The conversations typically lasted only five or 10 minutes, but George Sidney came to expect them from time to time when Paul Detwiler Jr. was in the area.
“He (Detwiler) would be driving around, and he would call me to ask if I was in the office,” says Sidney, president and COO of McLanahan Corp., based in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. “He wanted to stop by.”
When a phone call like this came, a quarry project of some sort was likely on the mind of Detwiler, now chairman of the board at Pennsylvania-based New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc. Soon after making the call, Detwiler would pull into the parking lot outside of Sidney’s office, and the two would talk.
“He’d say, ‘I’m thinking about doing this,’” Sidney says. “And he’d ask, ‘What do you think about that?’ We’d have a little discussion. He’d never even shut off his car. He’d jump in his car and go.”
On one occasion, Detwiler wanted to pick Sidney’s brain about mobilizing some rather large equipment within a quarry. A number of similar impromptu conversations were had between the two over the years. The conversations largely centered on equipment innovation.
“He’s such an innovator,” Sidney says of Detwiler. “He’s an equipment guy. He goes into a plant and he’s very hands-on. He looks around to see how he can do things better and innovate to do things better. That’s what I’ve always admired about him.”
Conversations like the ones with Sidney are just one way Detwiler seeks solutions. Detwiler is very well-read, says Jim Barley, president of New Enterprise’s West Region. Detwiler, who has served as a director of New Enterprise since 1972, absorbs every morsel of information he can in trade publications and industry books. He is also a regular at trade shows, where he’s shown himself to be on the leading edge of innovation.
“He and his wife Pat regularly attended trade shows worldwide,” Sidney says. “The reason: He was always looking for what was new and innovative. He would be at Bauma every three years. He would be at the quarry show in the U.K. He would come to Coal Prep down in Kentucky looking for innovation.”
As an example of Detwiler’s innovative spirit, New Enterprise had conveyor tail pulleys raised up from the ground on columns years before many other companies did. The approach made cleanup and reliability better.
Detwiler applied his innovative spirit to other areas of operations, as well. How could a process be more efficient? How could a practice be made safer? Where in an operation could improvements be made? These are among the questions Detwiler traditionally raises and for which he’s continuously in the pursuit of answers.
Driven by passion
The innovative solutions Detwiler implements within New Enterprise operations aren’t solely found outside the company, though. By engaging employees within the company’s quarries – everyone from the superintendent to the general laborer – Detwiler is able to glean information that can make the company’s operations better.
“He knows so many of the employees at the plants and at the quarries,” Barley says. “I drive with him through the quarries and the plants, and it’s amazing. He’ll stop and talk to anybody there, any employees. If he’s driving through and you’re close, he’ll pull over and talk to them. That means so much to the employees that he takes the time to do that.”
“He never lost touch with the man on the quarry floor,” Sidney says. “He has always kept his hand in the operations group. He was CEO of the company, chairman of the board, and he was still involved in those day-to-day activities.
“He’s the epitome of a quarry man,” Sidney adds.
Paul Mellott Jr., chairman at Mellott Company and a 2013 Pit & Quarry Hall of Fame inductee, couldn’t agree more.
“”He has great operational skills,” Mellott says. “He understands crushing rock. He loves equipment. He understands it.”
Detwiler also makes time for his employees to this day, at 83 years old, because he is passionate about his work and the people who serve his company. Detwiler still goes to work every day, first to the office and to New Enterprise quarries in the afternoon.
“It’s every day,” Barley says. “He doesn’t miss a day. He comes in on Saturdays, and he does the same thing on Saturdays. He’s in the office in the morning, and he’ll drive around to one of the sites or one of the contract jobs we’re doing, whether it’s bridge construction or a paving project.”
Detwiler’s passion for the aggregate industry is evident, adds Betty O’Neal, an administrative assistant at New Enterprise who has devoted more than 50 years to the company.
“His love is the quarries,” O’Neal says. “He always did like the quarries.”
Highly respected figure
O’Neal’s tenure at New Enterprise stretches back to the days of Detwiler’s father, Paul Detwiler Sr., whom she also served. She has noted similarities between father and son over the years.
“Both of them were very, very nice to work for,” O’Neal says. “They were very dedicated to the company. They both love the quarries and the business. They are definitely quarry people, and both of them went off to the plants.”
The welcoming approach the Detwilers have taken to their employees has only benefited the company, O’Neal adds. Paul Jr. took away some best approaches from his father, and current President and CEO Paul Detwiler III, Paul Jr.’s son, has modeled parts of himself after his father.
“Paul Jr. is an extra special person,” O’Neal says. “If you talk to anybody in the company, they have nothing but respect for him. If he knows your name, he’ll call you by your name. If he doesn’t know your name, he’ll ask who you are. He’s not a boss who wants to be left alone. You can go talk to him if you have something you want to talk over. He’s very interested in what’s going on and what the people have to say.”
The admiration people have for Paul Jr., who helped to grow his company over the years through strategic acquisitions, translates outside of New Enterprise.
“There’s the highest amount of respect from the couple thousand employees we have, the ones who know him that he visits and sees and makes himself available to,” Barley says. “But I see that respect in the industry with people in the same business, albeit in the Pennsylvania Aggregates [and Concrete Association], the National Stone Association or the National [Asphalt] Pavement Association.”
Kim Snyder, the former president at Eastern Industries Inc., which New Enterprise ultimately acquired with the purchase of Stabler Cos. Inc., holds Paul Jr. and the Detwiler family in high regard.
“What a great guy,” Snyder says. “Talk about a family that has been a leader in this industry for decades. Paul [Jr.] carried that on and made sure his son Paul Detwiler III did the same thing. They have been staunch supporters locally and nationally. They’ve always been recognized as some of the great producers.”
Snyder has always appreciated Paul Jr.’s passion for the industry, which he witnessed on more than one occasion.
“The one story I’ll tell you: I was visiting him after the acquisition of Eastern Industries and he showed me his operations,” Snyder says. “We were driving around and around all day. It was 6 or 7 p.m. and Paul says to me, ‘Well, we might need to go back now. It’s my 50th wedding anniversary.’
“I look at him and say, ‘Paul, you’re out in the field on your 50th wedding anniversary?’ He says, ‘Yeah, Pat understands. We’re fine. We’ll celebrate later.’ And his wife did understand. Paul is very passionate about the industry.”