Robert Oyenarte, left, and Talmadge Mincey were recently named co-presidents of the Crom Corporation, a Gainesville-based company known worldwide for its prestressed concrete water tanks. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]
Crom, best known for big concrete tanks, hopes its technology can be applied to other needs
When people talk about prestressed concrete tanks — if they’re in the business of talking about such a thing — they call them Crom tanks, regardless of who makes them.
“It’s like how people refer to tissues as Kleenex,” said Bobby Oyenarte, one of two new presidents at Crom, a 65-year-old, multimillion dollar Gainesville company known for building 50,000- to 30-million-gallon concrete wastewater-treatment and potable-water storage tanks.
The Crom Corporation has made its name in its industry from these tanks, but as existing infrastructure in the United States ages and deteriorates, Crom leaders, like Oyenarte, see its services as where the company has most room to grow.
In October, Oyenarte, a University of Florida graduate who has been with Crom for 18 years, and Tal Mincey, a University of South Florida graduate with the company for 17 years, were named as dual presidents. Oyenarte is in charge of Crom’s Construction Services division and Mincey is in charge of its tank division, which has built 4,200 tanks in its lifetime that can be seen worldwide and was previously the largest chunk of Crom’s business model.
It’s now split about 50-50 with construction services, with good reason, Oyenarte said.
Infrastructure may come up when President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The administration is proposing at least $200 billion for infrastructure projects over the next decade, with the hope of spurring an additional $800 billion in state and local funding.
Democrats in Congress say that’s not enough, with party leadership calling for a $1 trillion federal investment. The American Society of Civil Engineers has said more than $2 trillion is needed by 2025 to upgrade everything from roads, bridges and airports to mass transit and drinking water.
Regardless of the federal and state funding, Crom executives hope the company will be able to get a slice of infrastructure funding, like many in the construction industry.
Crom’s services include design services, where they will help design concrete tanks or provide cost estimates. Crom also provides inspection and rehabilitation services, where employees can inspect concrete tanks and other concrete infrastructure for full compliance to all safety and environmental regulations. It also can repair them, which expects to be the biggest seller in the future.
Oyenarte expects Crom to increase its manpower, which is about 400 people worldwide, to keep up with the growth, he said. Such growth should bring increased revenue, he said.
“It’s an exciting time to take over as a leader and be a part of that change,” he said.
Mincey, president of Crom’s tank division, said though the company still relies heavily on building tanks for revenue, its services have a higher potiential for growth because the tanks last 40 years and are often only needed when new developments occur. Crom has built 4,200 of them in its existence, and municipalities, Crom tanks’ biggest customers, aren’t calling every day for a new one.
“That sort of limits our growth factor (in the tank division),” Mincey said.
Crom, to people outside the industry, is something of a well-kept secret in Gainesville. The company’s headquarters is off Southwest Second Avenue, at 250 SW 36th Terrace, with its only branding a small marker on its front door.
Crom has offices in Gainesville, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina, and handles international operations in Doha, Qatar. It has long been the worldwide leader building concrete tanks, built using patented technology.
J.M. Crom, one of Crom’s founders, developed the first prestressed concrete water tank, using shotcrete — or sprayed-on concrete — wrapped in high-strength wire, and later developed the composite system still used by the Crom Corporation today, with a water-tight steel shell encased in shotcrete, wrapped in prestressed wire and covered in another layer of shotcrete.
Crom’s original patent has since expired but the company is constantly inventing new technology and applying for new patents to keep ahead of the competition, who look to be emulate Crom, Mincey said.
“We don’t rest on our laurels here,” he said.
Crom’s new leadership represents the privately held company’s sixth handoff in leadership in its 65-year history.