Deep South renaissance man
By D.Ann Shiffler14 April 2020
Camile Landry, founder of Deep South Crane & Rigging, points to “hard work and good luck” as the key reasons for his company’s success.
Ever humble and giving full credit to the Deep South team, Landry is known as one of the smartest men in the crane, rigging and specialized transportation industry. While he describes himself as “semi-retired,” he is still very much an innovator for the company. He works closely with Deep South’s engineering team on difficult projects, and he has a knack for adapting equipment to meet specific needs.
Landry is also involved in designing new VersaCrane models, including concept drawings and preliminary designs for the centerpiece crane. The VersaCrane put Deep South on the crane and rigging map worldwide and is one of the many reasons Landry has earned a legendary status.
It was the early 1980s when Landry started pursuing high capacity cranes for the Deep South fleet. He purchased a used 308-ton Demag from Johnston Crane & Rigging, negotiating the deal on a yellow legal sheet of paper for $875,000.
As work proliferated, Landry purchased an 80-ton Grove, a 150-ton P&H and a 4-axle Cometto transporter. He bought another 308-ton Demag and a Demag TC-2000 with superlift, bringing Deep South into the 440-ton capacity market.
By the late 1980s, son Mitch Landry started looking into strand jack capabilities. When the old P&H facility in Escanaba, MI closed, a 500-ton heavy lift component became available for sale.
“Mitch decided that the boom sections could be modified into strand jack towers,” Landry said. “The person in charge of moving the boom onto our transport equipment asked me what I planned to do with it. Not knowing anything about strand jack systems, I said that we might just build a crane around it.”
Engineering dream team
The very next day Dieter Juergens, who had been head of engineering at P&H, called Landry after hearing that he wanted to build a crane. They made a deal that Juergens would work part-time from a crane concept Landry provided. An engineering team was organized on a “moonlighting” basis. And that’s how the first 1,500-ton VersaCrane TC-24000 came to be. Juergens told Landry that “building a crane around existing boom is like finding a hubcap on the side of the road and building a car around it.”
Landry’s vision was a new generation of large capacity cranes with smaller footprints and tighter tail swings and that could be transported on U.S. highways.
It’s been 52 years since Deep South Crane & Rigging started operations. Today the company is a strong force throughout the United States and especially in the Gulf Coast region where petrochemical refineries and the petroleum industry rely on Deep South’s expert capabilities.
“Initially, my only goal was to be self-employed and use my engineering degree, but I enjoyed construction more than engineering, working out in the field with hard working craftsmen,” he said. “I never knew Deep South would turn into what it is now, but I took advantage of the opportunities we got, and it worked out.”
Another mainstay in the culture of Deep South is the Landry family. The third generation is now taking leadership roles.
“The partnership with my kids was a no-brainer,” said Landry. “We were all on the same page. We’ve always been close, and I always wanted my family involved. When you love what you do, it isn’t work.”
Running and growing Deep South has been challenging, but it’s also been a labor of love.
“We have always been surrounded by very smart, capable people,” he said. “The accidents always make an impact on you, and we try hard to put the resources in place to keep everyone safe and to improve each day. Dips in the market have their own financial challenges. I’ve always believed that if we came to work every day and worked hard, we could work through whatever challenge came. And everyone in the family feels a personal responsibility to our people. Our work is better because of it. Our cranes are better because of it. And we are better because of it.”