Podcast Episode 1: Our Why

Welcome to Inside Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group, the show where we take a deep dive into the inner workings of this flourishing company that holds faith, family, and hard work at its core.

In this first episode, you’ll hear the stories of dedicated employees who have poured their hearts and souls into the organization. Hear firsthand from Rick DiZinno, esteemed business development leader, and Pancho Payne, a veteran employee, as they share their experiences and insights gained from their years of service.

You’ll also come to understand our unique philosophy on the importance of teamwork, our commitment to maintaining reasonable profit margins, and our unwavering dedication to producing American-made products.

But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, it starts with our people and why they have chosen to stay. Lynell Russell is one of those important people who bravely battled addiction before finding redemption through a powerful recovery group. Her inspiring journey led her to a meaningful job at PTTG.

This episode offers a rare glimpse into the values and character that define our company, setting the stage for future episodes that will delve into our safety culture, rich history, profound local impact, and so much more.

If you’re curious to learn more about us or feel like PTTG might be the place for you, be sure to visit pttg.com.

Key Takeaways:

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    Faith is an integral part of life and the PTTG corporate heart

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    We are a family that values teamwork and multi-input decision-making

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    Our people prioritize the safety and well-being of their fellow employees

Moments to listen for:

[05:18] Rick on the importance of satisfied customers and repeat business

[08:41] Pancho on job security and the value of American-made

[11:27] Lynell’s story and journey to PTTG

[19:02] What to expect

PTTG Named Weather Ready Ambassador July 2022

Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group wants to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might produce.

The National Weather Service recently recognized PTTG, the Henderson County Public Library, and AMG Aluminum North America as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors.

Each organization had to meet the following criteria to be recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, according to a Henderson Office of Emergency Management news release:

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    Promoting Weather-Ready Nation messages and themes to their stakeholders

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    Engaging with NOAA’s National Weather Service on potential collaboration opportunities

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    Sharing success stories of preparedness and resiliency

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    Serving as an example by educating employees on workplace preparedness

The National Weather Service initially approached Tim Troutman with Henderson County Emergency Management Agency to spearhead a pilot program since he previously worked for the NWS for 33 years.

“Something like this hasn’t been done before so it’s kind of exciting to be part of it,” he said. “We’re glad and blessed to have this opportunity.”

Henderson County is the pilot for the Weather-Ready Community. Henderson’s developing the pilot project in conjunction with NWS Paducah and NWS headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“This is going to be something that the National Weather Service plans to put out to the entire United States,” said Jill Ward, assistant to Henderson County EMA Director Kenny Garrett.

EMA officials pitched the project during a Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting, which PTTG Vice President of Risk Management Eric Gardner happens to chair. Shop Manager Ethan Evans was at the presentation and partnered with EMA to launch the pilot project at Pittsburg.

As a Weather-Ready Ambassador, PTTG works with the National Weather Service to ensure its employees are provided with weather warnings and safety information for hazardous incidents. Ambassadors act as a “force multiplier,” said Troutman, helping broadcast weather messages to everyone. For example, ambassadors can send an email blast with weather information out to their employees. Ambassadors also participate in weather-related safety training and exercises.

Henderson County will participate in this three to five-year project to evaluate weather and non-related weather hazards at different buildings in the area. That includes the county’s 100-plus industrial plants, 100-plus churches, 20-plus schools, the hospital, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and other businesses.

“We’re targeting and looking at the bigger organizations first just because they have larger populations where people will be working or attending and that’s the bigger threat,” said Troutman.

EMA recently sent an email out to community leaders and has already heard back from about a dozen schools that want to schedule walk-throughs, as well as several factories. Several churches have already been evaluated. All the information gathered will go into Google Drive. NWS will be able to access the completed authorized version.

EMA developed a three-page needs assessment and sat down with officials from each of the ambassador organizations to inquire about their emergency operation plans, contact information, and how information was disseminated. They also looked at what weather-ready events, workshops, and training have taken place.

EMA officials have already walked through PTTG with company officials to get an idea of the floor plan, taking pictures of areas that would make the best shelters during a storm.  EMA also made note of where any glass, chemicals, or hazards were located so first responders could respond accordingly in an emergency.

PTTG’s buildings follow the Kentucky Building Code, which offers structural integrity of up to 115-mph winds. The buildings would withstand EF0 and EF1 tornadoes, which account for about 80 percent of all tornadoes.

“Typically manufacturing buildings handle up to 115-mile winds before extensive damage, and after all that, all bets are off,” Troutman said.

The tornado that devastated Mayfield, Kentucky in December 2021 was a strong EF4. A November 2005 tornado that struck Ellis Park in Henderson before jumping the Ohio River and wrecking a mobile home park in Evansville was a strong EF3.

EF Rating 3 Second Gust
0 65-85 mph Might knock over trees, do a little bit of shingle damage.
1 86-110 mph More shingle roof damage, snap off trees, flip over mobile home.
2 111-135 mph Take roofs off.
3 136-165 mph Take roof off and leave only most interior part of house.
4 166-200 mph Knock everything down.
5 Over 200 mph Wipes everything off foundation.

Henderson EMA presented PTTG with a 20-page document outlining recommendations for each building’s best areas to take shelter and other safety practices. For instance, when EMA did the walkthrough at Pittsburg’s office, they determined the northwest corner toward the back of the building was the safest place to take shelter from a tornado.

“That’s really going to be the best location because you have so many good walls between the south and southwest,” said Troutman. “About 90 percent of all severe storms and tornadoes in our part of the country comes from the south to southwest.”

Weather officials want to take what they’ve learned from the December 2021, tornado outbreak and other disasters to help generate the best possible outcomes for future disasters.

Garrett and Ward traveled to Mayfield, Bremen, and Dawson Springs, shortly after the December 11, 2021 tornado outbreak devastated those communities. Volunteers were eager to help, and donations poured in readily, but it was a tall task to organize where to distribute supplies and where volunteers would be best suited.

“There was so much chaos with that, and we learned so much,” Ward said.

Henderson County EMA is working on a template that all emergency management agencies can use.  While the project is weather-focused, the information gathered can be used for other emergencies such as chemical explosions and active shooting events.

“If every emergency management focuses on their own community, we can get the whole U.S. a lot safer,” said Ward

Henderson County EMA is preparing safety toolkits for different hazards. Henderson is also expecting to begin providing river stage forecasts using gauges stationed at the Ohio River and another in Spottsville at the point where the Ohio and Green rivers meet.

Another part of the project is locating funding to get more weather stations in Henderson County to better provide NWS and EMA with up-to-date weather information for more accurate forecasts, said Troutman. Better weather information leads to better preparedness and better responses in emergencies. For example, Troutman said that knowing wind direction is critical in a chemical spill.

“Every day there will be a river stage forecast for the Ohio River at Henderson,” said Troutman. “Right now the nearest is at Evansville and it was felt that when you turn the corner at the bend of the river, it’s different than it is in Evansville.”

“This project is going to be our way of making sure Henderson County is as safe as possible,” said Troutman, adding that hopefully, this pilot project will lead to a regional and national unveiling of the program. “That way there could be a positive taken from a negative from the December 11 tornado outbreak.”

Building Our Community One Step At A Time

Blue Shirts Dominate Tri-Fest 5K

Dozens of people donning blue shirts crossed the finish line in Downtown Henderson on April 23 – helping signal a return to normalcy.

After two years of pandemic-related-cancellations, Habitat for Humanity Tri-Fest 5K race officials opened registration about six weeks before the big day – signaling that the race was indeed on.

PTTG Chief Wellness Officer Dylan Phelps said it was exciting to return to the race after two years of cancellations.  Five years ago, Pittsburg unofficially claimed it as “Our Race” because everyone looked forward to gathering in late April to demonstrate support for the community and represent the love and care the PTTG family has for each other.

No one was sure what to expect since the race hadn’t been held in three years. In 2019, the race drew about 350 participants – including 170 from PTTG. There were about 50 Pittsburg Tank and Tower Group family members who participated this year. While this year’s race didn’t draw as big a participant pool, it was blessed by beautiful weather and an engaged crowd.

“The day of the race could not have been scripted any better,” said Dylan. “The energy of the crowd was electric, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the outcome was phenomenal. It was a perfect return for this event.”

In years past, Pittsburg participants wore purple to honor the late Don Johnston. The royal color was his signature hue. This year, PTTG wore blue T-shirts in remembrance of Don’s son Donald “Johnny” Johnston. Blue was Johnny’s favorite color.

“It was amazing to see all of those ‘Johnny’s Squad’ shirts woven into the crowd on Saturday,” said Dylan. “Many participants from the community expressed their surprise at the fact that ‘all of those blue shirts’ were filled with PTTG family members.”

Training began in the late winter and continued through the spring.  The FIT Wellness Program race crew created a 5K preparation program that can be utilized by all PTTG employees, family members, and friends. The program was accessible through the company’s web and app-based wellness portal. It was designed to slowly and properly build participants’ endurance and prepare them to enjoy race day no matter the pace they chose to pursue.

“Personally, I followed the 5K training program’s training regimen,” said Dylan. “That put me out on the road running two to three days per week.”

“In the past, the race crew offered differentiated preparation programs for walkers and runners,” said Dylan. “In fact, we may have gotten too technical with our training regimens. However, we’ve learned that safety, distance, and fun are the most important elements of helping our PTTG team prepare for events like this one.”

With the 2022 race, everyone followed the same training suggestions regardless of the pace. Each week, there were training exercises that correlated with specific distances.

“Each participant has their own intrinsic motivation to accomplish goals such as participating with a friend, crossing the finish line for the first time, setting a personal record, or even leading their division,” said Dylan. “Supporting those personal goals with encouragement and proper training guidance is important.”

He added that people are best motivated by something bigger than themselves and their own goals.  This year, the PTTG family walked and ran for Johnny.  He led the event each year – making it his mission to finish the race in 2017 and 2018 and cheer everyone on at the finish line in 2019.

It’s incredibly special to share this race with both our PTTG family and our own family members and friends,” Dylan said. “Our own family members and friends are an invaluable extension of our PTTG family, and that’s why all are invited. I love being a part of this event with so many people who are extremely important to me. Being surrounded by the PTTG family, running with one of my daughters, and meeting my family at the finish line makes this my favorite event of the year!”

Several PTTG employees brought their family members to participate in the race.

The race was Allstate Tower Shipping Manager Josh Gansman’s first-ever 5k since he’s usually busy with bass fishing tournaments on the weekend. Always on the lookout for activities to do with his 11-year-old son, Easton, Josh thought this was a great opportunity.

“Easton has muscular dystrophy, so he is in a wheelchair,” said Josh. “Honestly, seeing a picture of Ben pushing Johnny in a wheelchair on the registration email Dylan sent out gave me the idea that maybe, this would be something Easton would like to do.” “When I asked Easton about it, he was excited and said, ‘It sounds like fun. Let’s do it.’”

Easton’s six-year-old sister Emma wanted to join in too on the morning of the race, so she tagged along.

“It felt really good to finish the walk together with loved ones making memories,” Josh said.

Sage Implementation Leader Rick Crowder wanted to walk the race for many reasons, primarily among them to honor Johnny.  He was joined in the race by his daughter Annie and mother Debbie.

“They both finished better than I did,” said Rick.

Though he’s participated in races before, he didn’t do anything in particular to prepare for this one. “In hindsight, that was foolish,” he said. “I have the blisters to prove it.”

“I fully expected to finish the race, but it was more difficult than I anticipated,” Rick said. “It seems I have gotten older and heavier, and such activities are not as easy as they maybe once were. It wasn’t so much about finishing the race, but just participating and enjoying the day’s festivities.”

Dylan said before the race that his goal was to have a wonderful time celebrating Johnny.  Doing so would make this year’s return to the Tri-Fest 5k event a success for the PTTG family.

“The race has become very special to us over the years,” said Dylan. “Internally, we have been able to use it to honor and celebrate our loved ones, and it was such a joy to celebrate Johnny’s miraculous life this year in this way. Externally, it offers us the opportunity to demonstrate our values and culture to the community, and that leads to a unique widespread ripple effect. It fills my heart to see how many of our owners are committed to supporting and encouraging one another and to building up this wonderful company of ours.”

Dylan said he will always remember the moment when Johnny’s closest squad members – widow Kathy Johnston, son Joshua Johnston, daughter-in-law Brittany Johnston, and granddaughter Maggie Johnston – turned the corner for the finish line.

“It was extraordinary for all of us to see how they kept the faith and finished the race just like Johnny did!”  Dylan said.

Events like this benefit the community, promote regular movement, motivate everyone to set and achieve goals, and teaches everyone about themselves.

“There are so many health-promoting aspects of training and participating,” Dylan said. “I encourage anyone interested to find a race that benefits a cause that is important to them and contribute through proper training and participation.”


Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group President Ben Johnson couldn’t wait to share the big news. Literally, he cut his vacation a little short to announce to the entire Pittsburg family on October 1, 2021, that PTTG was officially 100 percent employee-owned.

“ESOP is much more than employee ownership,” said Allstate Tower Drafting Manager Jeff Webber. “ESOP closes the loop and binds us all to our future together. We spend about 80 percent of our waking hours with our co-workers and then go home to our separate lives. Now we are all bound to the future together with a common purpose. That truly creates the PTTG family!”

Ben first announced the creation of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) during the company’s Christmas party in late December 2019. The announcement came after a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Pittsburg’s founding.

Established in 1919 by Joseph Boyd McClelland, the company focused on water tanks and smokestack maintenance. His son, Cloyce, took over the company in the 1940s and moved it to Pittsburg, Kansas. Donna McClelland sold the company to longtime business associate Don Johnston in 1983, and he relocated Pittsburg to his hometown of Henderson, Kentucky.

Under the Johnston family, Pittsburg transformed into a full-tank service supplier, doing everything from erecting tanks to repairing them to tearing them down. The family also added Allstate Tower, a communication tower and agricultural accessory company in 2003, and purchased LEC, a tank diving company, in 2018.

Looking for ways to continue to grow the company and ensure it remains for the next 100 years, Ben Johnston felt it best to transform Pittsburg from a family-owned company to an employee-owned one.

So, after much research and deliberation, the Johnston family decided to place 30 percent of its shares in a trust. That meant that 30 percent of the shares were available to allocate to employees over 10 years.

Being 100 percent ESOP means any increased value goes to the shareholders – AKA the employees – because there are no outside shareholders. Employees will receive more shares each year into their ESOP account. That also means that everyone’s hard work and efforts to increase the company’s profitability are rewarded in rising share prices. As PTTG profits increase, so does the value of the ESOP shares.

“Having ESOP makes me have a greater sense of purpose when coming to work,” said PTTM Project Manager Nick Nation. “It pushes everyone to be the best version of themselves.”

The ESOP shares are distributed over time to ensure shares will be available throughout an employee’s career at Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group. Eligible employees are allocated shares to their ESOP account each year at no cost to the employees. To be eligible, employees must work at least 1,000 hours in a calendar year, and be employed by Pittsburg on December 31 of that same calendar year.

“Having ESOP makes me have a greater sense of purpose when coming to work,” said PTTM Project Manager Nick Nation. “It pushes everyone to be the best version of themselves.”

“ESOP has increased in me a level of pride and loyalty that I’ve not known with any other employer, said PTTG Financial Analyst Angela Garrett. “I recognize that my co-workers and I owe it to everyone to be the very best at what we do. We are not individuals at PTTG but are a family unit – all working for the betterment of one another. I believe that a successful PTTG employee will embrace the family mentality and perform accordingly.”

ESOP is an additional retirement plan. Pittsburg will continue to invest in employees’ 401(k) plans, which are separate from ESOP.

“This is more than a paycheck,” Chief Wellness Officer Dylan Phelps said. “This is way beyond the deal we signed up for. At the end of your career, you’ll have an opportunity to retire with an incredible amount of financial dignity.”

Pittsburg employees received their first ESOP statements this spring, during a presentation at the Henderson Preston Arts Center on Henderson Community College’s campus. It was a joyful occasion. While most ESOP companies’ share value declines in their first year, Pittsburg’s ESOP grew by 15 percent.

Henderson Kentucky Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business of the Year

And the award goes to……….Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group & the Johnston family. In 2015 PTTG was named the small business of the year by KYNDLE. Just five years later, we received the 2020 Business of the Year award from the Chamber of Commerce. The announcement was made on February 6th at the annual dinner held by the Chamber.

Here’s some excerpts from Chamber President Ellen Redding’s speech: “PTTG is a company that demonstrates the value of entrepreneurship, community engagement and drive for growth,”

“Entrepreneurs play a key role in any economy. These are the people who have the skills and initiative necessary to anticipate current and future needs and bring good new ideas to market.”

“From one company to now four. From humble beginnings of two employees to now employing over 400.  From doing work in one state to now operating in over 50 countries. All while keeping the home office in Henderson KY.  PTTG and the Johnston family share its success with our community.”

“Education, Health and Wellness and Giving Back is the common theme in this workplace. Students from HCHS co-op here, fresh fruit and yoga classes are offered here, and over 170 employees ran in the Tri Fest 5K. One of the most ambitious and exciting contributions to the community came when team members from PTTG, constructed and erected a steel bridge at John James Audubon State Park accessed around the Wilderness Lake Trail.  And in celebrating their 100 years. – they had a block party in downtown Henderson.”

The employees of PTTG wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Johnston family for their tireless efforts and the excellent work environment we enjoy as a result of their dedication. Congrats to the Johnstons and we’re looking forward to continuing the success story!

Bridge at John James Audubon State Park Replaced by PTTG employees

Nature, family and steel construction – these three things were near and dear to Don Johnston’s heart. So, it’s only fitting that the way Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group chose to honor its late owner was by donating funds, labor, and materials to build a steel bridge that spans a portion off a trail in Audubon Park.

More than 30 people gathered to dedicate the bridge on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Vice President of Risk Management Chris Johnston delivered a heartfelt speech in honor of his late grandfather before the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place.

“This bridge that stands here shows the love and loyalty that he gave every day made a difference,” Chris said. “He always said if they are with you when times are good and they sacrifice for you, when times are bad you sacrifice for them, he meant that and lived by it. You all here have been with us and our family through our trying times, our ups and downs. And through this wonderful, thoughtful, generous gift have given our family and community a way to remember Don and his supportiveness, his generosity, and his love to make sure we have support along the way.” 

The new bridge is located on the north side of the older of the two lakes in the park. People can access it from the Wilderness Lake Trailhead. It’s estimated that between 100,000 to 200,000 people will walk across the bridge annually.  See Chris Johnston’s interview with 14 news regarding the bridge @

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