Janet’s Story Continues, Steve Fellows Joins Whitacre Greer

In 2002, our Alliance plant manager, Larry Johnson, was to retire. There was discussion between Lynn and Dad about who would succeed him. Dad felt that I should have the final say in the replacement as he had convinced me to take over for Lynn upon his retirement. Dad suggested I speak with Steve Fellows, the son and son-in-law of longtime friends of his and also a frequent golf partner. Steve had designed and build the most modern titanium plant in the world. He was a graduate of Texas A&M with a degree in aerospace engineering (our own rocket scientist!) and had served in the U.S. Marines.

Lynn, John III and I had discussions through the years concerning our goal as future owners for the company. We may not always have agreed on the pathway, but we all firmly want the plant to be successful, as well as be a good place to work. My background is from the financial end, not the manufacturing end, and I was looking for ways to improve our facility. For me, this included looking at totally new ways of how to manufacture our product to increase our flexibility.

When I met with Steve, we had a long discussion concerning exploration of other ways to manufacture pavers. As Steve was not from the industry, he did not have any long-held convictions concerning what was possible and what was not possible. I felt he would be a good person to learn our industry and apply his creativity to our situation. Steve was hired in 2002 to work with Lynn until he retired, to learn about our manufacturing process. In 2004, Steve began to look at the use of a firing system that would use microwave as well as natural gas. The experimentation would last through the end of the decade and the first good brick fired from this experimental kiln was completed in January 2010.