Paving the Way
Ajax Paving has been providing professional asphalt and concrete services for over sixty years. “The history goes back to 1951 in Michigan. That was when the company was founded by a man named Herb Jacob,” said Mike Horan, current president of Ajax Paving.
Ajax Paving initially set up shop in Madison Heights, a suburb of Detroit. The name of the company was chosen by Herb, in a bout of pre-internet marketing, so that it would be first in the phone book. Due to the abundance of new neighborhoods and shopping malls being constructed, the company was able to find early success. Herb had a sound and simple philosophy: use the best equipment with the best possible crew. Quality was the name of the game, and this attention to excellence propelled Ajax Paving to the top of its industry.
In just ten years, its consistent and rapid growth led to the construction of the company’s first asphalt manufacturing plant in Detroit. By 1963, Ajax Paving had acquired a local concrete company by the name of J.C. Sachs. The acquisition of J.C. Sachs came with vital equipment and a team of hardworking professionals. With its newly expanded presence, Ajax Paving was in a better position to take on large public works projects and directly compete with even bigger companies.
Throughout the seventies, Ajax continued on the path it set out upon in the decade prior. As larger projects and acquisitions of smaller companies rapidly increased the size of the company, it decided to branch out beyond the state of Michigan. In 1981, Ajax paving set up a new asphalt plant in Port Charlotte, Florida, an up-and-coming community at that time. While the company had seen steady growth since its inception, running a larger company and keeping on top of new technology was not without challenge.
“The early years of the 1980s were not especially fruitful as far as profits and gaining backlog. In those days, if we had a month of work on the books, we were very happy. Florida was not as robust then as it is today. It took time and plenty of effort to create relationships that would endure,” said Mike.
Mike Horan has been with the company since 1976 and had been sent to head up the new division of Ajax Paving in Florida. The values with which Herb started the company kept things on the right track, and while it was initially slow going, the company was able to dig into its new surroundings. Investing in advanced asphalt drum mix plants allowed the tackling of larger projects on the Florida highways and airports. By the nineties, Ajax Paving had navigated through an ambitious expansion into continued success and started a recruitment initiative through universities to help line up fresh talent. The recruitment collaboration is still going to this day.
Amongst the many reasons for Ajax Paving’s success in Florida, one stands out above the rest. The company’s relationship with the Florida Transportation Bureau Association (FTBA), under the guidance of Bob Burleson, helped elevate Ajax Paving in the eyes of the industry.
“FTBA has been and is a great avenue to create business relationships with subcontractors, material suppliers, and equipment manufacturers. FTBA was fortunate to have Bob Burleson as our president who really took the organization to a new level for thirty years. Between the relationships built with FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) leadership and the lobbying done with our state legislators, we have gained the well-deserved recognition that contractors have worked so hard to acquire,” said Mike.
Bob Burleson is set for retirement in the coming months and is to be replaced by past FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. He brings plenty of experience and a strong work ethic and will surely continue the level of quality set by his predecessor. Ajax Paving is excited to see him come aboard.
Over the years, Ajax Paving has undertaken many jobs both big and small. The company’s specialty is as an asphalt manufacturer and installer of asphalt pavement, and it also performs curb and gutter, sidewalk and underground work. One of the team’s more recent jobs was the design-build project for the I-75 roadway expansion, known as IROX. This massive project cost nearly $500 million and saw Ajax Paving working alongside the Anderson Columbia Company. The project stretched over thirty-two miles of highway and consisted of expanding the road from four lanes to six, with a new lane for both the north and south directions through Lee and Collier counties.
The materials used for the project reflect its scope, with 1.5 million yards of dirt, two million tons of base rock, 600,000 tons of asphalt, and replacing or increasing the width of some twenty-eight bridges. Ajax Paving was able to complete the project earlier than expected and improve the I-75 for thousands of commuters.
Ajax Paving also recently completed the I-275 Tampa project in another joint venture, this time with Skanska SE. While only clocking in at 4.4 miles of highway, it was a dense project consisting of a six-lane interstate that was increased to eight through lanes, twenty-one bridges, and five interchanges. More than 100,000 tons of asphalt and 145,000 square yards of fourteen-inch concrete paving still was not enough to slow down the efficiency of Ajax Paving. This project was also completed ahead of schedule and became part of the Ajax legacy of exceptional work and standards.
While more work on the interstates is underway, Ajax Paving is also proud to be sinking its teeth into several airport projects. From Tampa International and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airports to the MacDill Air Force Base, Ajax Paving is certain to be keeping busy into the foreseeable future.
“We are not just building highways and bridges, but more importantly, we are building relationships with each other in the company and outside the company. Simply put, we want to be the best, period. So we work hard on cultivating that type of culture in everything we do,” said Mike.
From the early days working out of a Motor City suburb to university recruitment and the outstanding work on the Florida Interstates, Ajax Paving has been putting people first. This is reflected in the quality of work done by Ajax Paving but also in the way that people who have worked with or crossed paths with hold the company in high regard. Now that Ajax Paving is in the hands of its founder’s son James Jacob and the next generation of leadership is being nurtured within the company, Ajax Paving will continue to be a phenomenal success.
“The future will see a change in leadership from myself and others who helped me build the business to those aggressive young men and women we have been blessed to find and keep. I believe our goals are the same as when the company was founded in 1951 by Herb Jacob. Stay focused on what we do best. Continue to practice our core beliefs and values. Work safe. And good things will happen for our people and our company.”