Leslie Weist, Vice President of Operations, Michael Byrne Mfg.
For Leslie Weist, there wasn’t any hesitation when it came to joining her family’s Mansfield, Ohio-trenchless manufacturing business five years ago.
Michael Bryne Mfg. founder and industry pioneer Mike Byrne passed away in late 2022 at age 99, leaving the continued legacy of his company — a manufacturer of new installation equipment for the auger boring, microtunneling and horizontal directional drilling markets — in the capable of hands of his son-in-law Jim Weist and granddaughter Leslie Weist.
“Michael Byrne Mfg. was founded by my grandfather, so it has always been in my blood,” says Leslie. “The opportunity to work in the construction equipment manufacturing industry with our family business was hard to pass up. I was very close with my grandfather and the thought of continuing to grow and evolve the business he started was very appealing.”
Leslie graduated from The Ohio State University in 2013, with a bachelor of science in industrial and integrated systems engineering. Afterward, she worked for John Deere in customer and product support of agricultural, construction and mining equipment, where her interactions with customers and a variety of construction fields, fueled her passion for the construction industry. But there was a natural pull to the trenchless industry and she joined Michael Byrne Mfg., in 2018, as its vice president of operations, supporting its engineering and manufacturing operations.
She loves the innovation and challenges that trenchless projects present on a daily basis, as well as the bright state of today’s trenchless industry — she simply loves what she does. “In the underground business, each job presents different challenges and characteristics. To tackle these challenges, contractors, manufacturers and engineers collaborate on new products and methods that drive our industry forward … the state of the industry is strong, in particular in the auger boring sector. There is a huge need to update and expand the infrastructure in the United States and around the globe. Auger boring plays a significant role in accomplishing that,” Leslie says.
Leslie draws her energy from the people of the trenchless industry, whether they are customers, co-workers or the seasoned trenchless veteran contractors. She believes each adds a layer to an already exciting industry — something can be learned from each, she says. “There is so much to be learned from industry veterans, their work ethic and can-do attitude is a big one,” Leslie says. “Working with our contractors, both seasoned and new to the industry, taught me to think outside the box when trying to tackle difficult problems and not to lose faith if the first plan doesn’t work out.”
Taking it one step further, Leslie says, as a member of this next generation of trenchless professionals, she feels a sense of responsibility to moving the industry, that was created on the backs on the many pioneers, forward. “We have a responsibility to keep pushing for improved, safer and more efficient solutions, just like the many trenchless professionals have done before us,” she notes.
Another way she following in the footsteps of her family is through her active involvement with groups, including NUCA of Ohio, NUCA National and NASTT — organizations that provide a platform for networking, educating and bettering the construction industry on individual and company levels. “My father, Jim Weist, has been very involved with NUCA for over 15 years and Michael Byrne is a National Partner. He passed on the importance of advocating and participating in the trenchless industry,” Leslie says.
What is the best part of being a part of the trenchless industry? For Leslie, the answer is twofold. “[It’s] the people,” she says. “It’s inspiring to work with people who are very passionate about they do. Most trenchless professionals are very open to helping people new to the industry and sharing their own experiences.”
Also, “I believe there are a great many years ahead for the trenchless industry, as we play a critical role in supporting and expanding infrastructure throughout the world,” she adds. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our industry and I am very grateful to be a part of it.”