Tom Schueck had a life-changing decision to make. His wife, Marge, was pregnant and the 27-year-old didn’t like working for someone else. He’d worked in construction and had a civil engineering degree.
Schueck took a gamble and started his own construction company, Lexicon Construction and Fabrication. More than 50 years later, his company employs about 1,500 people and has annual gross revenues of more than $350 million, he told Talk Business & Politics. Schueck celebrated the milestone Monday with hundreds of his employees at the Nucor Yamato campus in Hickman. The Nucor Yamato steel mill was the first his company built 30 years ago, he said.
“Our employees, our customers … we appreciate you very much,” Schueck said. “Our people work crazy, unpredictable hours and in all types of crazy weather.”
The Little Rock-based company is involved in a variety of large industrial, commercial, and roadway projects around the county. It specializes in many types of construction projects including steel mills and golf courses.
Lexicon is divided into four divisions. Lexicon’s Construction division (formerly known as Schueck Steel) that specializes in structural steel erection, mechanical equipment installation, construction management, and plant maintenance.
The Prospect Steel division specializes in structural steel fabrication and erection. The Custom Metals division focuses on plate and sheet fabrication, installation, and maintenance. Heritage Links specializes in golf course construction.
Schueck and his wife Marge didn’t have a lot of money when they started Lexicon. Marge spent many long nights as the fledgling company’s secretary, assistant, and in other roles. She worked even when she was pregnant.
“Could not have done it without her,” Schueck said.
As time passed, the company grew and became more profitable. What really spurred its growth was the construction of the Nucor Yamato plant in Hickman. Lexicon had never built a steel mill before, and Schueck said he wasn’t sure how they were going to build the largest steel mill in the Western Hemisphere in a Mississippi County cotton field.
He worked closely with John Correnti, who would go onto to be the CEO at Nucor and Big River Steel. The mill was a major success, and Lexicon shot to new heights, Schueck said. During the last three decades, Lexicon has been involved in the construction of almost every steel mill in the South, he said.
The toughest part of the business is retaining high quality employees during periods of economic instability, he said. The steel sector is extremely sensitive to economic conditions, he said. To keep his best employees, Schueck said the company has given millions of dollars in bonuses through the years. Any employee that works for the company for 20 years receives a tax-free, $10,000 bonus. Schueck estimates the company has paid about $1.5 million through this bonus program, alone, he added.
The steel industry has been booming the last several years, and Schueck said he expects the company he started a half century ago to continue to thrive. But, it will be up to his son, Patrick, and the leadership team the company has formed to make that happen.
“It’ll be up to them,” he said with a smile.