When it comes to meeting the hot mix asphalt needs of smaller paving contractors while still delivering large loads to major projects during peak days, bigger is definitely better, according to Todd Laubis, director of operations for Commercial Asphalt Co. of Minneapolis. With 10 plants in the twin cities area, some of them among the largest plants in the world, Commercial Asphalt, a subsidiary of Tiller Corp., is about as big as they come.
“We have a Gencor Ultraplant rated at 700 tons per hour, with seven silos and 14 cold feeds, that has produced over 800 tons of mix per hour,” says Laubis. “On peak days we have produced over 9,000 tons during a 14-hour period. We also have four 600-ton plants, a 500-ton plant, all from Gencor Industries. Accordingly, when we get a big job with a contractor that needs 3,000 to 4,000 tons a day from one of our plants, we can still meet our smaller contractors’ daily needs of several thousand tons from the same plant. And having 10 plants spaced about 15 miles apart throughout the metro area gives us another competitive edge by enabling us to bid out of a nearby plant.”
Pioneers in Minnesota’s interstate highway system
Commercial Asphalt’s predecessor was Barton Contracting Co., a road construction company founded by Gene Barton in 1946 when Minnesota’s interstate highway system was first being developed. For more than 20 years, Barton worked in all phases of highway construction including grading, concrete and bituminous paving, curb and gutter manufacturing, and sewer and water installation. When highway construction activities began to subside in the late 1960s, Barton shifted its operations from construction to materials supplier.
Tiller Corp., a privately held 250-employee enterprise, was founded in 1981 to act as a holding company for its subsidiaries, including Commercial Asphalt. These divisions currently employ 250 personnel and occupy approximately 3,000 acres of land in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area for the purpose of aggregate mining, hot mix asphalt production, and asphalt cement storage and distribution. Hot mix asphalt is supplied by the company to residential, commercial and highway markets through the MN/DOT certified plant program. Commercial Asphalt Co. is one of the largest hot mix asphalt supply-only companies in the country.
As a materials-only supplier, Commercial Asphalt doesn’t lay hot mix, but still has to be the lowest cost producer.
“This requires that we be very competitive with other companies that have their own plants,” explains Laubis. “We have to be able to produce a variety of mixes, on demand, and for less, in order to be successful. Gencor’s versatile and high-capacity Ultraplant’s has enabled us to do that.”
In addition, with their numerous sand and gravel sites and the storage capacity to hold up to 30 million gallons of asphalt, Commercial Asphalt can buy materials during the off-season when rates are lower, a further competitive edge. Commercial Asphalt also has 10 crushing plants.
These competitive advantages add up to a three million ton annual output involving projects that range in size from golf cart paths to a five-year, 27-bridge interchange project over the Mississippi River. Although 80,000-ton freeway projects are typically considered large jobs, Commercial Asphalt’s large capacity Gencor Ultraplant’s handle these assignments with ease. “Our market niche is really quite large,” says Laubis.“We supply up to 250 paving contractors over the entire metro area in addition to the big highway projects.”
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