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Austin Materials

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Austin Materials is a vertically integrated construction and paving business that is committed to being the preferred aggregate, asphalt and paving company in central Texas. With unsurpassed expertise in building and maintaining highways, roads, commercial and residential properties, it is well on its way.
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Austin Materials operates two quarries, four asphalt plants and runs approximately six construction crews, a trucking fleet and an equipment fleet between Austin and San Antonio. A third of the business is construction; the rest is trucking, quarries, asphalt plants, materials, and equipment.

The company was founded in 1993 as a small mom and pop construction operation buying hot mix from third-party suppliers. In 2000, it bought its first hot mix plant in Buda, Texas, started supplying its own material and added a second plant in Florence, Texas. In 2010 it was acquired by Summit Materials. Two of Summit’s other recent Texas area acquisitions, Ramming Paving and Industrial Asphalt, were merged into Austin Materials and now operate under the Austin Materials name.

The parent company, Summit Materials, was formed in 2008 by Tom Hill and a number of investors, the largest of which was a multinational investment firm from New York called Blackstone. Hill’s vision was to acquire businesses in the building materials’ market and bolt them together to help them grow, and that is what Summit did with Austin Materials.

In 2016, there was a change of management. Today, it is reinventing itself as a nimble, quick-reacting company with a young, aggressive management team that is looking to grow it into a leader in the central Texas asphalt industry.

Austin Materials has been rebuilding in the last three years,. It has added another asphalt plant in the San Antonio market that exceeded expected potential in its first year, updated an older asphalt plant, invested a significant amount of capital into its quarry operations and worked on increasing its mobile and equipment fleets by adding pavers, milling machines, and shuttle buggies.

Now it sees the results. This year, it expects that it will earn an additional twenty percent in revenue over last year, and it is growing steadily. The management team was working in the San Antonio market buying mix from a third-party supplier and saw an opportunity to increase productivity by vertically integrating and building a plant to supply Austin Materials with its own asphalt. Now, not only does it control its supply chain in San Antonio but it supplies third parties with mix, creating a new income stream.

Last year was its best year for safety performance. It saw improvement in safety targets, including recordable incident rate, preventable incident rate and citations per inspection, by fifty percent in all three categories. In the wake of a management turnover and new employees, these safety benchmarks are real accomplishments.

There are challenges facing companies in the construction and paving industry in Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has some of the strictest regulations in the nation for asphalt paving and materials companies. Bringing in new faces and having to train them to adhere to the TxDOT specifications is a difficult undertaking. The perception of a company in the eyes of municipalities, counties, and TxDOT can be gravely affected by failures, and so meeting specifications is critically important.

Austin Materials mines limestone in the two quarries it operates to be used as a construction aggregate in its asphalt mix. Limestone is one of the softest aggregates, which makes it easier and more cost-effective to mine, but it also needs to be closely monitored to make sure that the final product is high enough quality for both customers and for the safety of the traveling public. There are also environmental regulations that must be considered when mining aggregate, mixing and laying asphalt, and Austin Materials has a great track record in that area.

To deal with quality specifications, it has invested a large amount of capital into quality control. It has one of the largest, if not the largest, quality control programs in the area with eighteen certified quality control technicians, many of whom have more than fifteen years of experience. This quality control program is larger than many testing labs in the area. The company even staffs third-parties that buy material from it with quality control technicians to ensure the quality of the product and the quality of the projects that use the product.

Austin Materials management team is committed to keeping its many highly qualified technicians on board. “It’s a huge accomplishment keeping those guys here. They’ve been here a long time,” says Jimmy Whited Jr., HMA & QC Manager. “We take care of them; they certainly take care of us.”

It also works with TxDOT’s quality monitoring program. This means that it has a materials quality control expert from TxDOT monitoring its projects in the field. Normally TxDOT will perform random inspections on materials to make sure they meet specification requirements, but with the quality monitoring program, Austin Materials projects can be prequalified.

Austin Materials has won awards from the National Asphalt Paving Association (NAPA), a trade association that represents the asphalt paving industry with Congress, government agencies and other national trade and business organizations. It also supports research in the areas of asphalt-related environmental issues and improving the quality of asphalt and paving techniques. As a part of improving the paving trade, NAPA has an awards program that Austin Materials has participated in and won several times.

Austin’s Florence location won a Larry Lemon Quality of Construction award. The ten highest scoring projects submitted for the award are recognized with a Larry Lemon award for the commitment to building high-quality roads. The award is named after Larry H. Lemon of Haskell Lemon Construction in Oklahoma City, who served faithfully on the awards committee for eighteen years. He was instrumental in the data- and test-result-based rating system used for determining the quality of projects. Austin Materials won this award for work it did on a Fort Hood parking lot. The lot was tested by cutting cores of asphalt from random locations across the project and examining them for various quality failures. Sixty-nine cores were cut, and zero failures were found.

Its Buda location won a Ray Brown Airport Pavement Award for work it did on the Austin Executive Airport Runway. The runway had been redone twice in a five-year period due to pavement failures and grade issues. Austin fixed the problem with such expertise that it was given the award named after Ray Brown who was the director of the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) from 1991 to 2007. Under his leadership, NCAT became the preeminent organization for asphalt pavement research.

Austin Materials has a very aggressive management team with a lot of passion for what it does. “A lot of the larger companies are robotic in the way they negotiate and in the way they deal with people,” says Joey Biasatti, the San Antonio regional manager. “We bring a personal touch back to the business.”

Much of the competition is taking what it can get price-wise and suffers from frequent quality issues over which it has no control. Being vertically integrated, allows Austin to have fine control over its supply chain, ensuring the highest quality material makes its way into its projects. It has an asphalt terminal in Houston where it takes in barges of asphalt from the Gulf of Mexico. This facility allows it to monitor the influx of raw material very closely, and it has control over it from the very beginning.

Austin Materials has operations across Texas in aggregate, concrete, asphalt paving and construction giving it resources and access to skilled professionals with years of experience. Having such a wide breadth of knowledge at its disposal gives it a problem-solving advantage. “Everyone’s seen the challenges, and we’re able to work through them very quickly,” says Lane Bybee, president of Austin Materials. “Our scale in Texas is our strength.”

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 18, 2019, 9:09 PM EST

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