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Unprecedented Growth Hits Southern Utah

It used to be that retirees fueled the population and growth boom in and around St. George, Utah. Now, the demographics of people relocating to Washington County have changed quite a bit, and the flow of newcomers is unprecedented.

February 25, 2008

It used to be that retirees fueled the population and growth boom in and around St. George, Utah. Now, the demographics of people relocating to Washington County have changed quite a bit, and the flow of newcomers is unprecedented. From 1990 to 1995, Washington County grew 50 percent and St. George grew 61 percent. Young working families are now migrating to St. George, the county's largest city, which offers favorable weather, a stable work environment, competitive construction rates, and low crime.

Construction in St. George

The owners of A-T Asphalt Paving Inc. have enjoyed living in and around St. George for decades and have seen substantial business growth that coincides with the boom of their home city. Founded by Kent Cottam in 1984 and owned and operated since 1998 by the Cottam brothers, Marty, Cory and Daren, A-T is a major paving company that specializes in reconstruction projects in the St. George-Hurricane area. The company, whose notable paving projects include runways at St. George Airport, Snow Canyon Parkway and River Road (a major north-south corridor serving the east side of St. George), now employs 55 in the St. George-Cedar City area.

As growth in the city leapt forward, A-T looked to increase business and had its sights set on partnering with another local business, Quality Excavation, a major excavation company in the area that also owns the crushing operations/pit that supplies materials to local asphalt plants. Until 2002, A-T's competition was doing all paving work for Quality Excavation, and A-T wanted that business.

Quality Excavation began operations in St. George in 1995 and since then has done more than 10,000 building lots in the St. George area, as well as worked on the Costco complex, the Super Wal-Mart and the widening of SR-18. Owned by Randy Tomaiko, president; Ed Burgess Sr., vice president; and Lori Burgess, secretary-treasurer, QE employs 120, serves most of Washington County and operates the largest gravel pit in the county, where resources are limited. The pit covers 2,600 acres just below the new St. George Airport, with approximately 85 million tons of gravel left to mine.

An Alliance Forms

In 2002, one of only two asphalt plants in the area went up for sale. It also happened to be the plant that received 100 percent of A-T's business and most of Quality Excavation's material up to that time.

"Quality Excavation didn't want to be in the lay-down business, but we thought it would give us an edge if we owned a plant," explains Randy Tomaiko. So A-T and Quality Excavation bid together on the plant in order to keep their businesses successful. That bid was accepted and Southern Utah Asphalt (SUA) was formed. "Now they [A-T] lay down the asphalt and we get the preferred price," Tomaiko remarks.

The ownership is a 50/50 split between the two entities, with all involved serving as managing members of SUA. In the five years since SUA was formed, asphalt production at the plant increased from 100,000 tons annually to 250,000 tons a year, servicing the St. George-Hurricane area and as far south as Mesquite, Nev. The need for a new asphalt plant was realized in 2006, and word went out that SUA was looking to buy.

MAXAM SOLO Drum Plant

Bob Cox of COX & Associates has been selling and servicing asphalt plants and components throughout the United States since the 1960s and has been providing parts and components for the SUA plant for several years. Based on the company's current needs, COX & Associates steered SUA toward a new, MAXAM 500-tph SOLO® drum plant and MAXAM silo.

"Getting rid of a messy wet wash system and clean air in and around St. George was a concern when selecting this new plant," Cox explains. The MAXAM 500 tons-per-hour SOLO drum plant features a MAXAMizer® Heat Recovery system and uses low-cost polyester bags in the MAXAM pulse jet-type fabric filter air cleaning system. A new Elster Hauck Eco-Star II burner assures total air usage for efficient combustion. The future addition of a MAXAM RAPTOR® recycle entry system will allow SUA to recycle up to 50 percent of RAP with no blue smoke.

Energy savings are significant with the MAXAMizer heat recovery system, which automatically maintains an optimal baghouse operating temperature regardless of whether SUA is running high or low temperature mixes. AC is fed into the plant by a 30,000-gallon CEI HOH unit that SUA had previously purchased. A new MAXAM 250-ton silo was added to an existing two-silo Dillman system that SUA had used with the older plant. This gives SUA 650 tons of storage available at the opening of each business day.

MAXAM's TrooTrac™ self-aligning trunnion system is an operator's dream. It allows the trunnion to align itself to the face of the tire. Because the trunnion is never skewed or canted with respect to the drum tire, wear is minimized and always uniform across the full face of the trunnion. Even with a large 11-foot-diameter drum, no trunnion adjustment is necessary.

"COX & Associates sold us on this MAXAM plant because it's state of the art and more efficient, which saves us on cost," explains Daren Cottam, SUA managing member and secretary-treasurer of A-T Paving Inc.

Upgrade and Conversion

Randy Limb, plant manager for SUA, was part of a package deal when SUA won the bid on the original plant in 2002. Skilled operators are difficult to find, and Limb, with 20 years experience, couldn't be happier with SUA or the new MAXAM plant.

"MAXAM's design is saving my production costs because it's more efficient than my old plant. It operates quietly; you can't even tell that it's running. I can walk around this plant and carry on a conversation with the plant in full production," Limb comments.

Limb specified several components of the new plant. He made sure there was plenty of length with a 180-foot Cardinal truck scale under the original silos and specified the six-bin MAXAM cold feed system to have under clearance adequate for easy clean-out. Limb was also aware of occasional delivery problems with the lime additive, so MAXAM provided SUA with a 90-foot-tall lime silo to ensure that adequate supplies are always on hand.

On March 17, 2007, the original SUA plant was disassembled and relocated north to Cedar City, where A-T has established operations and where Quality Excavating was looking to expand. That plant now serves Cedar City and areas as far north as Fillmore.

SUA's new MAXAM plant was up and running on May 24. During installation, SUA was not producing asphalt, and contractors bought from the competition instead. According to Limb, they have all returned, and for good reason, he believes.

"We have a superior product. It's easier to work with. I found a long time ago that if you add another 10 degrees to it, it gives the crew more time to work with it. We don't cut costs at the expense of our product," Limb says confidently. Pairing Limb's experience with that of the MAXAM crew is a partnership that Limb is grateful for. "Two thumbs up for MAXAM equipment. I highly recommend them to anyone in the industry," Limb concludes.

Hot Future for St. George

In the St. George area, the Southern Utah Corridor highway and the new St. George Airport are both developing. The corridor is a $181-million state highway project that would connect I-15 to SR-9, adjacent to the St. George replacement airport, and would connect St. George to Hurricane with links to Washington City. The new airport has an anticipated opening date of January 2011.

"We've invested in the future of St. George, and SUA is ready for that growth," Cottam remarks. With total sales approximately $3 million in 2003 and reaching $10 million to $12 million in 2008 and beyond, it seems they might be on to something.

Visitors are welcome at the SUA plant in St. George. Please contact Bob Cox at (702) 202-0454 to schedule a tour.

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