Working Hard to Make the Dream Happen
Lakeway Ironworks built on steely determination
In five years, Lakeway Ironworks has grown from a fabrication shop into an ironworks company that offers design, engineering and installation services. With determination, ingenuity and business savvy, Jorge M. Iriaquez, CEO/Owner of Lakeway Ironworks, spearheads the structural steel fabrication company, based in Leander, Texas, a suburb of Austin. He also serves as CEO/Owner of JMI Steel, a structural steel installation firm and sister company to Lakeway Ironworks. “My dream of owning my own business and succeeding in my work have come to pass,” Iriaquez says.
New Life, New Job, New Location
“I was born and raised in Honduras. Growing up, we were pretty much one of the poorest families in the neighborhood. At 14 years old, I started working to support my siblings—five brothers and one sister,” Iriaquez says. When he turned 23, his mother, who had immigrated to the United States previously, invited him to join her in New York.
“A couple of my brothers also moved there and actually work with me now,” Iriaquez says. “When I arrived in the U.S., the necessity of speaking English became critical.
I started learning the language by reading books and watching TV,” he continues. And he learned well.
After staying with his mom for a year and a half, he decided New York didn’t suit him. When a friend called about a welding position in Tampa, Florida, he gladly took the opportunity, and a new career began. At the end of the assignment, the Houston company he had worked for wanted him to join it. “So, I moved there and started working between Houston, Dallas and Austin. I fell in love with Austin after working a couple of jobs in that city and asked if they had enough work there for me to relocate. The owners agreed, and my family and I have been very happy here,” Iriaquez says. He has five children, two girls and three boys. “So far, my oldest son went to school to become a welder and an industrial mechanic. He works for Contratistas Asociados, S.a. De C.v., a very good company in Honduras. Also, one daughter has expressed an interest in learning to weld. That’s about it for now,” he says.
For many years prior to establishing Lakeway Ironworks, Iriaquez traveled all over Texas and the East Coast working as a structural steel installer. He worked in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina and anywhere the Houston-based corporation needed him. He eventually advanced to running crews. Then, the founder sold it, and everything changed. “I decided, since I had years of experience in installation, I would open up my own shop,” Iriaquez says.
In 2014, Iriaquez established JMI Steel with 12 employees, which included welders and installers. Two years later, when another fabricator needed help to fulfill clients’ orders, Iriaquez and a partner founded Lakeway Ironworks. To start with, he rented a facility in Lakeway, Texas, and hired five employees. The equipment consisted of one welding machine and one vertical bandsaw. Soon, he was able to buy his partner out and became sole owner. Not long after that he bought his own property and relocated in Leander.
After working as an installer in Austin for 10 or 12 years, Iriaquez had experienced firsthand the problem of finding a local fabricator. Everyone shipped from Dallas or Houston. “As a local shop, we can provide a needed product quickly—sometimes overnight. When companies from Dallas or Houston often take a week just to get someone on-site to talk to the superintendent to get what they need, we can have someone there within an hour or two,” Iriaquez says. “We can deliver the fabricated elements to them quickly,” he continues.
Expanding to Meet Client Needs
One-and-a-half years ago, Lakeway Ironworks added in-house detailers to draw structural specs for whatever a project requires. Typically, fabricators rely on subcontractors for the detail work, which adds another step and more time. Eliminating that extra step results in getting the job done faster than the competition.
“With Lakeway Ironworks and JMI Steel together, we specialize in fabrication and installation of bridgework, and commercial and residential ironwork, which includes embeds, rails, gates, stairs, balconies, canopies, steel landscaping and fencing. We are open to any miscellaneous steel or structural steel project a customer may present us with,” Iriaquez says. “Although Lakeway Ironworks has been in existence for less than 10 years, we have every resource required to complete all aspects of a project’s steel requirements successfully,” Iriaquez says. “Clients can look to Lakeway Ironworks as the turnkey company that will complete their steel projects as well as their stainless, aluminum and glass railing needs,” he adds. Iriaquez handles the installation side and various parts of the fabrication portion of the dual-sided company.
Six managers work with both sides of the operation to keep coordinating efforts running smoothly. Lakeway Ironworks now employs 10 to 15 people who have 80 years combined experience. JMI Steel runs nine welding crews, consisting of D1.1 certified welders for structural steel and D1.3 certified welders for sheet metal, with numbers varying between 20 and 40 installers who travel throughout Texas and several Atlantic Coast states.
“As I prosper, I want to share with those who may never experience the opportunities that I have encountered. I want families in Honduras to see that reaching their dream of a better life is possible. I am proof of that.” Jorge M. Iriaquez, CEO/Owner, Lakeway Ironworks
Firsts in Structural Steel
“Amicus Construction was one of Lakeway Ironworks’ first customers,” Iriaquez says. It fabricated and installed the structural steel required for a multi-family complex situated in Austin’s Domain area. That was also Lakeway Ironworks’ first job in excess of one million dollars.The project involved structural ironwork including awnings, balconies, stairs, rails, glass rails, landscape steel and fencing.
Another of its first customers was StreetLights Residential. This was also its first high-rise—The Bowen high-rise, a 19-story building in Austin. Iriaquez has signed another contract with StreetLights Residential for structural steel work on The Colburn at Celebration Island in Celebration, Florida—a community about 30 minutes outside of Orlando. “When our existing local customers come to us and ask if we want to do an out-of-state job for them, we do it,” says Iriaquez.
Ninety percent of Lakeway Ironwork’s projects are local. For example, in 2019, the Watkins Insurance Group Building in Georgetown, a suburb of Austin, was the first large structural building that was a fully fabricated in-house. The 120-foot-long and 48-foot-wide building called for stainless steel cable rails for the main stairs.
Recent job sites have required traveling to North Carolina, Arkansas and Maryland. The latter project was a massive structural bridge at The Crescents at Largo Town Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The bridge dimensions were 80 feet long, 22 feet wide and 50 feet high. “All the beams had to be ordered from the mill, because steel suppliers don’t carry the rare splicing beam that was needed,” Iriaquez says. That was also the first bridge that Lakeway Ironworks fabricated in Austin and transported to Maryland for installation by JMI Steel at the end of 2020.
Achieving Success and Sharing with Others
Business has increased enough to call for an expansion. Iriaquez has recently started moving equipment into a new, 4,000-square-foot building that complements the initial 10,000-square-foot fabrication shop. Both buildings sit on the companies’ four acres. “After struggling for a couple of years, we began experiencing phenomenal growth. Last year, our profits were higher than ever before, and we anticipate doubling that number by the end of 2021,” Iriaquez says. “We’re definitely trying; we’re working hard to make our dream of success happen,” he adds.
As Iriaquez’ profits increase, so has his benevolent outreach to the local community and to his birthplace—Honduras. He sponsors local sporting events and makes donations to Austin soccer teams. Bagdad Elementary School, a dual-language school in the Leander Independent School District, received a check for sports as well. “My point of view is that we live in the greatest country—America. Part of its greatness comes from people giving generously to help others. I believe in helping the local community in Austin. We have needs here that we can contribute to, but none are as great as in third-world countries such as Central America. The necessities are lacking there in a bigger way than in the United States,” Iriaquez says.
Because he has firsthand knowledge of the lack in Honduras, Iriaquez founded Asociación Amigos de La Sabana (AASA), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization (NGO) that benefits Honduran communities and strives to help keep children in school. “Last year, I went to Honduras and visited the school where I grew up. I found about 80 kids in a classroom sitting on the floor. That’s crazy to me,” Iriaquez says.
He resolved to remedy the situation by donating 82 school desks for the students and fixing about 60 more that were in bad shape. A couple of the classrooms were basically falling apart inside and out. So, he repaired the building as well. “Parents would have had to buy desks for the kids themselves, and they can’t do it. They are barely eating,” Iriaquez says. “It’s tough. I remember not having enough to go around when I was a child.”
An AASA project close to Iriaquez’ heart is a program that encourages young Hondurans to play soccer. He supplied the goal nets, soccer balls and miscellaneous training equipment recruited professional soccer players Marlon Peña, Alex Herrera Castro and Yul Arzu to teach the kids. “Hopefully this will nurture teamwork and good sportsmanship—attitudes that will serve them well in all aspects of life. We want to show the kids how to enjoy sports in general and, ultimately, to keep them off the streets in the process,” Iriaquez says. Overall, he passionately wants to promote education and to improve the quality of life for the children of Honduras. “I would also like to create a foundation to offer vocational education to provide kids with the chance to learn welding skills and cabinetmaking. But we are just talking about the possibilities right now,” he says.
“As I prosper, I want to share with those who may never experience the opportunities that I have encountered,” Iriaquez says. “I want families in Honduras to see that reaching their dream of a better life is possible. I am proof of that. I am living my dream. As I look back, I am thankful that Mom brought me to the U.S., and welding brought me to Austin,” he adds.