Wayron
The strength of Wayron's success is their long-time employees. Left to right: Front: Scott McSkimming, Karl Graichen; Middle: Brett Lafever, Rick Lovett, Bob Stone, Curtis Mattison, Mike Olson, Rick Crenshaw. Back: Chet Scott, Gary Bishop, Kory McClain.

The employees at Wayron don't have to worry about a film crew coming to their paint shop to film an edition of "Undercover Boss." That's because their boss, Jeff Spendlove, is likely already in the paint shop working. Spendlove was hired at Wayron in 1994 as an apprentice painter and co-owner Faye Dietz was hired in 1990 as project engineer. In 2002, Dietz and Spendlove bought the company from Dan Evans when he retired.

The 36-year-old Wayron is a unique, four-in-one Longview industry, featuring fabrication, paint, machine and steel sales shops all at one site.

Since buying the company, Spendlove and Dietz haven't holed themselves up in penthouse offices looking down on their employees. Instead, the ownership partners have kept their regular jobs at Wayron and added the title of owners.

In fact, Dietz has the same office she has had when she was an employee, and Spendlove joked that his office is smaller than the one he had in the paint shop.

"I do the exact same job as when I was hired," Dietz said.

"Before we had owner jobs, we worked a 40-hour week. Now we still work that 40-hour week, we just have to find time for our other owner work late in the day or on the weekends," Spendlove said.

Both Spendlove and Dietz see the hands-on approach to owning Wayron as an all-around positive for the company. From the day they bought the business, Dietz and Spendlove knew the employees, vendors and customers well.

Spendlove said knowing the day-to-day operations made owning the business possible.

"There is competition in town," Spendlove said. "It's pretty aggressive, so we knew we had to stay aggressive. We put a lot of effort into it. We're not just sitting here collecting a paycheck."

Dietz said owning Wayron was a challenge she wanted to tackle.

"We thought we could do it," she said. "We saw the potential and went to the owner and he was willing to sell."

In the construction industry, potential jobs ebb and flow even when the economy is in good condition. So sometimes Wayron has as many as 80 to 85 workers and sometimes it only employs 20. But the fact that Wayron uses a union workforce is a positive for workers and management.

"Our workers can get dispatched out of the (union) Hall," Spendlove said. "Most of them are more than willing to come back. We get the exact same workforce all the time. Some of our workers have been here longer than Faye. A lot of them came on in the early '80s."

When there is no work at Wayron, its workforce can bid out for jobs through the union hall or receive unemployment benefits until work becomes available. Three unions are represented at Wayron: boilermakers, machinists and painters.

Dietz said most of the workforce comes back because Wayron offers health insurance, holiday pay, vacation, pension and a 40-hour work week.

The other benefit for Wayron is having an expert, seasoned, well-trained workforce.

"It's a good company to work for. There is steady work Monday through Friday or whatever shift they are working at the time. They are not working in Moses Lake one week and Anacortes the next," Spendlove said. "We have guys who have been doing this their whole life. We don't have to hold these guys' hands. We don't baby them. We just tell them the job and they go out and do it."

Wayron prides itself on quality control. In every step - from blueprint to fabrication to final paint - the products are sent through an inspection phase or check points. For example, after every cut or weld, employees check the product against the blueprint.

The last line of quality control is the paint shop. Color, paint thickness and welds are checked before the product is shipped out of Wayron. The paint shop finds few errors because most adjustments have been caught before the product reaches the paint shop, Spendlove said.

"The quality has to be right when it leaves," Spendlove said. "If you buy spoiled milk at Safeway, you are probably not going to be buying milk at Safeway anymore. If something goes wrong, we go fix it."

Spendlove said if a product sent to Utah needs to be fixed, he's the one who will likely jump in the truck with tools for a two-day trip to fix the problem. He said he is most happy when his loyal customers are satisfied with the work Wayron has done.

Wayron, located at 1133 California Way in Longview, has a high standard of quality control, which Dietz said helps customers return.

"We want the customers to come back," she said. "Without the customers, we wouldn't be here."

Spendlove said until two or three years ago, Wayron was the only place in Longview with a machine shop, a fabrication shop and a paint shop. Now competitors such as Western Fabrication and Nor-Tech Fabrication Painting in Kelso offer a paint shop along with their fabrication and machine shops, he said.

Wayron has a 90,000-square-foot production space with two 20-ton cranes. Projects range from fabricating structural steel, conveyors, hoppers, chutes, pressure vessels to storage tanks. Since 1985, Wayron has been licensed through the state of Washington to fabricate boilers, pressure vessels and tanks.

Wayron has nearly finished fabricating 1 million tons of steel for Astoria-based Bergerson Construction, which is building the $5.1 million Berth 9 at the Port of Longview. Wayron's slice as a subcontractor - $1 million - has employed about 30 workers.

The company's newest project is in Waconia, Minn., fabricating steel for a three-hopper conveyor system at grain terminal for a company called Waconia Manufacturing. Bill Puvogel, a senior project manager for the past three years at Wayron, said the project is about $300,000.

"It's still a little bit slow. It would be nice to be a little bit busier," said Puvogel, who has 25 years of experience as a project manager, mostly at Waite Specialty Machine, Inc. in Longview.

Puvogel said Wayron is successful because the company has multiple services - fabrication, machine, paint and sales - on the same site.

"I think we are very personal," Puvogel said. "We don't just do a job. We're married to it. We're pretty hands on. It's not just over the phone."

One thing is for sure at Wayron: the owners are ingrained in the work of the company.

"It's a different morale when we work right next to them. They know we care about the business," Spendlove said. "We don't go home until they go home. We give the extra effort so they have a job and we have a job."

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