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Still digging ditches

image Alma and Josh Phelps

AUSTIN - Josh Phelps, owner of JL Phelps & Associates Plumbing and Mechanical LLC started working at young age for a plumbing contractor when he was 16- years-old. Making $4 per hour, Phelps knew he was on his way to success.





   “The first two to three years I was working, I would saw concrete, break concrete up, and dig a ditch. Then another plumber would come in and lay pipe in, and then I’d come back and fill it in, cover it back up and pour the concrete back. That’s what I thought plumbing was.
    “Luckily the man I was working for, registered me as a plumbing apprentice at that early age.  Thank God he did.  By the time I was a year or two out of high school, I was eligible to take my journeyman test.
    “At 19 or 20-years-old, I was a journeyman card carrier.  They gave me a truck and a helper and off I went to plumbing.  After about five years I was able to get my master license,” reflects Phelps.
     Just nine short years after first starting to work as a helper, Phelps found himself as a foreman on jobsites, owning his own house with five acres of land, two roping horses and a couple of trucks.
    “If it had not been for Mr. Servor who registered me as an apprentice, who knows?  Now days, it’s a lot more political.  I think you have to be a minimum of 18 years old to be an apprentice.  Back then, you didn’t have to be.  None of that was written into state law like it is now.”
    As time would have it, Phelps got tired of running crews and jobs and decided it was time to venture out on his own.  In 1998, JL Phelps Plumbing was established.  He reincorporated the company six years ago with a mechanical division.
    After acquiring the proper licensing, the company, on the mechanical side, began performing work of processed piping, natural gas, medical gas, nitrous oxide, and oxygen for hospitals and dentist offices in addition to chillers and boilers.
    The company’s main focus is commercial and industrial work.  Hospitals, fire stations, dental clinics, building, restaurants and schools are the bulk of their work.  “Occasionally we will do a house here or there.  If we do a house, it’s usually a pretty big custom house for a contractor’s friend or buddy,” says Phelps.
    “The first commercial job I did as JL Phelps Plumbing was a McDonald’s,” Phelps recalls.     
    When Phelps first started the company, he was a lone ranger doing all the work single handedly. Today, the company has nine trucks and 12 full-time employees.
     “About the time I started out in 1998, we were going through a recession, it was nothing like it is now but we were steadily growing. Today, Austin is growing so much, there is no way I can bid everything that comes through.”
    Phelps wife, Alma, is his right-hand overseeing the office operations, answering the phones and keeping everyone on schedule.
    An avid outdoorsman, Phelps enjoys bow hunting, duck hunting, and fishing.  Once or twice a year, Phelps treats the guys in the shop to an offshore fishing trip.  
     Phelps continues to work on the jobs just as he did in the beginning. He still gets in the ditches with guys.  He believes in showing his guys he’s one of them and that hard work and determination is the key to success.
    JL Phelps & Associates Plumbing and Mechanical LLC is a plumbing and subcontracting company.  –cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net