Contributions include rigid frames and market expansion
2016 Metal Construction Hall
contributions to the metal construction industry continue to
reverberate in the widespread adoption of rigid frame metal
buildings, at the companies he helped expand and turnaround, in
connections made among industry leaders and their support of future
generations of entrepreneurial engineers.
Bob Ammerman, who worked in the metal construction industry in
various executive roles from 1976 to 2007, is a former colleague of
Hatcher. They worked together at several companies including
Memphis, Tenn.- based Varco Pruden Buildings and Alpharetta,
Ga.-based Magnatrax Corp., as well as the Metal Building
Manufacturers Association (MBMA).
"[Hatcher] was a pioneer in the development of engineered steel
building systems aimed at competing with conventional designs,
emphasizing speed of construction and economy," Ammerman says. "He
fostered custom concept design at Varco Pruden Buildings,
revolutionizing a standards-based metal building industry."
Jack and Nell Hatcher shared more than six decades together as a
married couple before he passed away in 2015. When describing
Hatcher's influence on his companies and the industry as a whole,
Nell Hatcher points to his intelligence, sense of humor and
"He was a very innovative person in my opinion, and very smart
individual," she says. "He was funny; he was good. He could make
the subject any way he wanted it to go, and he always did. I dated
him for five years; we were married for 64. In all of that time, I
never knew what he was going to say next, so I quit trying."
Hatcher began his career as an engineer at Varco Steel in Pine
Bluff, Ark., and worked with R.G. "Bob" Varner in the early 1950s.
Hatcher and Varner conducted structural steel studies at
Mississippi State University, Miss., to prove their rigid frame
construction concept, with used metal tubing from oil fields in
Texas, was an effective structure and stronger than regular
structural steel. This contributed greatly to the acceptance and
use of rigid frame metal buildings.
"[Hatcher] was a pioneer
in the development of engineered steel building systems aimed at
competing with conventional designs, emphasizing speed of
construction and economy. He fostered custom concept design at
Varco Pruden Buildings, revolutionizing a standards-based metal
--Bob Ammerman, friend,
Hatcher helped J.B. Fuqua of Fuqua Industries acquire Varco
Steel and Pruden Products in 1968 and form Varco Pruden Buildings.
Hatcher served as president and led the company to grow into one of
the largest metal building system manufacturers in the U.S. This
expanded the overall metal building system market.
Hatcher was president at Varco Pruden Buildings until it was
purchased by Montreal, Canada-based Dominion Bridge and its
subsidiary, AMCA International, in 1973. He served as president,
chief operating officer and board member at Dominion Bridge and
AMCA International from 1973 to 1983.
Hatcher led Varco Pruden Buildings to acquire manufacturing
facilities on the West Coast in Turlock, Calif., and in the
construction of Varco Pruden Buildings' fourth manufacturing plant
in Kernersville, N.C., in 1968. The Kernersville facility was built
to access the Southeast market and to fill in the company's
footprint in Arkansas, Wisconsin, California, Massachusetts (with
Priggen Steel Buildings) and North Carolina.
He was well-known among colleagues as fostering loyalty by being
supportive of their careers. When AMCA International acquired
Indianapolis-based Insley Manufacturing Co., which produced
backhoes, in 1975, Hatcher offered Ammerman, who was controller at
Insley Manufacturing, a position as vice president and general
manger at Varco Pruden Buildings in Wisconsin.
Ammerman says Hatcher became a mentor to him. "He had wonderful
personal skills," he says. "People wanted to be on his team and
would work very hard to achieve goals. He taught me the power of
personal relationships with associates, customers, suppliers,
communities and competitors."
Ammerman says he adopted much of Hatcher's leadership style.
"People rallied around him, motivated by his challenges and
example," he says. "He made people want to excel for the company
and for themselves. There was always some incentive to make the
challenge fun, might have been drinks and dinner, or a golf game at
some special course."
Ammerman says Hatcher built personal relationships that were
long lasting, far beyond the level of business convenience. "That's
why he and I were loyal to each other for more than 30 years," he
Hatcher's vision for the company's national presence resulted in
rapid sales growth and expansion of the steel building market as a
whole. With Hatcher's leadership, sales increased from $300 million
to $1.5 billion at Dominion Bridge, AMCA International and Varco
Pruden Buildings between 1973 and 1983.
Hatcher supported the metal construction industry as a board
member and chairman of the MBMA in 1968. The MBMA published a
proclamation that acknowledged its appreciation for Hatcher's many
contributions to the growth and advancement of the metal building
systems industry in May 2012.
"[Hatcher], along with other industry pioneers, developed the
MBMA to focus on engineering system advancements and to deal with
code authorities and specifiers," Ammerman says. "He believed that
as an association the industry could be more effective than if they
dealt with the authorities as individual companies."
Hatcher pursued the acquisition and turnaround of multiple
companies with friends and former colleagues including Charlotte,
N.C.-based Southern Pump and Tank Co., where sales doubled between
1983 and 1987 and it was sold with a 60 percent annual return for
investors, Cullman, Ala.-based Inland Southern Co. from 1993 to
1996, Pinehurst, N.C.-based Eagle Ventures from 1995 to 1999 and
Springfield, Ore.-based McKenzie Forest Products in 1998. Returns
for investors on all the deals were approximately 100 percent
Hatcher left Dominion Bridge, AMCA International and Varco
Pruden Buildings in 1983 and became chairman and CEO at
Pittsburgh-based H. H. Robertson Inc. in 1987, where he grew sales
to $1.2 billion, preserved employment for workers and oversaw its
merger with Ceco Industries Inc. to form Robertson-Ceco Corp. in
1990. At Atlanta-based Magnatrax, Dennis Smith, CEO, Ammerman,
president of Eufaula, Ala.-based American Buildings Co. (part of
Magnatrax), and Hatcher, chairman, brought the company from
bankruptcy in 2004 to be sold to Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp.
Another way Hatcher, a Mississippi State University alum,
supported the future of the metal construction industry was by
establishing and endowing the Jack Hatcher Engineering
Entrepreneurship Program at the university in 2001. The program
promotes careers that combine technical and business skills by
awarding certificates to students that complete a certain number
and type of credit hours, participate in a seminar series and
complete business plan projects in teams.
Nell Hatcher, who is from Mississippi, says she received word
from Mississippi State University that the entrepreneurship program
has tripled in size. "It's a wonderful program," she says. "That's
one of the best things he's done besides all the other things.
That's what he loved."