Arkansas Money & Politics // Top 10: Patrick Schueck, Man of Steel

Arkansas Money & Politics // Top 10: Patrick Schueck, Man of Steel

Full article: Top Ten: Patrick Schueck, Man of Steel

By Dwain Hebda

Arkansas Money & Politics

Jan. 20, 2024

Lexicon CEO Patrick Schueck has covered a lot of ground and met a lot of people in his career, but there is no doubt where and with whom he feels most at home — in the company’s headquarters, mixing with the men and women who work the steel that is Lexicon’s stock and trade.

“At my core, I see myself as an American iron worker,” he said. “After I graduated college, I spent a lot of time doing iron working in the field. Did some millwright work and then came back into the office and spent a lot of time out in the shop. I still like to spend a lot of time out in the shop. I enjoy iron workers, I enjoy their mentality. Like I like to tell everybody, you get a little rust in your blood, it’s hard to get it out.”

The sprawling headquarters facility feels like home to Schueck because in a sense that is what it is, built from the ground up by his late father, Tom, which makes the people who work there an extended family. He is quick to credit the front-line workers for the company’s leaps-and-bounds success, not only in word but in corporate deed. Among the perks Lexicon has implemented in service to employees are opening a company health and wellness clinic and rewarding long-tenured employees with recognition and a cash award.

“Here at Lexicon, we’re not a construction company. We’re a people company. We’re only as good as the people that we employ,” Schueck said. “We are in a business where knowing your trade is just as important as having a college degree or getting an associate degree. Knowing steel, knowing how steel operates, that’s the key to being whatever you want to be in this business, whether it’s a fitter, a welder out in the shop, whether it be a project manager here in the office, whether it be running a group or running a crew in the field. 

“At Lexicon, it even goes a step further than that. We put people, quality, safety and innovation first in everything we do. That really started with [chairman emeritus] Gene Riley and my dad, who treated everybody with dignity and respect. They made everyone feel like they were pulling from the same end of the rope, no matter if they were college educated or whether they were from the trades. I truly believe in that at my core.”

Schueck identifies with the company’s employees so closely because despite being the founder’s son, he enjoyed no special treatment coming up, doing the very jobs his entry-level workers are tasked with daily.

“I started in Berkeley County, S.C., on a steel mill in 1999,” he said. “My first job was to take a crew out and pick up trash for two weeks. My second job was bushing columns with a big hammer drill. Got out there and did that in 120-degree temperatures.

“I went from Berkeley to another plant in Petersburg, Va. I did shutdown work at different steel mills throughout the South, spent a lot of time at Nucor-Yamato in grease up to my underarms, changing out grease fittings.”

The main difference between him and his colleagues was Schueck would one day be the man in charge and, therefore, in a position to make decisions with the worker in mind, which he has done.

“I’ve had to work for everything I have. That was ingrained in me from an early age,” he said. “Back when I was on the road, I learned what it took to do [steel work] seven days a week. I learned what it took to work nights for an extended period. I learned how hard it was on somebody who works for us, not only for the employee physically, but for their girlfriend, for their wife, for them to be away from their kids on Thanksgiving Day. I learned all of that because I was with them for so long. I wouldn’t change those years for anything.”

Today, having stocked the company with like-minded employees who know they are valued, Lexicon is reaping the benefits of American steel’s return to favor, not to mention the growing presence the industry has in Arkansas. Long thought to have died off amid the onslaught of cheaper foreign competition, Schueck said clients are rediscovering in droves the benefits of domestic steel and steel products.

“No. 1, it’s much more environmentally safe than what you get from overseas, period,” he said. “No. 2, the quality from the United States is so much better, it’s not even comparable to what you see coming out of China. No. 3 and more importantly, who doesn’t want something that’s American made?

“We’re incredibly excited about things. Being a steel fabricator and steel erector, among all the other things that we do, we’re very excited about having the opportunity not only to build those steel mills, but to be able to maintain those steel mills and to be able to make a living by buying those products.”

These new trends also spell good things closer to home, where Arkansas is rapidly earning a reputation as a steel center for the nation. Schueck said the major investments in steel mills in northeast Arkansas is already having a transformative effect on the state’s economy with more to come.

“When you look back at the lineage of why [steel] is in Arkansas, it makes perfect sense,” he said. “When you look at northeast Arkansas, you’ve got some of the best people in the country — hardworking people who grew up on farms, who know how to operate mechanical equipment and who comprise an all-around hardworking community. You’ve got the use of the Mississippi River, you’ve got two different rail lines, and you’ve got the ability to hit two different interstates. 

“It just makes sense. As people would say, it’s the hallowed ground of steel, the steel mills of northeast Arkansas. They’ve got everything they need. They’ve got cheap electricity. They’ve got great water. They’ve got a great workforce. It’s just set up perfectly for it.”

Schueck also gives state leaders high marks for helping to create a business-friendly environment that has allowed the steel industry and others to grow and thrive. Having completed projects in multiple states — and managing two acquired companies in recent years based in Louisiana and Alabama — he knows that from experience.

“Of all the states we operate in, I’d give Arkansas a very hard B right now, which is a very high grade for me,” he said. “What blows people away about this state, the companies that we work with from all around the country that come in here, wanting to do business, is when they find out they’re two phone calls away from talking to anybody in the state and getting something done. That’s so very important. You go do work in Tennessee, you go do work in Alabama, that just doesn’t happen.”

In addition to providing for his current employees, Schueck has been a tireless promoter of trades by training and teaching young people about the high-paying and rewarding career opportunities that exist locally from working with their hands. He said even as Lexicon continues to deploy leading-edge technology and look for strategic partners via acquisitions, the key element to all future success is finding enough workers.

“Lexicon is the world’s leader in robotic fit-and-weld fabrication. We went down this path about seven years ago, and we’ve done an excellent job of harnessing our energies to promote innovation in every trade that we do,” he said. “We’re very excited about the future. We do think the future of construction is bright. We think the reshoring of America has just started. I think we have positioned ourselves since 2020 to make sure everybody is in alignment culturally, and I think it sets us up perfectly to be able to manage any sort of acquisition that might come our way.”   

Arkansas Money & Politics // Top 10: Patrick Schueck, Man of Steel

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