Founded by Charlie Burress, Tread Corporation opened for business in 1957. Mr. Burress garnered interest in the explosives industry during his time in the military. His primary assignments lent him extensive experience with explosives. Working as a dynamite and caps distributor for the Atlas Powder Company, Mr. Burress developed his company’s vision by applying a rigorous work ethic and his own creative ingenuity. In those early years, Tread was located in a small building on 30th Street in NW Roanoke. Building “treads” for air track drills, evoked the namesake. Mr. Burress saw a business opportunity within the explosives industry and opened a storage and mixing site in the Dixie Caverns area of western Roanoke County. Through bagging of Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil (ANFO) products, he created a successful and safe procedure for scoring and transporting explosive components. Today this site is still active but functioning under Orica USA Incorporated. In the early 1960s, demand for bagged products was on the rise, due to the construction of interstate highway systems. This propelled Tread to be the “one-stop-shop” for explosive handling needs. Responding to customers’ wishes, Tread began constructing storage magazines and bulk AN (Aluminum Nitrate)/ANFO container bins. Tread’s foundation is based on a consumer-centric philosophy that takes its cues directly from its customers’ needs, which are based on industry developments and changes.
Tread Corporation was purchased by local businessman Spencer Frantz, Lanier Frantz, and George Cole in 1967. Their relationship grew from a prior common interest in flying Sail Planes. Under the leadership of Frantz and Cole, Tread began co-test the waters of new ventures outside of the explosives trade. The ownership team believed in creating new business opportunities through metal fabrication sub-contracting for such companies as General Electric, Inland Motors, Otis Elevator, and Graham-White. They also produced products as diverse as the Club Scrub, a coin-operated golf club cleaning machine, two amusement park rides known as the Flying Mouse and the Moon Scooter, and the design and vending of facility dumpsters. Although these products were solid in design and capabilities, the diversion from mining industry products was short-lived.
In 1970 the Organized Crime Control Ace was passed by the federal government, thereby increasing regulatory requirements for explosives storage. Simultaneously, the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline also began. These two events created a high demand for “regulation-approved” explosive storage. To fulfill our customer’s needs, Tread began designing three new products; which included the Modul’irType I Permanent, Trailer-Mounted, and a “duplex” type for high-volume storage magazines.
In 1972, Tread relocated its manufacturing facility to nearby Granby Street in NE Roanoke. Fueled by its customer-focused vision, Tread continued to be successful with its manufacturing of explosive containers while building new relationships. One new line of business was with Pittsburg, Pennsylvania’s Heyl and Patterson, who build rail car dumpers and barge loading equipment. Another venture was designing and marketing Security Gun chests, which later became known as Treadlok Security Safes. Mr. Tom Watts joined Tread in 1972 and helped develop the business of remanufacturing underground mining equipment. Mr. Watts became part of the Tread legacy by rising from Plant Manager to Co-Owner and eventually earning the title of President in 2008.
As the popularity of bulk blasting agents increased, Tread began building customized bucket elevators, mixing equipment, and various explosives handling equipment. Based on new demands, Tread decides to close the underground equipment rebuild division in order to focus on mobile loading devices. Additionally, they increased manufacturing of Security Safes to meet that growing market demand. Tread also made the decision to sell its explosives distributorship, which is now part of the Dyno Group. In 1980, Tread Corporation manufactured and delivered the first mobile AN loading equipment. In 1982, they built and delivered the first mobile “blended-product” loading system. As the number of trucks in the field increased, Tread began offering field equipment servicing. Additionally, an in-house equipment operating school was offered to its customers. The first export unit was shipped in 1985.
A new team of management takes the helm comprised of John Frye, Tom Watts, and Jim Cole. John Frye steps into the role of CEO and President with an extensive background in international business through his career at Exxon. Tom Watts, a 10-year Tread employee, brings invaluable underground and surface explosives connections through his work with businesses in the Appalachian coal fields. Jim Cole, son of Tread Alum George Cole, takes the lead in engineering. He began his Tread career in manufacturing during his college summers and moved to Floor Supervisor after working at Westinghouse. The trio increases their Engineering staff and incorporates Computer-Aided Design (CAD) into the department. Tread begins using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in the design process to determine the structural integrity of the tanks. In 1995, new federal regulations made the old 306-type tanks obsolete; thereby replacing them with the new DOT 412 Tanks.
Tread continues its philosophy of customer-centric vision, along with which new relationships, and product implementation. The most significant growth came in the international markets. Tread now has expanded into Australia, Asia, Russia, and former Soviet Union countries. This is the era of new relationships such as partnering with international companies which creates new opportunities for revenue. Tread forms new business connections with many international companies to expand our growing list of customers.