This article was first published on April 22, 2009.
By Matt Glynn
NEWS BUSINESS REPORTER
Brad Dressler hatched his idea for an invention while working on countless job sites as a journeyman bricklayer.
As any entrepreneur knows, simply conceiving of a better way to do something isn’t enough. But he also had the persistence to follow through to make his product a reality.
The company he formed, Steel-wich, makes a metal clip that holds reinforcing bar, or rebar, in place inside concrete blocks that form walls. His innovation helps construction workers avoid impalement injuries, since the steel bar can be gradually “telescoped” up to its full height as the wall is built. Hence the clip’s official name, the telescoping rebar positioner.
Dressler, 45, began manufacturing his product several years ago but his positioner is finally getting a tryout on a big local project. Wal-Mart agreed to use his clips on a 75-foot section of wall of a store under construction in the Town of Hamburg.
The Depew resident’s persistence with the retail giant paid off. He said he lobbied Wal-Mart for three years to use his product in one of its new-store projects. “When they said they were going to test it out, I was really pleased,” he said.
Dressler has been a member of the bricklayers union for 17 years. Since his work tends to be seasonal, he has spent more time in the winter months developing his company. He has the positioners made in Erie, Pa., and China.
While Dressler had the concept, he had help bringing it to fruition. His brothers, Tim and Rod, have assisted with his company. And he credits Lauren Whiting of Whiting Door, an Akron manufacturer, with serving as a mentor.
“Lauren will tell you, you can’t ever quit,” Dressler said. “Not everyone is always going to agree with you.”
Dressler is hopeful that if the retailer and its construction team like the results on the Hamburg job, it will open the door to use on other Wal-Mart stores.
Tom Troiano, a project superintendent with Allied Builders, the general contractor on the Hamburg project, said workers on that job liked Dressler’s positioners. The workers stay safe, he said, since they are not working around a long stem of exposed rebar. Instead, they pull up the rebar to the height it is needed.
The clips also help reduce fatigue, since the workers can install concrete blocks without lifting the blocks above their shoulders in order to center them on the rebar, Troiano said.
George Bethlendy Jr., owner of Flower City Masonry, which is working on the Hamburg job, said the product makes things easier on the masons’ backs. “I can tell you it’s a lot less stress on the guys,” he said. And the less stress they are under, he said, the more productive they can be.
“I think Brad is going to be pretty successful with this idea,” Bethlendy said.
Bethlendy’s company has worked on 31 Wal-Mart jobs. He said the retailer checks the results by having the walls X-rayed, to ensure the grouting is in the correct place and that the rebar is positioned properly inside the blocks.
Aside from Wal-Mart, Dressler is also trying to get his product used in a variety of other structures, including schools and government buildings.
Dressler said the best endorsement of his product comes from workers on jobsites who approve of it. “They know a bricklayer made this thing. That’s the first thing out of their mouths.”