Based in Lexington, Ky., Intech Contracting, LLC performs inspection support and rehabilitation work for highway bridges as well as structural steel fabrication and erection for commercial and industrial clients.
For more than a decade, a key player in their success has been Brad Wilder, bridge painting division manager. Wilder has overseen many marquee projects, including one at the Long–Allen Bridge in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA, which was honored as a winner at CoatingsPro Magazine’s 2022 Contractor Awards and featured in the May 2022 issue (“Bridge Through Town: Refurbishing a Historic Bridge in a Dense Urban Area”).
Initial Career Considerations
Early in Wilder’s tenure, Intech wasn’t heavily involved in coatings. But things evolved, and Wilder adapted. “I grew up in construction but not in coatings or bridges,” he says. “My family was in building construction. I went to college for civil engineering and construction management. After a few years, I landed with Intech through a classmate.”
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” adds Wilder, who spoke in a recent podcast interview on the CoatingsPro Interview Series. “In the past, the company had done water and wastewater, buildings, and structural steel. When I started, we had a street sweeping contract. There were all these different things they did. When I interviewed, they were not doing paint.”
“Six weeks or so into the job, that changed. This paint job came up close to the office, and they sent me to the pre-bid, and I had no clue what I was doing. I’m the guy sitting there at the conference table, furiously taking notes. This is a tight-knit industry, where everybody knows everybody else. They’re like, ‘Who’s this guy sitting here, taking all these notes?’ It turns out, we got that job. That was my first paint job, painting 20 bridges in the Cincinnati area. I’m really grateful for those guys on that site who took me under their wing and taught me the industry.”
Over the years since, one big change that Wilder has observed is an increased focus on real-time data. Going forward, he expects that trend to accelerate.
“I think one area of technology that has huge potential is getting quality, timely data from the field,” Wilder says. “When I started, everything was on paper. You’d write everything down, it would go to the folder, even the instruments that would output data. We’d print it out and put it in the folder. To get information about what’s happening on the job, it might be days later until you got that information.”
“Now, we’ve got apps, we’ve got better cameras, and we’ve got better instruments,” Wilder adds. “I think it’s going to be really useful to our QC [quality control] efforts to be able to see this data in near real time.”
Going the Extra Mile
On top of his award-winning work with Intech, Wilder has carved out time to take on leadership roles with NACE International, SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings, and now the merged organization known as the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP). He began serving on SSPC committees in the mid-2010s, and he continues to serve today in committee chair roles.
“I told myself, if I want to influence this industry, I can’t be standing in the hallway,” says Wilder, who also holds an MBA. “I literally need to get a seat at the table.”
Wilder has become quite involved with AMPP, where he serves as the Finance & Audit Committee Chair and QP Accreditation Standards Chair. He is an Advisory Board member at the Master Painters Institute (MPI).
Advising the Next Generation
Based on his career trajectory, Wilder has useful advice for the next generation. “In my type of role—so a project management, estimating, or office type of job—get out in the field as much as you can,” he says. “Learn from the seasoned people who are out there doing the work. Get to know the field supervisors so that you get to feel the rhythms of the jobs and learn where the pain points are.”
Wilder also recommended becoming active in associations such as AMPP. With meetings going increasingly virtual following the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted that it has never been easier for young people to get involved.
“Never stop learning,” Wilder concludes. “Don’t graduate college or trade school and then go to work and never learn anything else. Industries change. So take the classes, read some books, and talk to some experts. Ask questions, and do everything you can to stay up to speed on what’s going on in the industry. Associations are a great place to do that.”
Editor’s note: This story was reprinted with permission from CoatingsPro Magazine. Wilder’s comments, which were made as part of the CoatingsPro Interview Series of podcasts, can be listened to below in their entirety.