Rural Builder magazine, a publication for professional builders of post-frame and low-rise steel frame buildings, has announced the 2015 recipients of the Rural Builder Hall of Fame. The award was presented at the annual Frame Building Expo held in Louisville, Kentucky in late February.
Named to the Hall of Fame were: Larry Edema, Grand Rapids, Michigan, National Sales Manager for Wick Buildings headquartered in Mazomanie, Wisconsin; former National Frame Building Association president James T. “Tom” Knight, Knight Enterprises, Lawrence, Kansas; and Douglas G. Overhults, PhD, P.E., University of Kentucky, Princeton, Kentucky.
Recipients of the Rural Builder Hall of Fame are nominated and voted into the Hall by standing members of the Hall of Fame, the process monitored and sponsored by Rural Builder magazine. With the process dating back to 1982, there are now 110 members in the Rural Builder Hall of Fame. The award honors individuals who contribute to the advancement of post-frame construction.
Following are biographies of the 2015 recipients:
Larry Edema, Wick Buildings, Mazomanie, Wisconsin
The Grand Rapids, Michigan native did not originally plan a career in sales, but when he took a break from his studies in business and pre-dental at Grand Rapids Community College, he never looked back.
His first stop en route to his ultimate career was real estate.
“After I got my realtors license, I worked for a big firm in Grand Rapids. I was selling real estate back when interest rates were 22 and 23 percent. That was a tough sell,” he said.
He left real estate for good when he went to work as sales manager for an existing general contractor who was selling post frame and steel/block building packages in the Grand Rapids area. Twenty-four years ago he saw an ad for Wick Buildings, and he has been with the company since, just recently stepping up to National Sales Manager.
The post-frame industry at Wick resonated with Edema. “There are several things I enjoy about the job,” he said. “You work with so many people, customers. It’s not the same person every time; every job is different, every job is unique. And along the way you get to meet other people in the industry… [competitors] you work with and become friends with.”
His work with the National Frame Building Association is where he fostered those friendships. He started with the Michigan Chapter of the organization, serving as its president from three years, then moved to the national board where he served as Board Chair in 2011 and 2012. He is currently serving as Past Chair as well as Chair of the Governance Committee.
He is proudest of his assistance in promoting the Post Frame Marketing Initiative, serving as PFMI funding chair. “It was basically four of us: Kevin Wiggam (Wiggam Lumber), Ken Gieseke (McElroy Metal), John Hill (Lester Buildings) and myself who were on that committee. That was really the start of the PFMI Initiative in November 2007. To see where that has come today, what the funding has accomplished in research and reaching out to the architects, we’re proud of that,” he explained.
In his 30 years around post frame he said he has witnessed many positive changes. “I’m not old enough to have seen the round poles they used to build with, but just going from the square 4x6s and 6x6s to today where we have laminated columns and computer pricing, it’s just amazing. [Pricing] used to be done all by hand and now it’s all computer-priced. We have a program at Wick where we can generate a sales drawing in less than a minute just by placing things into a pricing program and hitting the drawing button.”
In his time off Edema enjoys traveling the U.S. with his wife of 29 years, Terri, and playing golf. He is the father of two sons, Tyler and Alex, and a daughter, Haylie.
James T. “Tom” Knight, President, Knight Enterprises Ltd., Lawrence, Kansas
Prior to being introduced to post frame, Knight was a college student spending his summers building concrete farm silos. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1971 after studying journalism, personnel management and marketing, and from Washburn Law School in Topeka, Kansas in 1974 with a Juris Doctor degree.
His summer silo building experiences led him to send his resume to silo and farm equipment companies in search for his career. He was soon hired by the Farm and Industrial Equipment Institute, Chicago, as Director of Government Relations. He also represented the International Silo Association.
In the late 1970s he was introduced to a fledging organization then called the National Frame Builders Association. Working on a government project in wage and labor laws, he was approached to see if the post-frame industry could be included in that legislation effort.
He was soon asked to lead the NFBA in its quest for growth. He was employed by the NFBA for the next 30 years, helping it grow from an organization with just 30 members and no money, to one with over 600 members and a worth of nearly a million dollars.
He led the organization to develop its own annual trade and education event, today known as the Frame Building Expo, and he was the first editor of the NFBA’s official publication, Frame Building News. Along the way, he helped establish the infrastructure of the organization as it transformed from a small but avid group of builders and suppliers into one that included research and testing that would diversify the organization beyond its pole barn roots.
While no longer working for the NFBA, Knight continues to embrace the post-frame industry through Knight Enterprises, helping builders to create profitable businesses of their own through takeoff and estimating software and online human resources tools.
When not working, Knight enjoys playing golf. He and his wife Michele raised two daughters, Ashley and Alyssa.
Dr. Douglas G. Overhults, PE, Biosystems & Ag. Engineering Department, University of Kentucky at Princeton
Douglas G. Overhults knew early that he wanted to become an engineer. That he could combine his farm upbringing, however, with engineering was a happy revelation.
“I didn’t even know there was an agricultural engineering discipline,” he said. He discovered the field in his first year of college and soon followed the road less traveled.
Upon finishing his master’s degree in 1972 he began working for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “I worked for about five years to decide if this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I decided I did, and I took off four years to go to the University of Nebraska.”
He returned to Kentucky in 1982 with a Ph.D. in hand and a greatly expanded knowledge of livestock production facilities.
Much of his work has concentrated on swine and poultry barn environments. More recently his focus has been energy costs and efficiency related to heating and cooling of farm buildings, as well as ammonia and dust emissions.
Dr. Overhults has seen first hand how the frame-building industry has made significant advances, elevating its status. “But there’s still lots of work yet to be done,” he said, adding, “I think it’s still a challenge to get farmers or potential building owners to think through the function of a building before they start thinking about how big the posts are or where the 2x4s go. I run into that quite often where some one has built a facility and then there are problems that become difficult and expensive to solve once the building is built.”
Helping to change the design thought process is a challenge, but it is one Dr. Overhults enjoys, along with the diversity offered through the Cooperative Extension Service. “I really enjoy working with people, whether they’re builders or farmers or county extension agents, I like trying to help them solve problems and help bring science to the people who put it into practice.”
Dr. Overhults, active in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, enjoys riding road bikes in his spare time and averages 1,500 miles a year. His ultimate goal is to accumulate 25,000 miles, which is equivalent to once around the world.
He and his wife, Elaine, have a son, Wesley.