President Jay Schwall of Louisiana Chemical Dismantling Co. (LCDC) has been in the world of demolition since he was a boy, working alongside his father and later independently. BIC Magazine recently sat down with Schwall to discuss the moments that shaped his career.
Q: What led to your position at LCDC?
A: I started in the demolition business at the age of 11, when I went to the first big job my dad got: the Yankee Stadium renovation in 1973. I would run around the stadium on weekends, riding the bullpen cart up and down the ramps and even dropping stadium light bulbs off the roof when no one was watching.
The Yankee project was a really good break for my dad since he had started Invirex Demolition less than a year prior. Invirex turned into one of the largest demolition contractors in New York and eventfully a national industrial demolition company working from California to Maine. In 1987, he decided to open up an office in the Gulf Coast region and chose New Orleans because we had done some projects in the area, including some offshore rig demolition. He then purchased LCDC from an equipment company. I opened the office in 1987, met my wife, Terry, in New Orleans and made it home.
Q: What is the most important part of your position?
A: Providing the opportunity for our employees, along with their families, to make a good living with good benefits and the long-term potential for personal and professional growth. Many of our employees have been with LCDC over 20 years, with the average being 10 years.
Q: What is your best management tactic?
A: To treat people fairly, with respect and the way I would want to be treated. As a successful industrial demolition contractor, we are only as good as our people.
Q: What has been the most pivotal moment of your career?
A: I have had a few pivotal projects in my career so far. First, after getting my engineering degree, I was the project manager on the demo of a chemical plant in Picayune, Mississippi — a long way from New York. It was a great experience in managing people and working with an owner in a hazardous environment. The project was a success, and that’s when I knew I could do this work.
The LSU stadium project was another critical project for me, personally. I estimated it, negotiated the contract, presented our plan to work 24/7 for five weeks and utilize a 2,000-ton crane from Deep South, and engineered the removal of post-tensioned concrete structural members. We finished ahead of schedule and under budget.
The demo of a refinery in Puerto Rico for Chevron Phillips Chemical was my first overseas project. It required moving five excavators and all of our other equipment to the island and recycling over 40,000 tons of carbon steel that we sold to international markets. We also sold, dismantled and shipped a hydrogen plant for reuse.
Q: What is a “fun fact” about you people might not know?
A: My first paying job was in the yard on Long Island during the summers while I was in high school. After I turned 18, I worked in New York City as a laborer on a jack hammer, wheelbarrow, shovel and cutting torch at the bottom of the ladder. During college summers, I worked out of town in Louisiana, Washington state and Detroit, rigging, torch cutting and learning to operate our shears and grapples. In fact, Ray Burk, who had helped my dad learn the business, schooled me on the art of estimating demo projects over a two-year period. He taught two generations of Schwalls the demolition business.
For more information, visit www.lcdc-invirex.com or call (504) 464-0770.