STEM students tour Menifee’s Forterra concrete pipe company for Manufacturing Day

Forterra concrete pipe sales specialist Ryan Wright explains how the company produces reinforced concrete pipe for underground storm drain systems to students from the Santa Rosa Academy STEM engineering class on tour during Manufacturing Day in Menifee, Oct. 4. Tony Ault photo

Students from Santa Rosa Academy and Palomar High School in Menifee learned about the employment opportunities in large scale manufacturing during a tour of the Forterra concrete pipe plant in Menifee Friday, Oct. 4.

The students arriving in buses and cars were amazed at the heavy equipment and hundreds of finished reinforced concrete pipe used in storm drains and water filtration systems lining the grounds at the Forterra plant at 26380 Palomar Road in Menifee. The $13 million manufacturing company makes the large storm drain pipes and biotech filtration tanks used for flood control and stormwater filtering throughout California.

The students from the two schools’ science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes heard from a panel of experts from the concrete manufacturing firm, its engineers, sales team, employment specialists and Mt. San Jacinto College career coaches. The tour was to give them a firsthand view of what goes into manufacturing and the growing opportunities in the industry.

Menifee Mayor Bill Zimmerman, the city of Menifee and members of the Menifee Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event in honor of National Manufacturing Day, Oct. 4. The organizers hoped to encourage students to consider employment in the manufacturing field.

“This is about you guys,” Zimmerman told the students. “What one of the things we wanted to do is create jobs. There’s lots and lots of rooftop houses here in the city of Menifee, but now we’re putting our focus on trying to bring businesses here because a lot of you guys are getting ready to graduate pretty soon and you’re going to go to college and we don’t want you to have a degree in biotech, or telecommunications, architecture or education and end up having to go somewhere else to work. We want to have you guys stay employed right here and stay in Menifee.”

The tour of Forterra was meant to show the students what kind of work they could find in the growing city in the future, Zimmerman said.

A tour of the facility came earlier, with Ryan Wright, Forterra Co. sales manager, leading the two groups of students through the plant. During the tour they learned how the concrete pipes, some 8-feet high and 120 inches in diameter, are made with concrete and rebar that can take more than 150,000 pounds of pressure, some 40-feet underground without buckling.

The process includes using heavy equipment just to set up the concrete pours and make the steel reinforcing that has to go into each of the larger pipes, 8-feet long weighing 10-11 tons each. A huge lift crane moves and shapes the concrete stormwater filtering tanks made by the company’s Bio Clean Division.

After the tour, the students heard comments from a series of panelists from the concrete company and college employment specialists, including Steve Gale, Forterra plant manager; Grant Bechland from Beckland Engineering; Gean Na from the American Concrete Association; Hal Schillenger, Bio Clean engineer and sales; Carrie Tate-Meyer, Mt. San Jacinto College job developer, and Kari Costa, Forterra sales analyst. The panelists gave insight about how to best interview for employment in the industry.

The event concluded as students from both schools watched as a machine at the end of a pipe pressure test exerted 175,000 pounds of pressure on an 84-inch pipe with only a few cracks showing. Several students used a gauge to see how much the cracks widened and mended themselves as the pressure was relaxed.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at