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March 2010: Making the Grade

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Making the Grade

You wouldn’t expect a first-year mason to have completed both a tour with the United States Peace Corps and a master’s degree. But 30-year-old Craig Nabors, a 30-year-old recent graduate of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Okla., is a determined individual.

“Craig is an outstanding young man with a high degree of integrity,” said his masonry instructor of 27 years, Bret Pickens, at the time of Nabors’ technical school graduation in May 2009. “He has the ambition to own his own business.”

And, with time out in June 2009 to compete in the SkillsUSA national masonry contest as the post-secondary representative from Oklahoma, that is just what Nabors has been doing.

Ironically, it was during his Peace Corps service in Azerbaijan that Nabors discovered his passion.

In 2003 Nabors began working on a master’s degree in international studies at Oklahoma State University, where he could apply Peace Corps service toward his degree requirements. In summer 2004, Nabors and his wife left to serve the Peace Corps by teaching English in the public schools and training teachers in interactive teaching methodologies. They returned in 2006, so that Nabors could complete his degree. Shortly thereafter, he made the decision to establish his own home-improvement business, later concentrating on masonry construction, repair and renovation.

“While in Azerbaijan, I wrote a grant that enabled us to renovate one of the school’s classrooms,” says Nabors. “While supervising the project and working with tradesmen, I realized how much I enjoyed that type of work. I remembered working on cars with my Dad and how much I enjoyed working with my hands. I decided I did not want to be stuck in an office job.

“For now, the size of my business is just right,” Nabors continues. “It allows me enough flexibility to spend time with my wife and two young children, but, ultimately, I’d like to grow the business and specialize in historic restorations.”

Nabors has talked to other masons who have had a hard time finding enough work for their crews in the current economy. “Fortunately for me, my one-man operation hasn’t hindered me in finding projects that are the perfect size for me,” he says. “Recently, for example, I’ve completed a split-face block foundation, constructed a wall as part of a building restoration project and veneered ticket booths along with several tuck pointing and repair projects.”

He’s growing his business as he can, increasing his inventory of equipment. He recently purchased a mortar mixer and trailer that allow him to carry sand from jobsite to jobsite, minimizing waste and clean-up time.

Nabors credits his father and his instructor, Bret Pickens, as the two biggest influences to him pursuing a masonry career.

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