Stanard “Stan” Lanford

Stanard Lanford, Jr. was born December 1933 in Martinsburg, WV.  The year was 1951, Stan entered the University of Virginia and four years later received his Bachelor of Civil Engineering Degree.  He was active on campus as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Omicron Delta Kappa and the president of the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  June 1955, another milestone was accomplished Stan became a commissioned Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force and.  Sadly, in October 1955, Stan, Sr. dies from stomach cancer, the Lanford brothers had to rethink their roles in the family business and they decided to purchase the company from their father’s estate.

Stan was a recent college graduate running the family business until his brother Jack’s return from the service. He then did his tour of duty in the US Air Force.   Once both brothers reunited to run the business it was clear to them as part owners of the company it must be run based on their book knowledge and the lessons they had learned at the hip of their father.   If it hadn’t been for their experiences working full time in the construction business in their summers during college, the business would have failed after their father passed away.

Soon afterward the brothers bought out Ted Slater.  Slater was a mechanic who had gone to work with Gilbert Construction in 1930.  The brothers needed a huge amount of capital needed to replace the excavation equipment and how rapidly the equipment became obsolete.  This predicament led them to look for new types of work using their recently acquired civil engineering degrees.  In 1960 the family business became incorporated as Lanford Brothers Company and it was determined by the brothers that they would change from excavation, drainage, and stone based roads and turn all resources towards bridge and box culvert construction with the onset of the construction of the interstates system in the country. In the five years of operating the company under their leadership they had gained important on the job training. They also realized they did not have adequate cost information to properly bid on new work. The most valuable lessons learned in revamping the business were generated from working as subcontractors in 1963 with English Construction of Altavista, VA.  English’s wealth of knowledge in setting up construction cost accounts and implementing a labor distribution system was shared with Jack and Stan and added to the business acumen of Lanford Brothers. 

In hindsight 1963 was indeed the toughest year on record, as one of their partners in a joint venture defaulted on a job in Florida and went bankrupt, causing Lanford Brothers to finish the project in the red.  Thanks to their integrity they finished what they had started and clearly developed a strong dislike for future joint ventures.  This now three-year-old company was growing with increased interstate projects being created to cover the Commonwealth and the increasing grading, road and bridge construction work. Having a strong relationship with English Construction helped Lanford Brothers to obtain subcontracts in making box culverts and bridge work.  In the beginning years of Lanford Brothers, English put the brothers on their payroll and bought materials needed for the work. 1971 marked the first year that Lanford Brothers’ contracts expanded beyond Virginia into West Virginia for bridge jobs, a few years later work was extending into North Carolina along Interstate 40 and then South Carolina. 

When the brothers entered the bridge and road repair business their mother served as the office manager up until 1970.  Headquarters for the business were in a humble office they kept in their mother’s basement. As the company grew, they moved headquarters to an 8’ x 20’ office trailer off Route 11 near Tinker Creek in Botetourt County where they had purchased land and eventually built an office and shop. The flood of 1985 destroyed the office and led to the staff being airlifted out of the rising flood waters.  As a result, a better location high above the flood plain became available in the Botetourt Industrial Park complete with 3 acres where in 1989 they located their current office and shop building.  These astute businessmen had learned from the first days of riding with their father on his equipment how to create work and learning how to work smarter versus harder.  The company has been an open shop since its infancy and relied on word of mouth, posters, advertising, and interviews to build up their staff. 

The work ethic of the brothers led to creating improved tools of the trade, the first product was the idea of Superintendent Clarence “Casey” Slater.  He had an innate ability to build things and did not have much formal education.  His years of working on projects led to the company acquiring a steel form panel system for pouring concrete that created modular box culvert sections. The forms were fitted with wheels that allowed the wall and top form to easily roll forward for the next section to be built. These finished box culverts are essential for carrying streams under roadways instead of building bridges.  

Additionally, the brothers pioneered in 1972-73 the use of Rapid Set Latex Concrete overlays.  This new product was the answer for VDOT to extend the lifetime of concrete bridge decks up to 25 years.   Dow Chemical worked with the duo to get the product on the market.  The latex is spread out in a 1-1/4-inch layer, essentially placing a new surface on the old bridge deck.  This material cures and hardens faster than regular concrete, reducing the amount of time bridges and roads were closed to traffic.

In 1979 to diversify the company operations the first milling machines were purchased to “mill” off or grind asphalt existing irregular asphalt and concrete surfaces. Over the next five years more milling machines were bought.  “Waste not, want not” could be the idea behind Lanford’s’ asphalt recycling effort in the region, the product often used for residential jobs.  Amazingly the company recycles 150,000 to 200,000 tons of asphalt a year, more than Cycle Systems takes in during the same time frame. Lanford Brothers also led the industry with its use of cathodic protection devices on concrete structures to prevent the bridge reinforcing steel decks from rusting.

In 1984 Lanford Brothers put in place an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) allowing employees with one year of service and up to have a wonderful retirement package and participation in the growth of the company.   Many other construction companies have also used ESOPs to reward their employees for years of faithful service. The brothers developed a tool for measuring success 1) Satisfaction 2) Profit 3) Money/Salary.  They worked for the satisfaction of seeing things being built, especially when you consider that transportation infrastructure is a basic building block of a healthy economy.  They know that for a company to be strong and able to retain its workers, it has to make a fair profit.  They also wanted to make a good salary for themselves and their workers.

Stan, Jr. served as President of Lanford Brothers Company from 1985- 2003 and was named Chairman of its board of directors, and position still held today. Lanford Brothers Company has been in place for 47 years and started with eight employees.  Today the company has over 240 employees and completes about $25 million of work each year repairing and replacing bridges, roadways, guardrails, and signs.  The company is being led by the third generation and destined to defy the odds and continue with the integrity, and respect for its employees that is a mainstay in the Lanford legacy. 

Stanard “Stan” Lanford was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

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