SPRING CREEK — One of Raintree Construction’s logos is a Maltese cross, a symbol used by 16th-century crusading knights that is also the emblem of modern firefighters. Owners Shane Rockwell said the image, emblazoned in red embroidery on the company’s black caps, represents his faith.
When the Rockwells launched Raintree Construction in 1994 with Shane’s parents, Frances and the late Jan. M. “Rocky” Rockwell, the business started small. The family endured some slow times and now, 22 years later, has taken construction to an industrial level to serve the area’s mines — ever exploring new technologies, patenting ideas and hiring expert trade workers.
“We prayed about this company, so we know it’s going to bless a lot of people,” said Erica Rockwell, Shane’s wife.
The family’s journey from a business run out of their garage to a company of 31 headquartered in Spring Creek, at 31 Litch Parkway, can be described using the symbolism of the Maltese cross that the Rockwells chose as their business emblem. Some scholars say the cross’s eight points are based on the principles of truth, faith, sincerity, humility, justice, mercy, longsuffering and repentance.
It took humility to start small and then move on from the original business idea, which was to build homes. Raintree Construction started out that way, but the economy took a downturn in about 1998. They sold a spec home and just broke even.
About when the couple had the first of their two children, Shane took a job working for a mine for $8 per hour, which was $2 less than the advertised rate. Shane said he offered to do it for less to ensure he got the job.
Shane and his parents also built and operated Frannie Ann’s restaurant in Spring Creek, which his parents closed upon their retirement after 14 years. Shane recalls that on some days, he wore both his construction belt and an apron, going back and forth from building to waiting on customers.
The family began building homes again in the early 2000s, but another slump led Shane to seek a contract to do basic road maintenance and a portal rebuild for Redpath Mining at the Storm mine. Shane said on his first day, he walked into a room full of miners placing bets on whether he would get fired before lunch. He bet on himself and won.
“There were 1,500 bucks I made that day,” Shane said.
He worked for Barrick Gold Corp. at the Cortez mine, but getting the job wasn’t easy. He said he daily parked his car in the lot from 4:30 a.m. until day’s end asking for work.
“I’m not leaving the parking lot until you give me a job,” he told friends on-site, who found him a job. “From there, it just blew up.”
Now, Raintree Construction is home to an equipment fleet of about 15, various welding machines, a 400-ton press brake, plate-rolling machine, powder-coating room, band saw, metal fabrication lathe, 100-ton punch press, poly-coating equipment and more.
Center-stage is a Flow-brand five-access water table for cutting. The machine, programmed with AutoCAD, uses water and tiny garnets, as an abrasive, pressurized to 94,000 pounds per square inch to slice materials such as 10-inch stainless-steel plates, clad or rubber liner.
The tool is capable of creating cuts such as clean bevels and 60-degree angles with an accuracy of about 10,000th of an inch, Shane said.
As a demonstration of the water table, employee Richard Gloeckner programmed the machine to cut a triangular shape with a quarter-sized hole from a thick sheet of metal.
“Fire in the hole!” Gloeckner warned just before the automated arm came to life with a hiss and a splash.
The Raintree Construction team stands ready to serve the needs of the mines, which might request one-time projects such as a custom slurry sampling tool, and community members, who might need powder coating services. The Raintree Construction team operates the tools and machinery. And Shane is always ready to step right in with the crew, saying he’s “been in the trenches. Know what it feels like. Will pick up a wrench.”
“And the guys like that,” Erica said.
Because of their humble beginnings, the Rockwells say they’ll give any hardworking employee a fair chance, offering justice and mercy when needed.
“Everybody deserves the same amount of respect no matter what,” Shane said. “That’s our company’s greatest asset — that’s our men.”
Erica said her husband’s time in the U.S. Marine Corps gave him the drive and work ethic that makes their business successful. He served two and a half years but spiral-fractured his leg during training. He was destined for Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, but his injury led to an honorable discharge.
Despite Erica’s effort to give credit to her husband, he offers a different truth for their success: “Erica is my right hand,” he said of his office and life mate. “None of this would be possible without her.”