within the concrete pumping industry.

Construction Forms

In Los Angeles during the 1950s, two brothers passionate about concrete pumping began fabricating their own concrete pump and pipelines. Robert and John Westerlund received their first order from a contractor in Minneapolis. Their second order, for a nuclear power plant, enabled them to form the company known today as Con Forms.

Construction Forms (Con Forms) was founded in 1969. One of its early products was the Hevi Duty coupling, which made it easy to connect and disconnect concrete pipelines safely. Other offerings included heat-treated single- and twin-wall pipe and high-chrome castings. With a useful life three to 10 times longer than what was common at the time, these innovations helped customers become more profitable and enabled them to handle the high-pressure concrete pumps developed in Germany.

As business grew, the brothers expanded operations to Wisconsin, Florida and New Jersey to serve customers across the country and beyond. The company’s staff and products have been involved in many landmark projects, including the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal and the World Trade Center.

Con Forms has championed ACPA’s mission since its inception, with emphasis on safely improving the capabilities of pumpers. In the early 1990s, VP of Sales Don Taylor — then ACPA secretary — retired early to take over the association’s management as executive director. As Taylor helped ACPA rebound from the downturn of the 1980s construction market, Con Forms continued to pay his salary to ensure he would not have to charge for his services. Currently, director of sales Jim Bodeker has been serving on the ACPA Board since 2020.

ACPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award was initially named after Richard Henry, a principal at Con Forms in the 1990s and ACPA’s first treasurer. The award is bestowed to those who have fostered and advanced the use of concrete pumping, improved the conditions under which concrete pumping is performed, shared their knowledge with others in the industry and promoted safe concrete pumping.

Con Forms leadership also was instrumental in establishing the Concrete Pump Manufacturers Association (CPMA) in 1999. The CPMA Safety Standard became the basis for today’s American and Canadian national standards for pump safety: ASME B30.27, Material Placement Systems, and CSA-Z151, Concrete Pumps and Placing Booms.

The company is celebrating 55 years of business this year.

Cross Enterprises

Brothers Charles and William (Bill) Cross began building their business during the early days of concrete pumping — when, according to a 2018 interview with Bill, most contractors didn’t understand the concept of “pouring” concrete in its plastic state. Charles sold his “hot rod” car to buy their first piece of pumping equipment, which came with a 1960s price tag of $14,000. The concrete pump proved a much faster method than the conventional wheelbarrow or crane and bucket to transport concrete to job sites at height. A year later, buoyed by demand for their work, they owned six concrete pumps.

The brothers officially launched Cross Enterprises in 1965 as a full-service concrete pumping, parts and equipment sales company. Headquartered in Melvindale, Michigan, Cross is one of SCHWING’s first and oldest dealers in the U.S., with locations throughout the greater Detroit and Grand Rapids areas.

The early years of concrete pumping saw many challenges, such as concrete mixes not optimized for pump equipment, and machines that broke down easily and required a lot of repair and maintenance. As pumping equipment slowly improved, the brothers flew to Germany in the late 1960s to evaluate SCHWING’s new pumps. Impressed by the German engineering, they became one of the first to introduce the advanced equipment to the U.S. market; they remained among the first to introduce any new line of SCHWING pumping equipment until about the mid-1980s.

The Cross brothers became industry legends through their work and involvement in ACPA. Bill served on the inaugural ACPA board of directors. In 1994, the brothers each received an ACPA Pioneer Award for their outstanding contributions to the association and willingness to share their knowledge with others to help advance the industry.

Charlie and Bill have passed on, in 2009 and 2022, respectively. However, the Cross legacy lives on under the leadership of Bill’s wife, Peggy. Now serving as company president, Peggy met Bill in the 1980s and — as is typical of many spouses in the industry — began learning the concrete pumping business. In 2003, she joined the company after retiring from the utilities industry. While Peggy’s intent was to temporarily fill a labor gap, Bill has been known to say, “She worked herself right into a job.”

Hydracrete Pumping

Hydracrete Pumping was founded in 1965 by Bob Drake Sr., thanks to his brother Bill. What started as a one-truck operation grew into a company with a wide range of concrete boom pumps, trailer pumps, material conveyor belts and a full parts department.

An Air Force veteran, Bill Drake served with Marv Whiteman Jr., whose family owned Whiteman Industries and manufactured ready mix trucks, trowels and other heavy equipment. Bill settled in Los Angeles, where Whiteman was located, and purchased a mixer truck from his friend’s business to haul concrete. When Bill suggested building small concrete pumps, the Whiteman family agreed and asked him to test them in the field. This led to Bill purchasing several pumps to form Hydracrete Pumping Company–California in 1963.

Bill introduced Bob Drake to concrete pumping, and after working together for a couple of years, Bob brought his knowledge and a purchased trailer pump back to their home state of Ohio. He founded Hydracrete Pumping–Cleveland and began working out of his mother’s garage.

Growth happened steadily over the next several years. In 1966, Bob hired his first two employees and rented a garage — his mother-in-law performed the bookkeeping, hiring, payroll and helped order parts out of her home. By 1970, they moved into a larger space and ended up hiring the owner of the auto repair shop next door as Hydracrete’s first mechanic. In 1972, they hired a third concrete pumper, and in 1973 they moved into a former brewery. Other employees hired along the way included a welder, a machinist and sales staff.

In 1978, Bill moved back to Cleveland and was instrumental in creating Concrete Pump Repair. The sister company handles repairs for concrete pumps and has been selling parts since 1985.

When Whiteman began selling off portions of their business, Bob Sr. became concerned that his Whiteman equipment could become obsolete. In 1987, he bought Whiteman Conspray, which manufactures trailer pumps, and relocated the plant to Ohio.

By 1989, Bob Sr.’s son, Bobby, began working at Hydracrete and learned how to operate all company-owned equipment. More than a decade later, they were joined by Bobby’s son and Bob Sr.’s grandson, Collin. Three generations of Drakes now work together with a shared love and passion for concrete pumping.

Merli Concrete Pumping

In 1952, Steve Sr. and Adele Merli immigrated to Los Angeles from Austria. Having lived in an Austrian refugee camp for Balkan refugees, California was a haven for the couple. Without having a war waging directly in front of them, the stability they found was a welcome comfort.

The couple knew little English, however, and working in construction was one of Steve’s few options. He gained work as a plastering and drywall apprentice. By 1954, he had saved enough money to buy a truck, rent space at a yard and hire a plastering crew, and opened Stefan Merli Plastering Company. 

While working at a construction site in the 1960s, Steve saw a large truck with attached boom start setting up. Fascinated, he watched the hose man pour concrete. He was hooked! By the late 1960s, he had purchased two boom pumps, effectively moving away from plastering and into concrete pumping. 

Merli Concrete Pumping continued to purchase boom pumps, and the couple’s three sons entered the family business during the 1970s. Gunther handled administration, Rick worked in sales and Stef in pumping. Gunther attended the inaugural ACPA meeting with his father and later served on the ACPA Board during the 1980s.

“It’s of high importance to be an active member of the ACPA,” says Kurt Merli, Gunther’s son and manager of the Gardena (Los Angeles) Branch office. “We depend on the resources ACPA provides to ensure our employees and operators have the skills, up-to-date industry knowledge and required certification for jobs.” 

Tragedy struck in 1996 when Rick died suddenly at age 41. In 2009, Steve passed away after a long illness. But the Merli tradition lives on under the leadership of Gunther and Stef. Their children have joined the ranks, including Kurt, Steve as a fleet and truck service manager, Spencer in certified payroll and Stef’s son-in-law Dan Krol as a sales and service representative.

Merli now has a fleet of more than 100 boom pumps, placing booms, telebelts and trailer pumps, with branches in Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, Nevada. The family looks forward to seeing the next generation continue Steve Sr.’s legacy, and they are honored to be part of ACPA’s history.

“To think we had a hand in helping start the ACPA is amazing and something that we are so proud of,” says Kurt.

Putzmeister America Inc.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the U.S. this year, Putzmeister America opened for business in 1994. Known and valued by concrete pumpers for far longer, the Wisconsin-based headquarters and manufacturing facility was established to accommodate added growth and market presence.

In 1958, Karl Schlecht founded the company in Germany on the simple premise of making work easier for an average laborer. Originally called KS-Maschinenbau, the name was eventually changed to Putzmeister (German for “plaster master”). Schlecht began to establish operations throughout Europe in the 1970s and the U.S. in the 1980s, with Putzmeister equipment helping to set world records for high rise concrete pumping along the way. 

Putzmeister America’s first president and CEO, Terry L. Smith, was hand-picked by Schlecht to build the company’s foundation, which included cultivating a talented team and market leadership in North America. His accomplishments included integrating the multi-Z boom configuration on smaller-sized boom pump models and the acquisition of the Telebelt® truck-mounted telescopic conveyor line, which in turn, garnered new customers. He also pursued expansion of the North American placing boom and high-pressure trailer pump program, believing the equipment’s technological features would broaden the market. Smith retired in 2000. He passed away in 2008 after a long battle with cancer.

Dave Adams, who was mentored by Smith, took over as CEO and president, leading the company through significant business growth, several innovative product line additions and new business developments. In 2008, Putzmeister became the first manufacturer to achieve a CPMA safety certification on all truck-mounted concrete boom pumps and separate placing boom models.

Adams served on the ACPA Board and several committees, remaining active in the association after he retired in 2016. ACPA recognized his dedication to improving the industry with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.

In 2012, Putzmeister was acquired by Chinese construction equipment manufacturer  SANY, and the brand has continued to develop and grow under SANY Group. CEO and president Bob Bartholomew has been leading Putzmeister America since 2020. VP of sales & marketing Bill Dwyer has served on the ACPA Board as a manufacturing director for several years and has been elected to the position consecutively since 2021.

SCHWING America Inc.

SCHWING America is celebrating 50 years in the U.S., yet the brand’s name has been on innovative concrete machinery for more than 90 years.

In 1934, Fredrich Schwing Sr. founded the manufacturing firm in West Germany to translate his more than 1200 patents into machinery. By the 1950s, his sons Fredrich and Gerhard expanded the company’s product line, putting SCHWING at the forefront of concrete pump development. In 1974, SCHWING America opened its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, to capitalize on the growing popularity of their concrete pumps in the U.S. SCHWING acquired Stetter GmbH in 1982 to further expand the company’s product line and increase SCHWING’s prominence in concrete pumping.

Tom Anderson, long-time president of SCHWING America, helped build the company, the industry and the ACPA from the ground up. Part of this involved helping small business owners make a living at pumping concrete. Anderson has credited the Schwing family for opening their wallets to help the industry gain traction.

Anderson was elected to the ACPA board every year from 1984 through his retirement in 2007. He also served as CPMA president for five years. As a regular member of the ACPA manufacturers’ committee, he was influential in establishing safety standards and financing the development of many safety materials still in use today.

Several other SCHWING America associates have served the industry as ACPA board members and through committee work, and the company often shares educational resources with the industry through ACPA. For instance, the ACPA Safety Manual was originally created by Rob Edwards for SCHWING America while he was their product safety and publications manager. Due to the importance of the topic — safety for pump owners and operators — the company supplied it to ACPA for distribution.

In 2012, SCHWING merged with XCMG, China’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment. SCHWING America is currently helmed by CEO Johannes Schulze-Vohren, who joined the company in 2023 and serves on the ACPA board of directors.

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