By Alyssa Stahr
Inside Towers Special Correspondent
Company President John Houston officially started Houston’s Tower Service in 2007 simply because he loves the exciting tower industry. He loved doing what he was doing, but he didn’t like a lot of what he was seeing with some of the larger companies he was working for. He told himself he would never work on a tower again and went back to construction work. Then after working for a smaller two-way radio shop that needed a climber, he slowly went back. His knowledge and experience with tall tower work guided his way, and he went into business for himself.
Now, Houston would like to expand into selling special equipment for the industry and educating customers on what they are buying. He plans on offering gin pole manufacturing in conjunction with Structural Components, who are doing the engineering complete with serial numbers on the poles. Each pole will have its own serial number and will not be mass-produced from someone else’s engineering prints. Houston can also collaborate with people to discuss their specific needs drawing on his years of experience around tower equipment.
“I’d rather if people were going to buy something, they’d buy from somebody who can relate to them on the tower and get some better products out there,” Houston said.
Houston also is passionate about safety, particularly with cranes and gin poles. He said that gin poles are getting a dangerous tag, but they’re only as dangerous as the person operating that piece of equipment, who may not have the correct training.
“If they [some people in the industry] had the knowledge of how it all worked like I know … I think that would change their outlook on the equipment and they would see,” he said. “I don’t want these guys to ruin it for the actual people out there who have the knowledge.”
Nathan Tyson, an employee of Houston’s, told Inside Towers he loves working for the company. “They are good, knowledgeable guys with great work ethic.”
He said that he thinks there should be a difference between cellular technicians and tower riggers, because it’s a whole different world between the two. Doing cell work is completely different from the heavy rigging involved in tall tower broadcast work. However, he has a lot of respect for cellular technicians.
“I can’t do what they do; I don’t do cellular work. How they do the networking and get those jobs put together are beyond me. I don’t understand how they can run that many people and still be sane,” he said. “The stuff that we do, we can’t screw up.”
As for hiring third parties such as crane companies to do work, Houston admits that he gets nervous. He doesn’t personally know the crane company operator, and he’s trusting paperwork. However, if he is operating a hoist or gin pole, he’s completely calm. But, when he operates cranes? He’s a “nervous wreck” if the wind blows.
“They don’t understand the dangers of the crane. If the wind comes in on you with a crane, you pretty much have to finish the job in the wind. Gin pole, wind comes in, you finish with the operation you were doing, lock the pole down and get down off the tower and come back at a later date. No big deal,” Houston said. “But, they are very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’d rather them look at how many gin pole accidents are really out there in the industry versus just a guy climbing up there and not hooking off properly and falling off the tower. I don’t want to be compared with that, because it’s making our insurance go up.”
Houston is passionate about climbing experience versus classroom hours. He said that while classrooms are important, he would rather have somebody who has been climbing towers for years rescue him.
“He’d probably get someone down quicker and safer than someone who went to a school 20 foot off the ground,” he said.
Houston’s Tower Service currently employs five climbers who do big work. Having a larger company call them to do a job makes them feel good about the work that they do. The company has done it all–from tower erection, maintenance, repair, and even the odd job—including cleaning jumbotrons and windows at stadiums to moving heavy water fountains. Due to some of those odd requests, the company stays 80 to 90 percent local.
“We use our tools and rigging knowledge to do anything pretty much to do with heights,” he said. “Some of these people don’t know what they’re getting when they’re buying, and I can be the guy to ask. They can count on me.”
For more information, visit http://www.houstonstowerservice.com/.