Fall 2012

Towering Above the Competition

Midwest Towers, Inc. Provides Cutting-Edge Cooling Towers
by Michael Adkins

Petroleum refineries. Power plants. Manufacturing facilities. Heavy industrial locations.

These are just some of the sites that take advantage of cooling towers — structures that remove waste heat by transferring it to the atmosphere. Midwest Towers, Inc. is a leader in this industry, with a history of providing clients with the products and services they need for their cooling-tower solutions for more than a quarter-century.

Midwest Towers was founded by Larry Brown and Dave Smith in Chickasha, Oklahoma, just southwest of Oklahoma City, on May 7, 1987. The company began as a supplier of construction services and supplies for cooling towers, with its headquarters, a manufacturing facility and a sales office in Chickasha; a sales office in Houston; and a manufacturer’s representative in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Since then, Midwest Towers has grown to include sales offices in Kansas City, Missouri; Washington, New Jersey; York, Pennsylvania; Windsor, California; and Land O’ Lakes, Florida, as well as manufacturers’ representatives throughout the United States. Today, the company’s world headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Chickasha encompass more than 200,000 square feet of space. The company has approximately 450 employees, and, in November 2007, Midwest Towers completed a 10-year process to become a 100 percent employee-stock-ownership-plan (ESOP) company.

Midwest Towers has a tradition of expanding its manufacturing facilities and capabilities throughout its years of service. In 2001, the company purchased 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Pacific Cooling Services, Inc. in Windsor, thus acquiring a foothold on the West Coast.

In 2003, Midwest Towers expanded again, purchasing the operating assets of Beetle Plastics, Inc., a company founded in the 1950s that manufactures fiberglass pipe, tanks and specialty items used in the cooling tower, chemical, utility and petroleum exploration industries. Beetle Plastics, located in Ardmore, Oklahoma, now supports Midwest Towers as a subsidiary company.

The core of Midwest Towers’ business is its expertise with cooling towers, including the areas of design, engineering, construction, repair/emergency service, reconstruction, upgrade, maintenance and thermal/structural evaluation.

Larry Brown, president of Midwest Towers, said the company and its subsidiaries provide clients with turnkey services relating to cooling towers, including design, engineering, procurement, fabrication, shipping and installation. “Our years of experience in the cooling-tower and fiberglass product markets give us an extensive base of knowledge to share with our customers,” he explained. “Our combined expertise from Midwest Towers and Beetle Plastics gives us the diversity to handle fiberglass projects ranging from a very large cooling tower to a specialized, uniquely designed tank. This ability to deliver exactly what our customers want at a reasonable price sets us apart from most of our competitors.”

One of the ways Midwest Towers stands out is through its distribution of parts and components for cooling towers. “Midwest Towers’ main distribution channel is through direct sales to end users, original equipment manufacturers and cooling-tower contractors,” Brown noted. “Both OEMs and contractors use the company’s components and services on projects that they sell to an end user.” Midwest Towers manufactures and supplies components to more than 85 other cooling-tower companies and contractors in the United States and more than 110 firms around the world, offering a reliable, low-cost alternative to OEM parts. Some of Midwest Towers’ offerings include:
• Fiberglass fan stacks and distribution systems
• Custom fiberglass composite wood-replacement structural shapes
• Non-skid fiberglass composite fan-deck and hot-water basins
• Corrugated fiber-reinforced plastic casings and louvers
• Fans and assemblies
• Composite mechanical walkways and platforms

Matt Mettry, co-director of operations, said Midwest Towers and its subsidiaries continue to increase their product and process knowledge in the manufacturing process. “Utilizing light RTM [resin-transfer molding], open molding and filament-winding, the companies continue their focus on providing quality products and services in an ever-changing marketplace,” he stated. “A continual emphasis is placed on education and diversification in composite fabrication techniques and equipment.”

Composites are an important factor in Midwest Towers’ success, Mettry noted. “The company continues to service our clients’ needs with composite solutions,” he said. “The implementation of additional fabrication processes, coupled with computer-guided equipment, has yielded noticeable improvements.”

Components made from composites play a vital role in the operation of cooling towers in the toughest industrial settings. Different composite formulations provide specific corrosion and service advantages, such as:
• Polyester – best in environments with light corrosives and fumes
• Vinyl ester – best for strong acids and chlorines
• Novolac VE – best for high-temperature corrosives
• Epoxy – best for caustics and for general use

“Composites often provide better resistance to chemical environments, are more diverse, meet a wider variety of demands, and present fabrication and construction advantages over alternate materials, such as steel and aluminum,” Mettry added.

In its mission to obtain the best composite materials for its toughest applications, Midwest Towers has enjoyed a productive relationship with North American Composites for its entire 25-year history — a relationship that has grown over time, Brown pointed out. “The relationship started when Midwest Towers began fabricating its own fan stacks for cooling towers,” he recalled. “As the fiberglass product manufacturing market grew for Midwest Towers and Beetle Plastics, so has our relationship with North American Composites.”

The relationship has persisted through name changes and acquisitions, said Gary Killingsworth, sales representative for NAC. “NAC has a long history with Midwest Towers and Beetle Plastics, going back to the days when we were known as Southern Fiberglass Supply and before Beetle Plastics became a part of Midwest,” Killingsworth explained.

NAC’s expertise in the composites field makes it an ideal partner for Midwest Towers, Killingsworth stated. “NAC offers a wide range of products and raw materials,” he said. “We have a strong knowledge base within the company and many resources to draw from. Through Interplastic [Corporation], we are able to offer many solutions for manufacturing and can custom-tailor resins for specific
environments and applications.”

It’s a relationship that shows no signs of slowing down, Mettry added. “Midwest will need the technical support and product knowledge, [as well as] NAC’s input and viewpoints as to what is happening in the marketplace,” he said. “[These factors] are valuable to our success.”

As with most industrial operations, Midwest Towers continues to further integrate technology into its manufacturing processes. Mettry noted that the company is working to help its employees adapt as this technology improves. “As technology becomes a greater part of our fiberglass manufacturing, educational opportunities to keep up with this growth and change arise,” he said. “As an ESOP company, an emphasis is always placed on our employees’ training and education. This emphasis on training and education must continue and be relevant to the processes and products provided by Midwest Towers.”

“Midwest Towers continues to be a leader in the cooling-tower
market and will continue leading the way in quality, service and value,” Brown declared. “Beetle Plastics has an extensive history in the filament-wound fiberglass pipe and tank industry. Our growth as a custom fiberglass manufacturing company continues to diversify with new markets, products and fabrication techniques. The additions of light RTM and CNC [computer numerical control] machining have presented new opportunities in industrial and petroleum markets. These new technologies allow us to create and improve existing custom fiberglass products, such as pipe supports, DOT-approved manways and fluid containments.”