WASOLA – On Aug. 8, Congressman Jason Smith stopped at Concrete Works in Ozark County to see firsthand what this unique agribusiness produces.
Owners Sean and Cleta Sweeney founded Concrete Works in 1990 and operate several distinct businesses from their property. Primarily, they are a pre-cast concrete manufacturer, but also do machining and fabricating, aggregate mining and operate a small organic farm to showcase their products. At Concrete Works, they primarily produce concrete cattle feeders and water tanks.
“Concrete Works is an excellent example of the diversity of agribusinesses in southeast and south central Missouri,” said Congressman Smith. “This agribusiness is particularly unique because they have designed their concrete mix specifically to withstand the wear and tear that comes along with agricultural and commercial use.”
While sharing the day to day operations of Concrete Works, owners Sean and Cleta shared that it’s difficult to compete with robust federal welfare programs which gives adults more incentive to collect a welfare check than coming to work on the farm.
“I’ve heard so many times during my focus on farms that people can make just as much money or, in some cases, more money on government programs than they can by doing an honest day’s work,”said Congressman Smith. “That’s why I’ve supported legislation to strengthen work requirements for public assistance programs.”
Smith sponsored The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996), which would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements for all “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDS) who receive food stamps from SNAP.
“There is a tremendous amount of pride in knowing you worked hard for what you earned,” said Congressman Smith. “That’s how I grew up, and I think it’s important to pass that work ethic along and not let folks just get something for nothing.”
On the positive side, The Concrete Works had praise for many of their local entities who have helped them grow to be a major national supplier in pre cast agricultural products. When asked by Representative Smith what were some of the keys to success in rural Missouri, Sean Sweeney, Managing Member of the LLC answered: “three or four come to mind: Our local bank, Town & Country Bank, our local insurance agent, and our great employees. Sheldon Shaver of Town & Country has the vision and enthusiasm for small business: he not only takes great care of us, he actually asked “what more can we do for you?’.
David Coday and his staff at State Farm Insurance in Ava came to our rescue: the storm at the end of April was devastating to our home and business: they have been there every step of the way, and personally involved to see we were repaired and back running as soon as possible. Discussing the floods, Sean also mentioned he greatly appreciated the support of MoDOT, and in particular Chris Rutledge, area engineer, who came to their rescue and got the state highways repaired in amazing time. “We asked (state representative)Lyle Rowland for help, and within hours MoDOT was communicating with us and told us there will be a highway you can use by the end of the week, and they did. Without those roads, our business was in a complete standstill. They really did a great job.”
Then regarding employees: “We have great people that work for us: they make our job more enjoyable, and we try to make this the best place for them to be.” The Concrete Works seeks to employ area youth, and often their first recruitment tool is area FFA teachers and 4H leaders.
Cleta Sweeney, director of marketing and office manager, gave additional credit to SBTDC of Springfield, Mo. “They continually provided us with amazing resources and avenues to fine tune our accounting, our marketing plans, and our overall business plans. Almost three decades of continued growth, and national as well as international customers: we could not have done it without the support and resources of the SBTDC.”
In addition, the staff at The Concrete Works visited with Representative Smith about other beneficial agencies to the company. In particular, the USDA/NRCS office in Ava and the Soil & Water Conservation Office in Gainesville. April Wilson, EQUIP Program Conservationist of Ava, and Melisa Myers, District Specialist of Gainesville, have worked many long hours consulting and assisting in grazing programs that are utilized for years now on the company’s showcase farm.
With tools, programs and advice from these local agencies, the farm has continued growth in profits, herd and flock health, and pasture improvement. Best of all, the showcase farm can demonstrate their manufactured products while also highlighting the successes of the managed grazing systems the agencies have helped produce. To find out more about The Concrete Works, you can visit their web page www.theconcreteworks.com.
This is the fifth year in a row that Congressman Jason Smith has dedicated the month of August to focus on farms in southeast and south central Missouri. Throughout this month, Congressman Smith will visit Missouri’s agricultural operations to hear directly from farmers, ranchers and agriculture industry professionals to get a better understanding of what challenges they are facing and how he can help as they work to feed and supply America.
One of the biggest concerns Smith heard about during last August’s focus on farms was the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation, which sought to federally regulate every drop of water on Missouri farmers’ land. In the last year, Smith worked directly with the Trump Administration to stop this rule and relieve Missouri farmers from the burden of WOTUS.
Congressman Smith has plans to stop at farms in each of the 30 counties in Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District as he has done every August since he was elected. This year’s focus on farms will highlight the people in our area who run these operations and the tremendous impact that agriculture has on the economy and rural way of life in southeast and south central Missouri.
Congressman Jason Smith represents Missouri’s eighth congressional district which includes West Plains, Rolla, Farmington, Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff. As a member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Smith serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Budget Committee.
Committees: waysandmeans.house.gov, budget.house.gov