EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) -- While many businesses were forced to lay off employees when the pandemic began, Veritas Steel, considered an essential business continued their work on complex bridges while actively hiring.
The company, founded in 2013, builds all of the steel parts for bridges all across the country and most recently the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.
What makes the Frederick Douglass bridge complex is that it has no right angles anywhere. Bridges like this are becoming more popular, according to Veritas Steel Human Resources Manager Tobie Matherne, because they do more than take people from "point a" to "point b."
"They're aesthetically appealing. Towns and cities want to not only have that functionality of the bridge but want that appealing bridge. So they can attract tourism as well," Matherne explained.
With three locations in Eau Claire, Wausau and Palatka, Florida, employees are constantly welding, painting and doing the precise work needed for the bridges.
"We'll make sure that all the pieces we've constructed go together the way they're supposed to when they reach the field. Like a giant puzzle that we put together and take back apart. Then we ship to the customer to do the same," Matherne said.
Each bridge is a giant puzzle that once you complete, it is on to the next one, meaning COVID-19 did not throw a huge wrench in their day-to-day aside from changes in cleaning operations and safety protocols.
"We're trying to get people back to work, we're trying to get them out of the home because they've been laid off from other jobs or companies. We've been fortunate enough to be able to grow and continue operating," Matherne said.
For new hire Micheal Adams, looking for a job during a pandemic was difficult, especially since he was hoping to stay in the steel industry.
"[It was] a little stressful because there wasn't a lot out there at the time and everyone was being very careful," Adams said. "Here they take the right precautions to protect you, and it was a really easy transition."
The company has hired 85 people since the pandemic was declared, and they are still looking for general labor, welders and even office administrators to help create this essential infrastructure.
"I like seeing the end product," Adams said. "Building bridges that are going to be up long after I'm gone is really self-fulfilling."