With seven locations, 200 employees, a service territory spanning nearly 10 states and a laser focus on scaffolding, it would be on the money to say that Associated Scaffolding Co. is a towering presence on the Southeast’s temporary structure rental scene.
While scaffolding expertise is integral to the company’s 75-years-and-counting growth trajectory, those at the top suggest that the key to the company’s success lies in the fact that at its core, Associated Scaffolding is a family affair.
“I know others say this about their employees, but I really do have people who have taken me to the next level, and I could not have accomplished this without them,” says Tommy Hawkins, president of Associated Scaffolding Co., which is headquartered in Durham, N.C. “I’ve got two sons in the business — Jeff, who is manager of the Durham Branch, and Brian, regional operations manager. My brother-in-law, Rick DeMent, our vice president, has been with me since 1985. William DeMent is our sales manager and Matt Hurley manages our inventory. I can tell you, without these people, and not only them, but everybody that we have here, there’s no way that Rick and I could have grown the company the way we have. We’ve got top-notch people.”
|L-R: Tommy Hawkins, Brian Hawkins, Matt Hurley, William DeMent, Jeff Hawkins, Rick DeMent.
Jason Scott, Associated Scaffolding Co. system administrator, says Hawkins is genuine but modest when singing the praises of his leadership team.
“Tommy won’t say this himself, but when he took over as president in 1985, there was just one branch and maybe six trucks and now we’re at seven branches in four states, with a fleet of 115 vehicles and 200 employees. That has all been under Tommy’s leadership as president. He had the vision to grow the company and expand it after the company stayed effectively the same for the first 40 years. It’s only since the mid-'80s that the company has really grown into what it is today,” Scott says.
The Hawkins family’s stewardship of Associated Scaffolding Co. dates back more than 50 years to 1968, but the roots of the company were sewn in 1947 by former U.S. Army Col. Clayburn Byrd.
“When Mr. Byrd got out of the military, he got into the painting business. Large painting contractors in the Durham area needed to paint our area’s huge churches on the inside, but they had no way to safely reach the ceilings other than ladders, and that makes for a very difficult job. So, they contacted Mr. Byrd and said, ‘If we buy some scaffolding for you, would you erect it for us so we can paint these churches?’ And he agreed to do that. That’s what got him into the scaffolding business. He formed a company called Associated Scaffolders and Equipment Co. They had two trucks and four employees: Mr. Byrd, his wife, and two others,” Hawkins says.
In discussing the origins of the company, Hawkins points out the important distinction between “scaffolders” and “scaffolding." "'Scaffolders’ are people who erect scaffolding,” Hawkins says, referencing the erection service Byrd and associates provided, while “scaffolding” refers to the material.
By 1968, Byrd was ready to retire. That is when the Hawkins family entered the picture.
“Mr. Byrd and my grandfather, Edgar Council, went to the same church and they got to talking one day,” Hawkins says. “Mr. Byrd wanted to sell his business and my grandfather, who owned the Scott Coal & Oil company, thought it would be a good supplement for his business. He knew the scaffolding industry was busy in the summertime when oil and coal were slow, so he decided to buy the company.”
That same year Edgar’s son-in-law, Gene Hawkins — who also was Tommy’s father — moved from the oil and coal company to run Associated Scaffolders and Equipment Co.
“After three or four jobs, my dad had to help erect scaffolding at a job in Chapel Hill. When the job was completed, he realized that there wasn’t enough profit in scaffold erection and decided to stop erecting, and move to rental only,” Hawkins says.
By the 1980s, the demand for scaffolding erection rose to new heights and the company brought those services back into its portfolio, producing an entity that provided a full scaffold erection and rental services solution.
“The demand for scaffold erection services had increased so much that we knew we needed to get back into scaffold erection, not just rental,” Hawkins says.
To reflect the company’s shifting specialties — and for the sake of brevity — the company changed its name from Associated Scaffolders and Equipment Co. to Associated Scaffolding Co. in 1985.
In the ensuing 35-plus years, Associated Scaffolding Co. focused its concentration on catering to the needs of large commercial contractors across the Southeast and has experienced robust growth. Company services now include swing stages, re-shoring, pump jacks, debris chutes, jobsite supplies, training and more. Through their website they sell and ship products to all 50 states.
“Today, we have around 200 employees working for us. We service North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia,” Hawkins says.
Diamond 75th anniversaries are always special, and Associated Scaffolding Co. has some sweet deals for its customers to help mark the occasion during 2022.
“There are two concurrent things going on,” Scott says. “One is in association with our vendors who we sell a lot of products from, many of whom have offered prize items for each month. If you go into our retail stores and buy an item, you get a raffle ticket. Every purchase gets you a raffle ticket, and certain items will get you bonus tickets: two or sometimes three for a certain ‘diamond deal’ promotion. At the end of each month there is a drawing for a prize, like a Yeti cooler. Then, through the website, you can register for nine grand prizes worth more than $10,000 that will be drawn in December. There’s a nice grill, $1,000 in cash, a Surface laptop computer, an air compressor, a pressure washer — a number of different items. We’re going all out because the customers are what make it all possible.”