2016 Master Craftsmen
Industry: Welding and fabrication
Years in industry: 48
Business advice: “Attitude. You’ve got to have a good, positive attitude.”
Years in industry: 44
Business advice: “Believe in yourself and that you can do whatever it is you want to do.”
Industry: Master plumbing
Years in industry: 33
Business advice: “My father was a hard worker. He worked everyday and always kept hands-on in the business. That’s what I learned from him: to do your work and be hands-on in it.”
Industry: Machinery and tool making
Years in industry: 43
Business advice: “There are some things you’ll enjoy doing or the feel of. ... If you enjoying doing it, go for it.”
Years in industry: 20
Business advice: “It’s hard to find people that want to learn and understand the need to learn more. Anybody can take a job and go to work every day, but not be learning and wanting to learn.”
Industry: Trimming and finishing
Years in industry: 20
Business advice: “Work hard, give it all you have, and always do what you say you’re going to do. Do something you can be proud of.”
Industry: Sitework and landscaping
Years in industry: 19
Business advice: “If you like it, run with it.”
Industry: Residential building
Years in industry: 23
Business advice: “There are so many opportunities in our industry. Some guys like to work with their hands and some like to manage people. ... There are a lot of different areas of involvement depending on your personality and the things you want to do.”
Industry: Masonry and stonework
Years in industry: 45
Business advice: “I learned if you worked at it, you could make a living at it.”
Honoree Tim Gee, who specializes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, was not present for the reception Wednesday.
Ten men who have literally helped build and shape North Georgia were honored for their work at the “Master Craftsmen: Builders of America” reception Wednesday morning.
The event is part of the Featherbone Communiversity Master Series Program in partnership with Lanier Technical College. The awards showcase the industry and promote the importance of construction and craftsmanship to young people and the community.
This year’s 10 honorees included Zack Thompson, Fred Weaver, Lee Wagner, Robert Ingram, Kevin Pethel, Curtis Moose, Titus Shadburn, Al Bengtson, Bill Bolton and Tim Gee.
“It is indeed impressive to see the skills each of these master craftsmen possesses,” said Carroll Turner, director of the Lanier Technical College Business Incubator.
The reception included a panel discussion with the honorees in attendance, which was moderated by state Sen. Butch Miller. Miller spoke with the craftsmen about their trades, how they got their starts and the advice they might have for future generations of craftsmen.
Wagner said when he first graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in industrial engineering, he decided to join a framing crew for just $6.35 an hour.
“It was really neat to see the way God orchestrated that, because it was something I just did for fun,” he said. “I was framing a house when someone came by and said, ‘Hey, we’d like for you to build us a house.’”
Within two years, he started a construction company.
This entrepreneurial spirit was shared by many of the honorees. Thompson, co-owner of Pro Touch Landscapes, shared the story of how he started his company with his business partner Brad Samples. The sitework and landscape company has expanded to include a craft beer growler bar on the same property.
“We tried to say, ‘Look, let’s be a one-stop shop,’” Thompson said. “Two years ago we added the growler business. So we’re kind of spread out in that we’ve got several businesses. But if you like it, run with it. That’s what we say.”
Ingram, meanwhile, shared his experiences entering the plumbing business straight out of high school. He joined his father and brother in what is now a third-generation family business.
Ingram advised the students present from local high schools to consider the different facets of plumbing. He said while it’s not a field for everyone, there are appealing aspects.
Pethel also started in his father’s plumbing business, but transitioned to electrical 20 years ago. He said it was “tough” starting his own business, but he’s never advertised his work and is proud to have developed a customer base over the years.
“The only way people find me is from the last job,” he said. “As long as you're doing a good job, staying on top of things and people like you, you’ll get work.”
Moose, who is a machinist and toolmaker, advised people to follow their passion.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things,” he said. “There are some things you’ll enjoy doing or the feel of. ... If you enjoying doing it, go for it.”