In 1926, a young entrepreneur in Elgin, Ill., understood how important transportation would be to future development in the U.S. W.R. “Bob” Meadows realized that seasonal conditions wreaked havoc on the expansion and contraction of concrete, and he saw an opportunity to control these forces by developing asphalt and wood fiber expansion joints.
It turned out to be the catalyst for creating W.R. Meadows. Meadows purchased a building on Kimball Street in Elgin to serve as a manufacturing plant for his first product, SEALTIGHT asphalt expansion joint filler. Located about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, Elgin was a bustling river town with a population of 30,000, and would be home to the company’s headquarters until the late 1990s. The need for more space required a move to farmland in Hampshire, about 10 miles away. Despite recent development, W.R. Meadows is one of the largest businesses in the town of 5,600 people.
While products put the company on the map, people both customers and employees have been at the forefront of its success. To recognize its 90th anniversary, the company is honoring employees with a yearlong tribute, using Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to chronicle their contributions at facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
From Humble Surroundings to Manufacturing Leader
Various generations of the Meadows family have played key roles in making the company a manufacturing kingpin in the concrete construction industry, with 14 manufacturing and warehouse facilities in the U.S. and three in Canada. The constant throughout the years has been the company’s reputation for quality, service and integrity. While asphalt expansion joint filler was the original product, the foundation traits that Bob Meadows built upon allowed the startup company to not only survive the crucial first year, but the Great Depression as well.
The SEALTIGHT trademark became the high level barometer for expansion and contraction joint applications. It set the tone for more new products to come, but not before Meadows established important company roots, often traveling the country by automobile to meet and learn more about his distributors and customers. His wife Edna often accompanied him on many of the trips, in addition to raising their two sons.
New generations of the Meadows family joined the company in the 1940s. Meadows also hired Dale (“Corky”) Cork, who became the plant superintendent and served as the design and construction engineer for the company’s equipment. Known for being able to make anything, Cork was instrumental in the construction of other W.R. Meadows facilities until he retired in 1987.
World War II led to the creation of many new opportunities for companies throughout the U.S.; W.R. Meadows took the lead in developing key vapor and waterproofing products that continue to play a major role. PREMOULDED MEMBRANE® vapor seal with PLASMATIC® CORE (PMPC) was a game-changer; today, the impermeable vapor seal reportedly continues to offer the lowest water vapor transmission rates in the industry.
After the war, Meadows’ youngest son Harry began working at the company full-time upon graduation from college. When Bob Meadows died in 1957, Edna determined it was time for 36-year-old Harry to run the company. Many family members have been involved with W.R. Meadows and some are actively involved; Harry’s daughters, Merrie Derderian and Ann Dwyer, are vice chairs. Grandson Matt Price is the company’s president, and son-in-law Jim Dwyer is CEO.
Business flourished with the rise of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System (which established modern-day ground travel from coast-to-coast and recognizes its 60th anniversary this month). The introduction of HI-SPEC® polymeric hot-applied sealant proved timely, providing a dependable, extended-life joint sealant that sealing contractors continue to endorse.
The Push to Greater Success
Company expansion in the U.S. and Canada began to pay off. In the 1970s, a popular curing and sealing system, CS309 and TIAH, debuted; VOC-compliant CS-209-25 was later adapted to fulfill EPA regulations. The distributor network continued to evolve, leading to the formation of the Distributor Advisory Board (DAB) in 1973. Three years later in 1976, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The 1980s were marked by expansion and the beginning of the company’s development of “green” products. Corporate headquarters were built in Hampshire in 1980, although the manufacturing unit did not complete its move until 1998. A new line of water-based construction liquids found success and today has grown to include 60 user-friendly GREENLINE products.
As construction demands grew, so did the company’s product solutions. As owners and designers strived to create more energy-efficient buildings, the company developed leading technologies to help control moisture and air infiltration into buildings. These new technologies offer a range of solutions to protect the building enclosure and ensure a more energy-efficient structure.
More facilities were built or added through diversification in the U.S. and Canada. The company acquired California-based DFC Co. in December 1989, which was later renamed W.R. Meadows of Southern California, Pomona.
Since 2000, the company has been active with other important acquisitions. In 2003, Huebert Fiberboard in Missouri was added to the company’s portfolio. It was later joined by Blue Ridge Fiberboard to provide roof insulation and soundproofing fiberboard and further expand product capabilities. In 2004, W.R. Meadows of Western Canada was born from the acquisition of ELSRO Construction Products, with offices in St. Albert, Alberta. A new manufacturing facility was built in Lloydminster, Alberta, to also serve the western Canada market.
“As a family-owned and operated business, we have dedicated ourselves to being the most valued supplier of specialty construction products in the industry,” said Harry G. Meadows, chairman of the board. “My father established a company ethics policy built on providing high-quality products, exceptional service and trusted integrity. We could not have accomplished all of what we have built upon in the last 90 years without the tremendous effort of our distributors and employees, whom we will be honoring throughout the year. I am extremely proud of how many people belong to or have been a part of our 25-Year-Club and 50-Year-Clubs.”
For more information, visit www.wrmeadows.com.