In parts of the Florida construction market, some contractors are struggling in what most agree is a definite industry slowdown. But Ace Asphalt, based in Fort Myers, Fla., is bucking the trend through a combination of carefully managed "soup to nuts" service and carefully chosen equipment.
One factor in that success is the company's asphalt plant. After completing the necessary permitting, Ace began construction of its new asphalt production facility in the summer of 2005. The plant went on line early in 2006, and from that beginning Ace has evolved to become not only a producer of HMA for other paving contractors but also an active asphalt placement and site work contractor in its own right.
"Developers started asking us to not only provide the mix but to handle the whole package," notes Adam Kaplan, Ace's CFO and General Counsel. "Today, we take on the entire project from soup to nuts."
Ace Asphalt's Gencor plant, with three silos, has the ability to produce multiple types of asphalt.
"We can change the mix with just the flip of a switch," Kaplan says.
Supporting the asphalt plant operation is a fleet of machines that includes an excavator, loaders, a crusher, and two 40-ton dumps.
Aggregate used in the asphalt production comes from local quarries.
Dean Myers is operator of the plant, which has a production capacity of 400 tons per hour.
"We anticipate the need to be up to that level of production given the infrastructure projects that we see," Kaplan said.
Currently, Ace Asphalt handles not only asphalt work but also sitework and related concrete construction for contractors and developers from Port Charlotte to Naples.
The company has also broadened its focus to include what Kaplan calls "a rising percentage of municipal work."
Why the shift? Kaplan notes that as market conditions have tightened in many areas, "A lot of niche contractors have fallen by the wayside." Besides, he says, developers don't want to have to deal with a large number of subs. He feels that it is an ideal time for a diversified contractor that can complete multifaceted jobs quickly and cost effectively, and that has become the basis for Ace Asphalt's approach to construction.
In addition to Kaplan, the Ace management team brings more than 95 years of combined experience in construction to the company.
The Ace personnel line-up also includes Jerry Ward, director of sales, who is charged with developing business for the company. Ward, who has lived in the area for three decades, understands the region. He also has a background in construction, which allows him to talk the talk with developers and other prospective clients.
To handle the projects that Ward helps to bring in, Ace Asphalt currently fields a total of six crews — two asphalt crews, one concrete crew and three site work crews.
The asphalt crews typically utilize Blaw-Knox paving machines, plus Ingersoll Rand and Dynapac rollers. The company also does its own milling, utilizing a Dynapac milling machine.
The company's concrete crew utilizes a GOMACO curbing machine but is also adept at handwork on project elements such as sidewalks.
Site work is handled using a fleet that includes Komatsu and Volvo excavators, Komatsu dozers and Volvo loaders.
"We also have a full crushing division," Kaplan says, adding that the company keeps two portable crushers busy. These include a Powerscreen unit, which is usually found working on job sites, plus a Hartl crusher that stays busy producing RAP and crushing concrete or limerock at the company's home location.
"Again, it's part of the full service approach," Kaplan says. "Contractors may have rock or other crushable material on their sites, but they don't have a way to make it small enough to use." Through its crushing and recycling operation, he adds, "Ace is able to provide its customers with material alternatives and value-added engineering ... all of which add value to successful and timely project completion."
When selecting equipment, Kaplan says, he looks at several factors.
Generally speaking, Kaplan says, "We believe bigger machines are often more efficient and make our job easier." The company handles a great deal of aggregate, he says. "That aggregate is constantly wet, which makes every load heavier.
"Bigger machines also mean a lot fewer cycles," he continues, adding that that translates into time and cost savings.
"You have to make some decisions on what type of machinery is best for what your own uses are going to be," he says.
Another important factor is quick availability of service, he continues.
"We let our dealers handle service on our equipment," he says, "and we want dealers that are going to be close by."
For Ace Asphalt, Kaplan says, these elements — equipment, technology, skilled workers, and an emphasis on customer service — work together to allow the company to provide the type of construction services that its customers require.
"Our goal is to be a full-service contractor covering all facets of site development," he says. "That's what we pride ourselves on." He adds, "The Ace Asphalt mantra that is fostered amongst its employees and customers says it all: 'Quality is not expensive ... it is priceless.'"