Where others see a roadblock, Johnny Holifield sees an opportunity. That’s why his troupe of Southern-born turnaround specialists can be found in some unusual places these days, whether it be California, Michigan or even Alaska.
Specialty Welding and Turnarounds’ biggest recent move has been to the Golden State, and while California’s Senate Bill 54—passed in 2014—seems to exclude nonunion, “outsider” contractors, SWAT used an existing job there as leverage and set up a permanent office. SB 54 requires refineries in California to use a “skilled and trained workforce” trained at one of the state’s recognized apprenticeship programs, which are largely union controlled.
“We knew we were equipped to handle the challenge of geographic expansion,” says Holifield, SWAT’s CEO in Gonzales. “While many of our larger competitors moved out of California when SB 54 took effect, we formed a partnership with four different state labor unions: Local 342 and Local 549 in Martinez and Local 250 and Local 92 in Carson.”
The decision seems to be paying off. With more than 500 welders, pipefitters and boilermakers working in the state, SWAT exceeded 400,000 man-hours in its first year of operation.
The company has subsequently recruited seasoned turnaround manager Spencer Moak to oversee the region, and opened a new office in Signal Hill, Calif. It expects to double its business on the West Coast in 2019.
SWAT’s story of expansion is becoming commonplace, as Louisiana maintenance and turnaround contractors are journeying in greater numbers to other areas of the U.S., as well as international locales. Most of the time, they’re following their existing client base to other plants. As for the owners, they’re attracted to the contractors’ unique skill sets and stellar productivity rates.