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PT&P History: The First Thirty-Five Years

Index | Acknowledgements | Milestones | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Read More

Chapter 4: A New Era: The Expansion of the 1990s

In 1993, the Houston Museum of Natural Science presented PT&P with one
of their most unusual challenges. The Museum planned to add an exhibit on
pipelines and asked PT&P to fabricate an exhibit that allowed visitors to
experience what it was like to flow inside a pipe. Bob Sonier, SWECO's top
designer (pictured at the exhibit with Randy Bailey and Durga Agrawal) took up
the challenge. The resulting museum piece is still on display.

"We had grown about as big as we could grow over there," said Ben Tatum. "So, we looked at several facilities…and we settled on this piece of property. We thought it suited us real well and it would take care of our long-term growth plans, and basically, we felt like we had enough building space and floor space to accommodate us for some time to come. As it turned out, within less that two years, we found that we really didn't have enough space here either because of the way the company was growing." PT&P continued to grow during the 1980s and into the 1990s primarily due to the company's ability to adapt in a changing economy, to diversify its catalog, and to find new areas in which to market its products. Consequently, while many small firms in the piping industry went under, PT&P saw its business steadily increasing to a point where, as Durga Agrawal recalled, "Well, we got crowded. There were no parking places, people were stepping on one another…we couldn't find things. That is when I started looking for a place where we could have more space." One of his projects during his return from India for the summer months in 1988 would be to find a new facility for his growing manufacturing concern.

Besides the overcrowding on Long Drive, other issues had begun to arise that threatened the continued growth and long-term health of his company. The recently acquired SWECO facility on Texarkana Street also began having problems. First, the building was in need of extensive repairs. Second, since Houston does not have zoning laws, businesses are often located in the middle of residential neighborhoods. This was the case with SWECO, which was near an area of homes occupied by families. Ben Rhodes remembered an incident in which the company found itself on a tight schedule to produce a substantial number of small pressure vessels for Bechtel. "The way we planned to meet the schedule was by having a second shift," he said. "With all these grinders and so on going on at night, the neighbors said, "Our babies can't sleep." So, the police came out and…anyway, they convinced us we should not do this." In addition, because of the overcrowding, SWECO had rented space from Wilson Industries, a firm located near downtown Houston. This made a busy workday even more hectic for PT&P's management and workers alike. "So now, we had three shops—Long Drive, SWECO on Texarkana, and one more shop," said Ben Tatum. "And that became really inefficient. People had to travel to three places and so it made sense to find a place where everything could be together."

PT&P had already acquired two adjacent parcels of land on Long Drive. By 1988, there was no land available into which the firm could expand. Agrawal launched a city wide search for a suitable facility and quickly found several options to choose from. Here again, timing played a crucial role in the growth of PT&P.

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