Russ Haven began working at H2 Pre-Cast, an Easta Wenatchee-based concrete manufacturing company, when he was a sophomore in high school. Haven’s father, Larry, started H2 Pre-Cast in 1984, and toiled relentlessly to grow the business and gain a strong footing in North Central Washington.
Russ, meanwhile, never really considered doing anything else. During those early years of expansion and opportunity, he often thought to himself that he’d eventually be taking over for his father, but he never let that fact get in the way of the goals he wanted to accomplish.
Larry had instilled a strong work ethic into his son, so when a 25-year-old Russ took over the company in 1996 after his father retired, he was fully prepared.
“I knew (that I would be taking over), but I didn’t count on it,” Haven said. “I just wanted to do a good job for my dad, and that’s what I did. It was my job, and he needed my help, and we were doing it together for so long, and all of a sudden he’s not there and it’s my turn. I’ve done a lot of growing here.”
When Larry was running the company, he’d often say to his employees, “Don’t do it if you’re not going to do it right.” Russ often recites that same line today — not just because it’s something that his father used to say, but because it’s a mantra that he firmly believes in.
“We make mistakes like everybody, but we’re willing to accept them and not make the same mistakes twice,” he said. “You live and learn from your mistakes and move on.”
H2 Pre-Cast manufactures concrete products for a variety of customers, such as municipalities, power and construction companies and others, around the Pacific Northwest.
There’s a good chance that people have seen H2’s work around the Wenatchee Valley; they just probably didn’t recognize it as an H2 product. Examples of the company’s products include underground storm and sewer drainage catch basins, parking lot curbs, water reservoirs, septic tanks, manholes, electrical vaults, oil-water separators, grease interceptors, junction boxes and box culverts.
“A lot of our stuff doesn’t even get noticed,” Haven said with a smile, “but that’s all right.”
The business is now located in East Wenatchee, just off Grant Road not far from Pangborn Airport. Its 50,000-square foot production plant features two planetary concurrent mixers that are capable of generating large amounts of concrete.
“(The mixers) make a yard of concrete every two minutes, so they can just bust it out,” Haven said. “We use microwave moisture meters on everything, and that allows us to make a consistent mix every time and helps us to track water-cement ratio. That’s real important in making quality concrete.”
The company’s high standards have been recognized. The plant earned Quality Award Merit citations from the National Precast Concrete Association in 2007 and 2010, an honor reserved for the top 25 plants in the NPCA’s Plant Certification Program, which currently includes 378 companies.
“(Customer) satisfaction is important, so we’re doing everything we can to make the best pre-cast that (our customers) can buy,” Haven said. “We want to provide a product that’s going to last a long time. We really pay attention to detail. There’s always issues on a job site. We’re not ones to argue over the issues; (we) just get it fixed and move on.”
The company has seen substantial growth since its inception. When Larry started H2, the business was located on one acre and had a handful of employees. The company relocated to a site on Baker Flats in East Wenatchee in 1994, and moved again to its current 15-acre location in 2007. Currently, H2 has about 55 employees.
“The economy was pushing (our growth),” Haven said. “Things were going so crazy. People were spending money left and right, and the banks were loaning money. A lot of our growth and expansion (was occurring) in our cities, too, from the housing and development. That’s what got us to where we’re at. We grew with all the local contractors, (so) our customer base has grown with us.
“I owe most all of H2’s success to the employees. They work hard, they know what needs to get done and they do it. They’ve sacrificed a ton. We’ve been truly blessed with the greatest employees you could ask for.”
A number of H2’s employees have either worked there for many years — including quality control manager Justin Peters, plant manager Dave Schneider and sales manager Clay Prewitt — or were childhood friends with Haven. Those long-lasting, extended-family connections have formed close bonds in the workplace.
“We’re just one big team,” Prewitt said. “It’s nice to have everybody on the same page with the same goal of making H2 the best company that we can make it. The sky’s the limit as to how far we can go. The nice thing about Russ is that he lets you do your own thing. He gives me the ability and freedom to do things my way.”
When the country’s economy took a downturn several years ago, however, H2 was forced to make some changes. Most notably, the company began to expand its market area to include the west side of the state, as well as Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Canada.
“We grew a lot in the early years, (and) any time you spend the money we did, the challenge becomes to cover the nest egg,” Prewitt said. “When the economy went into the tank, (our future) basically came down to how aggressive we wanted to be, so we turned over every rock we could to find work.
“Now that the economy is recovering, we can see that it was good for us to get into those markets when we did. Everything is on the upswing, and we’re getting more and more customers every day.”
“We’re not afraid to say ‘yes’ and follow through with it,” he said. “We put a lot of money back into the company, (and we) diversify.
“I think with us becoming a certified plant, it’s forced us to know absolutely everything about what we’re doing. We’re not just flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to pre-cast anymore. We know that we’re at the top of our game.”