Arthur Shirk is the recipient of the 2008 Rural Builder Hall of Fame award in the Construction Supplier category. His company, Rigidply Rafters of Richland, Pa., and Oakland, Md., pioneered the use of glulams in agricultural construction.
Retired from the industry and currently recovering from orthopedic surgery, Shirk was represented at the Expo awards luncheon by Ken Guffey of Rigidply.
Shirk retains ownership of the family business that began in the summer of 1954, when the Shirk family began to manufacture laminated wood rafters in their home in Myerstown, Pa.
Before and after school, in the basement of their home, young Arthur helped his father, Chester F. Shirk, glue and clamp together several sets of rafters. In time, the family felt that the business needed a name that was truly descriptive of the quality product they were producing. The name Rigidply Rafters was established.
But before the business was able to expand much farther, the Shirk family encountered a number of challenges.
The unexpected death of Chester F. Shirk in the business’s early years thrust the responsibility of running the rafter operation into the hands of Arthur, who was only 17 years old. The reality of life that lay ahead was quickly coming into focus. The responsibility to carry on the family business was a great step, but with the help of God, loyal customers and employees, Rigidply Rafters was able to continue and, eventually, flourish.
In the years that followed, a number of changes and challenges occurred. In 1963 a new product line, wood roof trusses, was introduced. The first crane truck was put into operation in 1964. The establishment of the business as a corporation in 1971 was a significant step for the family. That same year, Marlin R. Horst joined the business as a stockholder and the company forged an agreement between Rigidply Rafters, Inc. and Emanuel and Edna Miller to establish a truss plant in Oakland, Maryland.
This new plant proved to be invaluable when the Myerstown facility was destroyed by fire the very next year. Employees from the Pennsylvania plant worked night shifts at the Maryland plant so that orders could continue to be filled until the Myerstown plant was rebuilt.
Fire struck again in 1985, this time destroying the Maryland plant. Facing another major decision, the family and business partners chose to rebuild the Maryland plant. Construction continued throughout the winter of 1985-86 and was completed March 17, 1986.
Today the Rigidply Rafters name continues as a testament to the superior work produced by this family-owned business.
Rigidply Rafters, Inc. currently employs over 130 people and operates a manufacturing plant located on 45 acres of land in Richland, Pa. The Maryland plant employs over 70 people.
A family philosophy
The family/company philosophy states: “Our family business continues to grow with the support and help of three sons. We need to face reality and grasp opportunity as it arises before us. We hope to continue to be creative and innovative so that we may grow to meet the needs of our customers.
“The difficult moments encountered through the years were lessened by the loyalty and dedication of customers and employees, and for this, Rigidply Rafters, Inc. expresses its deepest appreciation.
“Everyone at Rigidply Rafters, Inc. is fully committed to serving our customers and providing them with the finest products available. The excellence that we strive for is to show our appreciation for our customers continued loyalty to Rigidply Rafters.
“The owners of Rigidply Rafters, Inc. also believe that without the strength and blessing of God, none of our services and accomplishments could have been possible. We believe it is a combination of God’s providence, our determination to understand His will, and our willingness to understand God’s purpose for our lives that has allowed us to provide a service for our customers and employees.”