Here’s More on AFCO Steel’s Work on the Pixar Headquarters

AFCO Steel
AFCO Steel

Last week, I wrote about an Arkansas connection to Steve Jobs, whose biography notes that, around 2000, Jobs chose steel from an Arkansas mill to build Pixar’s Emeryville, Calif., headquarters.

The steel manufacturer isn’t named in the biography, but it didn’t take long from some Twitter friends to track down the info: the company that provided the steel was AFCO Steel in Little Rock.

It wasn’t long after the post went up that an executive with AFCO, Jim Ginn, left this comment to the original post:

AFCO Steel (now W&W / AFCO Steel) is one of the largest steel fabricators in the country. This was definitely one of the more unique projects we have provided structural steel for.

A quick email to Ginn, who’s vice president of sales for the company, yielded more on how AFCO came to the project and exactly what it was that the client was looking for. According to Ginn:

Our contract was with DPR, a large construction company based in California that did several large projects in the Silicon Valley. I am not sure about AFCO getting the award because they liked the way our steel looked. Price and our performance on previous projects was probably also considered.

Here’s more on DPR Construction, which has info about the Pixar project here, including a photo slideshow. DPR has worked on an array of projects, including Apple’s flagship retail store in San Francisco and a Facebook data center in Prineville, Ore., that was due to come online earlier this year.

Flik, A Bug's Life
A Flik, stamped on every rivet?

Ginn remembers talking to a project manager about the Pixar job, and said there were many unique aspects to the work:

One being the owners’ desire to have what looked like an old steel structure that had been refurbished. We blast cleaned the steel and after it was erected. A field painter cleaned it again and applied a “clear coat” of paint to it. All of the bolts that were visible had round heads in lieu of hex heads to give the illusion riveted connections. Rivets have not been used since the 1950’s.

At one point in time Pixar asked that the round head of the bolt have the Pixar “ant” stamped into the head. They abandoned this idea due to cost.

That ant would probably be Flik, the hero of Pixar’s second full-length animated feature, “A Bug’s Life,” released in 1998.

And Ginn heard other stories about construction, including this one:

… one day a guy in tennis shoes with no hard hat or safety vest was seen wandering around the site. This was a serious safety violation. But since it was Steve Jobs no action was taken.

Ah yes. As usual, Jobs pretty much gets to do what he wants, even on a major commercial construction site.

Finally, Ginn wanted to add one other note as part of our exchange:

This Saturday I will be attending services for one if my best friends Clint Nobles who, like Steve Jobs, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. There are no books written about Clint. But he fought this disease just as hard as Steve Jobs did. May they both rest in peace.

Thanks to Jim Ginn of AFCO for filling in the blanks for us on the Pixar story, and our condolences for the loss of your friend.