Southeast Georgia’s Infrastructure Champion

Seaboard Construction

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To keep its status as one of the most prominent players in Southeast Georgia’s construction market, Seaboard Construction has continually invested in itself to ensure client needs are being satisfied. And it has been a contractor of choice for some rather impressive projects.
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First established in 1946 by Brunswick local Harold James Friedman, Seaboard Construction is now a division of Plant Improvement Company, Inc. and has been owned and operated by the Shepherd family since 1980. Though it has changed throughout the years, one thing has remained the same. The Seaboard name still stands for safety, adaptability, dependability and excellence.

“We’ve always been willing to change with the times and technology. Seaboard originally started out by building sand bituminous roadways back in the 1940s. Graduating into surface treatment style roadways, going from that to purchasing an asphalt plant back in the 1960s, making hot mix asphalt and, of course, upgrading the facilities and techniques and procedures from that point on,” said Vice President Claude Johns.

“We’re basically a heavy civil site and heavy highway contractor, and we offer the total package to owners from clearing and grubbing, underground utilities, curb and gutter concrete work, base and asphalt, all the way through to striping. So, we can do the whole package without owners having to sub out so many different portions of their work,” explained President Jeff Kicklighter.

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) projects have been a large part of the work of Seaboard Construction. The company has been active in major highway projects that have shaped the state’s infrastructure and logistical capacity.

“One of the instruments that kept Seaboard growing and in business is, of course, GDOT work, and with us in the proximity of the coast, also with the development of the coast of Georgia, that has also kept us busy. Seaboard was very instrumental in the construction of I-95 back in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was also instrumental in the widening of I-95 in the late 1990s all the way through 2010,” said Kicklighter.

“We also have a marketable side of our company where we sell materials to smaller contractors for some of the smaller work in the area,” Johns added. “We’re actually a material provider with our own in-house laboratories and such to monitor our materials so they meet the specifications of our customers.”

Seaboard Construction has an extensive complement of equipment and vehicles which include over one hundred pavers, dozers, hoes, graders, compactors, dump trucks, lowboys, distributors and well as specialty pieces.

“We maintain our fleet of equipment in-house without having to source that out, so we have a good crew of mechanics and shop personnel to take care of all our equipment needs. As the equipment goes out in the field, in various locations, they’re mobile, and so we’re able to keep our equipment in top-notch shape even when it’s out in the field,” said Johns.

From its mechanics and asphalt paving, grading or utility crews to its foremen, supervisors and management team, Seaboard Construction’s ninety-four employees provide exceptional service to its customers.

There is an open-door policy and a culture in which employee input and concerns are addressed. “We have ninety-four employees and they all look out for each other like one big family, and our employees do an outstanding job, an excellent job, of looking out for each other and making sure everybody is safe,” Kicklighter said.

This sentiment was echoed by Johns. “Our employees are our greatest asset. We try to keep the young employees, the new hires that are just coming on board, the ones with five years or less. We try to keep them in our planning phase of all our operational needs and make them a part of that.”

“By keeping the young guys involved, we feel that’s the best way to keep the company moving forward,” continued Johns. This eliminates one of the most serious challenges facing the construction industry today: workforce challenges.

“If a person is looking for stability with good working conditions, Seaboard’s a good fit,” Johns said proudly. “You come here; you work hard; you get involved in things that are going on, and you care about Seaboard – Seaboard cares about you, so it’s a good fit.” Both Johns and Kicklighter have advanced at the company in this very way.

Quality and safety are crucial, especially given the risks associated with the industry. Without performing to exceptional standards of quality and safety, the company would not secure high profile projects like the I-95 work that has been completed for GDOT.

“We have GDOT approved Level 2 and 1 technicians. We monitor all materials that are unloaded here,” said Johns. “We turn around and monitor all materials as they go out of our facility, including asphalt extractions, stone gradations for concrete customers, so everything has gone through the scrutiny of our quality control program here.”

Safety is governed by a comprehensive safety program and is upheld by an in-house safety committee that reviews all claims and incidents and recommends changes to protocol when necessary.

“We’re pretty tough on safety. We have an in-house safety officer who manages our safety program. We also give out safety bonuses quarterly to supervisors, foremen and their crews for working without incident. And then, at the end of the year, we give out an annual safety bonus for working the year without any incidents,” said Kicklighter.

In 2016, four of six superintendents had a perfect record, while nine of the thirteen foremen achieved the same. The company’s stringent safety standards prevent both injuries and damage to equipment or property. There is no margin for error at Seaboard.

Seaboard Construction trains its employees via safety schools, seminars, equipment operation testing, traffic work zones safety, driving, trenching and information sessions related to other hazards one might face in the field. Employees’ certifications, licenses and company compliance are always maintained and up to date.

“The better your safety is, normally the better your insurance premiums are, and that helps. All of our employees know this, and they all talk about it. The better we can take care of ourselves, the better our premiums will get, and that makes us more competitive to get work,” said Kicklighter.

Seaboard Construction’s project quality and safety has been recognized by industry awards including NAPA’s Quality in Construction award for its work on the Brunswick Airport and its work on the I-95, among others.

It also received the National Asphalt Pavement Association Diamond Achievement Award in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 and is a frontrunner again this year. The award is given for being a good community member and a friend of the environment, following Environmental Protection Agency standards, keeping a clean facility, and performing at the highest standard.

There was a sense of pride in Johns’ voice as he listed how Seaboard won GDOT’s annual award for its asphalt quality in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2014 and 2015, as well as being recognized many times for its smoothness.

That is because Johns is also a certified Level 2 asphalt technician whose leadership was a part of establishing Seaboard’s asphalt plant and responsible for its ongoing success. The plant has been consistently ranked among the top ten plants in Georgia by the GDOT.

In addition to the numerous projects it has undertaken for the GDOT, there is a throng of other projects that demonstrate why this is one of Southeast Georgia’s greatest construction assets.

The company recently completed work on the Canal Crossing Shopping Center in Brunswick, Georgia and the widening of spur 25 which took that road from two lanes to a four-lane road divided by a median. Currently, it is extending a runway at the MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield in Hinesville,

More than a trusted name, Seaboard Construction is also an exemplary community member which gives back to the area that has supported it over the decades. From assisting with fundraisers to involvement with local schools and workforce development, the company has been a partner in Georgia’s development.

Seaboard Construction shows no signs of slowing, with several highly anticipated projects planned, such as a $42 million, three-year highway widening project in Camden County and three projects that are taking place at Georgia Port Authority’s Colonel Island facility, one with Mercedes and two for the Port Authority directly.

Kicklighter explained that with the passing of House Bill 170, more money is expected for the GDOT which stands to benefit Seaboard Construction. The company will be “keeping an eye on that money and new projects coming up in the Southeast…investing in new equipment and new technology to help us move into the future.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 15, 2019, 12:46 AM EST