By Shannon Furniss
“I was impressed when I moved to Lewistown 12 years ago with the independence, self-reliance, and ingenuity of the people I met here.” – Tim Robertson, CEO Century Companies
A little over 25 years ago, Tim Robertson, came to Montana on a business trip and “fell in love with Central Montana, Lewistown in particular,” he said. “When the opportunity arose in 2003 to move my family here to Lewistown and take the reins of Century, I took it.”
A Wisconsin transplant, Robertson is now the president and CEO of Century Companies, which does everything from paving streets to building subdivisions and airports throughout the rural West and “hangs its hat” on manufacturing a raw product to a finished product, he said. The company produces much of its own material – around 50 tons to 400 tons of hot-mix asphalt per hour out of each of its eight plants. With its fleet of “rolling stock,” which encompasses more than 400 pieces of large construction equipment, the company paves airport hangers, runways, access roadways, and highways.
Jack Morgenstern and his wife, Ann, started Century Companies in 1975 in Dillon, Mont. Their office and shop at the time was an abandoned filling station, and they lived in a rented trailer. Though a challenging year, it was profitable, and in 1976 Century was ready to expand. The Morgensterns chose to locate in Lewistown because it was central and strategic to serving rural communities over a vast area, said Robertson. The company founder, Jack Morgenstern, is now retired but remains a valuable mentor to the group.
“The goal of the company was to provide high-quality, big-city style infrastructure construction services to the rural markets of Eastern Montana,” said Robertson. “Century has had very steady growth for many years now.”
Century Companies got its start in the paving and civil construction industry, but has now expanded to be a full civil service contractor. The company has 150 to 175 employees – a large portion of them skilled trades people who work seasonally. Serving clients in Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota, Century Companies provides commercial paving, highway paving, grading, underground utility installation, concrete forming and pouring, gravel crushing and laying, and hot-mix asphalt materials production.
The company has worked with many different organizations including the state Departments of Transportation, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and numerous corporations. Projects run the gamut, from a design/build project of a new weigh station facility in Wibaux County, to an airport reconstruction in Wyoming that needed to be completed in eight-hour windows because of airport restrictions, to oil field work in the Bakken.
Robertson attributes some of his company’s success to the “independent streak and get it done attitude” of Montanans. “I was impressed when I moved to Lewistown 12 years ago with the independence, self-reliance, and ingenuity of the people I met here,” he said. “It makes me think of the ranchers surviving on the prairie.”
This article is part three of a four-part series on the Lewistown manufacturing cluster. Read part one: Central Montana’s Vibrant Manufacturing Center Reaches Global Markets and part two: Spika Welding and Manufacturing: From Helicopters to Aerospace.
About the Author: Shannon Furniss is a Missoula-area journalist and communications specialist. Ms. Furniss is currently the communications director at the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the editor of the Montana Business Quarterly. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in April 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 150 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. More information on the Alliance can be found at: www.MTHighTech.org.
Photo Caption: Road crew at work for Century Companies out of Lewistown, Mont.