Fifty years ago, Camile Landry started a small electrical contracting business in Baton Rouge, LA. Right off the bat his son Mitch aspired to be his father’s right-hand man.
Mitch Landry, President, Deep South Crane & Rigging
“I started when my dad started,” said Deep South Crane & Rigging President Mitch Landry. “I’ve been involved in the business since I was 10 years old. I worked during the summers and holidays and on weekends.”
After graduating from Louisiana State University, Landry joined the business full time, as did his sister Regina Landry and his brother Bryan Landry. In time their offspring would join the business that has evolved into one of the largest and most respected crane, rigging and specialized transportation companies in the world.
“My dad started buying cherry pickers in the early 1970s,” Landry recalled.
“He really liked cranes and they were easy to bare rent back then. Plus, there was an investment incentive known as the investment tax credit. We are really in the crane business for two reasons: My dad loved cranes and the investment tax credit. We phased out of the construction and electrical contracting business and strictly became crane and rigging by the mid-1980s.”
While the company has grown exponentially since those early years, enduring the ups and downs of the economy, the Landry team learned how to prepare and keep the company growing in both scenarios.
“We try to keep ourselves in the position to weather the storms and not change our philosophy when downturns happen,” he said.
Deep South has experienced growing pains and faced the challenges that all family businesses encounter, but the family’s devotion to each other runs deep.
“We are all family,” he said. “We love each other first of all. But that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. Everyone has their own job. And yes, we sometimes have a difference of opinion, but things always seem to balance out. I think at the end of the day we have to hear each other out and work together for a common goal.”
Today Deep South Crane & Rigging has more than 700 employees that work from branch offices in Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky and Indiana. Deep South also has an office in Cartagena, Columbia where its Latin American business is managed. The company offers turnkey solutions in a range of industries offering heavy haul, heavy lift, specialized lifting and rigging and engineering services. Deep South takes on some of the most challenging projects in the world.
“We have multiple projects going on all the time in many locations around the country,” Landry explained. “Our different offices work collaboratively to handle the jobs from big to small. We can do it all – whatever the project requires wherever it is located. We do some monster projects.”
The $10 billion Motiva refinery project in Port Arthur, TX was one such monster job.
Deep South has branches in Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky and Indiana and a Latin American office in Columbia. Pictured is the Deep South VersaCrane working at a refinery in Louisiana.
“That’s the biggest project we’ve ever performed,” said Landry. “It took four years and we did most of the heavy lift work and some of the transport work.”
One of the unique aspects of Deep South is that the company designs and builds cranes, specifically its flagship VersaCrane line. With capacities that exceed 2,500 tons, the VersaCrane is all American and all Deep South.
“The VersaCrane sets us apart,” said Landry. “It’s a patented design that allows it to perform and travel on congested jobsites with very low allowable ground bearing pressures.”
While it would seem that Deep South’s focus is just big projects, the company also completes small-scale jobs for a range of clients around the country.
“Our smallest crane is a 2.5-ton Broderson carry deck and our largest
is the 2,500-ton VersaCrane,” Landry said. “We are a total service company. From our family’s point of view, we never wanted to be the biggest, we just wanted to be the best.”
What distinguishes Deep South is the genuine goodness of the family and their respect of each other, employees, clients and the industry in general. Through the years, we’ve covered many Deep South projects in ACT. I’ve gotten to know Mitch Landry’s daughters Kate Landry, Margaret Landry Pernici and his nephew Jeremy Landry. Young and engaging, all three are deeply committed professionals who adore each other and the industry in which they work.
I met up with Mitch Landry at Breakbulk USA in Houston in early October. Soft spoken and steeped in southern politeness, Landry talked candidly about the company, the Landry family and the industry in general.
Those who know him find Landry to be smart, sincere and truly authentic. He can also be quite amusing, and his children and grandchildren think he hung the moon. Read on.
Safety is an important investment for a crane and rigging company of any size. How does Deep South approach safety?
Safety is the most important thing. We know we can’t be successful unless we are safe so we pull out all the stops, not taking chances. It’s certainly an investment that we’ve worked toward for many years, and we are proud to say we have a strong safety culture. It’s not just talk. Our people believe it, and our clients recognize it and see the difference. Right now, we have the best safety record in our history. We have logged over a year without lost time.
It’s been a hard road, a tough road, to get there, and we understand there’s always room for improvement. But we are proud that our employees have gotten recognized across the industry for their efforts, recently winning several impressive safety awards. Even with this, we still realize we can get better, and we work at it every day.
We have been through many safety audits by all kinds of clients. We are transparent and show clients our safety program in action and how it’s implemented. The feedback we are receiving is positive.
Nowadays, the refineries and other clients want to assure that our riggers are certified and that our people have all the safety credentials, and we have worked toward making sure our people are properly trained. We want our people and those we work with to go home to their families at the end of each day. We don’t want to have an accident. Safety is something everyone must buy into.
How do you address crane operator certification?
We make sure all our operators are CCO certified at a minimum. Vice President Kerry Hulse, a longtime employee, is a founding member of NCCCO. We implemented a program about 10 years ago where everyone is certified on model-specific equipment. We wanted to take a step above and beyond. Each operator takes a written and practical test on each model of crane in our fleet. We issue them a certification card and we keep the documentation to prove the testing and training for each operator.
Our operators are not just certified, they are certified in five different levels. We developed this program ourselves about 10 years ago, and it’s a pretty impressive system. Clients love it. It’s very specific to each crane being operated, whether it’s a cherry picker, a truck crane or a crawler crane with a luffing jib.
What led to the development of the VersaCrane?
As I said, the VersaCrane sets us apart in the markets we serve. The VersaCrane responded to a need for a crane that was mobile and that was designed for projects in the United States. We were actually trying to find a crane from Europe that could meet the requirements that we needed. But there wasn’t one.
We started thinking about it and coming up with some unique ideas to patent and to build our own crane. This all started in the late 1980s. It took some years to develop. We did a lot of the engineering in the late 1980s and then we started building the crane. The first one came out in 1993. We are now working on model number 12. The VersaCrane is a very special needs crane. It’s very unique, and it allows us to perform jobs that no one else in the world can do. We usually build the crane and then the jobs come.
We know what we want and what’s needed, and we can tweak the VersaCrane for special jobs, like changing the tail swing or changing elements to make the crane operate to meet a specific need. While we’ve had some companies approach us to purchase them, they are not for sale. We only design and build them for our own use.
What types of jobs give you the most satisfaction?
This business is my passion, and I love all aspects of it. But the really tight, tough jobs that everyone thought was impossible get my interest the most.
I love the big transport jobs, the jack-and-slide jobs and the heavy lift projects – the complicated jobs that require all of those disciplines. Now, I don’t get to be as involved in the fun stuff as much. That’s the only bad part about it.
Deep South does a lot of business in the energy industry? What’s your take on this sector?
Even when things were down, the refineries didn’t put off turnarounds and kept us busy. We don’t work in the oil fields – we are more in the refineries and petrochemical plants. When oil prices get really low, it does affect the refineries. So, we felt some of the downturn, but it wasn’t terrible for us. And right now, things are looking up. We are very busy with the turnaround work and have seen a lot of refinery expansion and construction.
Do you have a succession plan for Deep South?
My father’s vision is for this company to go on forever. And that’s what I want to happen. We now have another generation of our family involved. They are technically the 3rd generation but my Dad considers my sister and I the first generation since we started with him, building the business together. We are proud that our kids, the younger generation of our family, are now taking on leadership roles. And because of their leadership, as well as some other very talented young employees, the future at Deep South looks bright. These young people are the future of our company and their potential is amazing. Our hope is to keep evaluating and setting up our company for future success by providing the right leadership, pipeline of talent and the right tools to keep moving forward.
Deep South recently hosted a Lift and Move USA event. What do you think these types of events bring to the industry?
Lift & Move was a good experience. This event opened the eyes of students and veterans in our region, which is important to help bring new talent to the industry. It’s hard to find young people and get them trained and then keep them. But we have had pretty good retention, and most of the people who come to work for us stay with us for the rest of their careers.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Stick to what you know. This is my Dad’s philosophy, too.
What do you do when you are not working?
Racing is in my blood. Until recently, I was racing cars competitively but now I’m just a spectator. I also enjoyed motorcycle racing when I was younger. I watch it all – Indy, Nascar, Formula 1. And this year I enjoyed watching a couple of my old teammates win championships.
Do you plan on retiring?
I don’t know if I’ll actually retire, but I will slow down. I really like hanging out with my wife, our kids and grandchildren. I have four daughters, so that’s really fun. My dad is 80 years old and I always said retirement for him would be working 40 to 50 hours a week instead of the normal 80 to 100 hours. He still probably works 40 hours a week.