By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Scott Erickson and Dan Wargnier have long been like family.
The bond recently grew even stronger.
Erickson, owner of the Gervais-based Viesko Redi-Mix (doing business as Quality Concrete), recently named Wargnier, general manager and vice president of the company since 1999, as part owner. Wargnier has also become president of the Quality Concrete board, while Erickson is now chairman of the board.
Quality Concrete has two gravel mines and gravel processing plants as well as three concrete plants, including one in Keizer. The locally-owned family business has been around since 1948.
Like their business, the Wargnier-Erickson family connection has deep roots.
When Wargnier was a freshly married 17-year-old, he would housesit for Erickson’s parents while they went on extended trips.
Wargnier’s grandfather bought 10 acres of property on Verda Lane in Keizer in 1945. Erickson’s parents bought the adjacent four acres in 1948 and built their house the next year.
“Scott’s father and my grandfather were good friends,” Wargnier said. “We have a railing here my grandfather made. I knew of Scott and he knew of me. When I would watch his parents’ house, he would come by.”
Wargnier and his wife of 30 years live next door to his brother, with his aunt and uncle just down the road. Until they passed, Erickson’s parents lived right there as well.
There’s the bond between families at work as well. Erickson’s sister is the office manager. Wargnier’s daughter and nephew both work at the company as well. Wargnier came to Quality Concrete in 1997.
Given the bond between the families, it was only a matter of time before the recent transaction happened.
“It’s been a great marriage,” Wargnier said. “The beauty of it is I tell people I run it like I own it, but I don’t have to pay the taxes on it. Well, now I do!”
Erickson, who bought the business from his dad in 1992 and started working at the company in 1968 – four years after his dad bought part of it – knew early on Wargnier would be moving up the ranks. Wargnier approached Erickson about work after the company he’d been with closed. He jumped at the opportunity to drive a truck for Quality Concrete.
“I thought from day one, when he was happy to drive a dump truck, I thought he’s going to be GM here, sooner rather than later,” Erickson said. “He’s such a people person. He has instant rapport with everybody. You can tell when you have a keeper and he’s definitely a keeper.”
Erickson knew from that first day Wargnier would eventually become an owner in the business.
“You hire people who can do your job,” said Erickson, who owns other businesses as well and as a result was looking for someone to manage the company on a day-to-day basis. “You hire the best guys. I’ve never seen anyone in his caliber with people skills and knowing how to manage a business. I’ve been very impressed with him since day one. He keeps running the business fabulously.”
Wargnier, meanwhile, appreciates Erickson’s willingness to keep the business locally-owned.
“Scott’s the biggest hero in this whole thing, to me,” Wargnier said. “He could have sold the place in 2006 and 2007 when the economy was going crazy. The company was worth a lot of money. Big companies wanted to buy it. But he didn’t do it. Most people would think of themselves and their future. He thought of his employees. He and I had talked several times about me wanting to buy it. I told him I couldn’t write a big check like the big boys could. He said we would figure out another way.”
As the economy went down, talk of a sale fizzled.
“When times were bad, I told Scott it’s not the right time,” Wargnier said. “He was prodding, but I was holding back. I wanted to do it when everything felt right. This year, everything felt right. This is a gift to me and allows us to get to the next step. Being promoted to president, it’s payback for all the work I’ve done for 17 years.”
Erickson noted news of the sale has been greeted warmly, due to who Wargnier is.
“He’s a good people person,” Erickson said. “He runs the business like our customers are his personal friends and he wants to take care of them. He has literally been running the company for about 10 years.”
As such, things have pretty much been business as usual since the sale.
“Day-to-day, nothing has changed,” Wargnier said. “My day is filled up working with bids, employees and paperwork. Someday I’ll hire a general manager. The people I have surrounded myself with take care of different pieces of the puzzle. I’ve got the best staff. President versus vice president is just a title. An employee asked me the other day what this means. I said it means nothing.”
Of course, the sale does mean something. Wargnier now gets a percent of the profits and he gets to pay taxes.
“Being part owner is a huge deal,” he said. “It’s a huge accomplishment to me.”
Erickson considers himself lucky Wargnier stayed.
“He could own any business and do well,” Erickson said. “When you have the skill set he has, you’ll do fine anywhere. He’s had other opportunities come along. But I can’t even imagine this place without him.”
Likewise, Wargnier can’t imagine being at any other place.
“I’m a very devoted employee,” he said. “I did have other jobs and opportunities come up, but when that happened I would talk to Scott immediately. Really, my heart was to stay here.”