Breana Tater never planned to join the family business; in fact, she didn’t understand what her father did until she joined the company about three years ago.

“People were like, ‘What does your dad do?’ I was like, “Rocks! Dirt! Concrete!’ and that was about the extent of what I knew,” Breana said. “I understand what we do now and it’s really interesting, there’s a lot more to it then I ever could’ve imagined.”

TSI Laboratories

Rene Cantu, of La Feria, works on determining plasticity in soils at T.S.I. Laboratories Inc. “It’s a lot of weighing and drying material,” Cantu said.

By joining the company, Tater, who studied human development and family studies in college, became the third generation of the Tater family to be professionals in geotechnical and construction materials testing. She and her brother Seth Tater, who also works at the family business, are building upon the strong foundation their grandfather built when he first entered the industry in 1958.

In 1983, Breana and Seth’s dad, Mike Tater, was a 20-year-old student at Victoria College when he started working at the company their father co-owned, Trinity Testing and Inspection.

While at Victoria College, Mike Tater met the woman who would become his wife, Donna Tater, who began working for her husband after he founded in 1994 T.S.I Laboratories Inc., which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

TSI Laboratories

Alonso Gonzales, of Victoria, tests materials at T.S.I. Laboratories Inc. to determine how much pressure the soil can withstand at its place of origin.

Until recently, three generations of the family worked at their business at 1810 S. Laurent St. Mike Tater’s father, B.J. Tater, 85, recently retired after having worked in the industry for more than 60 years.

Mike Tater said changes in the industry during the years have been primarily due to the increasing technological capability of testing machines. What sets their business apart, he said, are its state-of-the-art machines that are owned by few shops in the industry, even those in bigger cities such as Houston. These machines provide information about soil settlement, its strength and permeability. All their testing, Mike Tater said, allows the company to make recommendations for construction projects.

Rene Cantu, who has worked for T.S.I Laboratories for 14 years, compared the company’s taking measurements to the work of a nurse providing vital information.

“We’re like the nurses, the engineer is the doctor,” Cantu said.

At any given time, Mike Tater said the company is working on about 40 projects, ranging in scope across a variety of different industries. The company employs about 50 individuals across various technical and professional backgrounds who work throughout South and Central Texas.

The hub of the operation is in Victoria, where Mike Tater and his family work.

He said working with family has its pros and cons, but that he likes it because it strengthens their bond.

“Everybody knows what kind of day you had,” Mike Tater said. “I see them more, spend more time with them.”

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, or @mcohanlon.

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Morgan covers business for the Victoria Advocate. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas and received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

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