By Kierstin Hill
What began as an initial investment in only half of a startup company in 1946 has prospered into one of the largest concrete masonry products manufacturer in all of Southern California. ORCO Block & Hardscape has improvised with the times and grown tremendously over the last 68 years, but what has not changed is the Muth family’s constant dedication to their product, employees and customers.
ORCO Block & Hardscape started as a simple, hand operation of producing concrete blocks in Santa Ana in 1946. At that time, there were 256 concrete block manufacturers in California; only nine of those original companies remain today.
Rick Muth, President and CEO, credits the success of ORCO to constantly looking into the future of the business and therefore, always being on the forefront of the industry. Because of the knowledge and expertise in the field, ORCO has always met market demand while still giving a boutique style customization to their product. Muth’s father, uncle and grandfather were original investors in ORCO in 1946; Muth began working for the family business as a young boy earning money to purchase his first bike, then worked part-time during high school and college. After working for an outside firm Muth began full time at ORCO in 1975.
When the time came to upgrade to automated equipment, ORCO took a leap of faith and purchased the expensive machinery - it’s safe to say that panned out well for them. They now employ 175 people across six different manufacturing plants all over Southern California. The plant in Oceanside alone has 21 employees, the majority of whom live in Oceanside. Five members of that staff have been with the company since the Oceanside plant opened in 1988, including Plant Manager Bobby Romero. Eight employees in Oceanside have been with the company for over ten years. The San Diego Regional Sales Manager who works from that plant has 43 years of ORCO under his belt!
The company is rooted in staying on the forefront of the industry – ORCO has hired individuals with all types of diverse industry backgrounds to have a feel for all aspects of the concrete industry. Always embracing the current times, ORCO currently stays ahead of the curve by complying with all green building requirements that are present in California today. Not only do they recycle their own product, but they also recycle other post industrial waste, such as sidewalks or buildings that have been torn down. The recycled material is then added into the batch design to create new products.
Understanding the industry inside and out has been a main reason why this company has been able to grow and expand as much as they have. Over the years they have adapted to whatever the customer base desired. They have the internal knowledge to always stay one step ahead. They are constantly working with engineers and designers to learn what the next step is in the industry and how that next step fits into their business model.
In the early days they only manufactured gray block, now they manufacture an extensive product line including custom colors of blocks (even pinks and purples), a variety of textures, recycled content block, and a complete hardscape line including pavingstones, permeable pavingstones, mortarless wall systems, fireplace units, pre-blended masonry mortar, and they only continue to grow. Muth sees the future of the company as continuing to meet customer needs by having even more diversification and use of the product.
Even though they serve all of Southern California, ORCO makes a huge impact in Oceanside and the North County San Diego region. Countless buildings on Camp Pendleton have been constructed using ORCO concrete block and permeable pavingstones, as well as the new Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad and the Encinitas Community Park, just to name a few recent projects. Philanthropy is also very important to the Muth family. ORCO has been known to sponsor local elementary school gardens, sports fields, religious institutions, the list goes on.
The Oceanside plant is just one of many examples of ORCO’s success over the last sixty-plus years. In only a few short years after purchasing that location, that plant doubled in size. It now provides jobs to more than twenty North County residents and provides construction material to all types of job sites in the local region.
Yet with all this growth, ORCO Block & Hardscape still manages to be family owned and operated. Muth’s two daughters, Veronica and Stephanie, are the third generation of the Muth family to work in the business. They have both been on the advisory board since they were in high school and currently work full time at ORCO Block & Hardscape. It is very apparent ORCO has solid family values deeply rooted within the company. That can be seen from their growth and product, but most importantly from their employee retention and loyalty. Muth credits much of the success to simply “liking what you do.”