Clark Pavement Marking Inc. doesn't stripe parking lots anymore. But like many road and highway striping contractors, that's how Andy Clark, president of the North Carolina striping company, got his start in 1979.
"I enjoyed painting parking lots but I wanted to do more and wanted to do something different and I wanted to learn more and more," he says. So in 1982 he bought his first long-line striping machine from a municipality, and then learned road striping mainly through trial and error.
"I hired some people who had striped roads and I learned as I went," Clark says. "I asked a lot of questions, made a lot of mistakes, so we've earned where we are today. I'm extremely proud of what we've got here. This is my life."
Considered by many one of the most progressive and leading road marking contractors in the area, Clark is a leading contractor serving general contractors throughout North Carolina. But where the company is today is not exactly what Andy Clark envisioned when he took to the roads in 1982.
That's because in 1984, while Clark was striping in a lane closure, a tractor trailer truck burst through the traffic control and pinned him against a piece of equipment. He lost his right leg, uses crutches to get around outside the office, and uses a wheelchair to move around in the company's Apex, NC, headquarters. Clark tries to spend at least two days a week in the field, and he says he "gets about real well."
"I was safety conscious before the accident. I've always been safety conscious," Clark says. "But I did not have the knowledge level then that I have now. I just want all our people to go home every day."
Meeting the market's needs
Clark says the company employs an average of 50 people at a time throughout the year, enabling the contractor to run more than 10 crews ranging in size from three to seven people. The actual size of the crew is determined by the size and requirements of the project.
"In our market we've got various needs and we've determined that the best way to meet those needs is to have crews of various sizes we can send out as needed," Clark says.
He says that oftentimes a paving contractor or the state highway department will require a certain amount of manpower on a job, so that will influence crew size as well. There are also various traffic control requirements that might require change in crew size.
"We'll send what's needed to take care of the job," says Chris Fresa, vice president, who handles scheduling, most estimating, and customer service. "If it's going to take five guys we're not going to send two. We're also not going to send eight but we'll send what we need to manage and get the job done in the time frame given."
Clark Pavement Marking owns numerous pieces of equipment that provide the company the flexibility to adjust to a huge variety and size of pavement marking-related work. Fresa says Clark installs paint, thermoplastic, preformed tape, and markers. Almost 100% of Clark Pavement Marking's work is state and municipal work for DOTs through general contractors and paving contractors throughout North Carolina.
"We'll handle striping for road additions, expansions, widening, that sort of work, but if parking is involved we subcontract that out to a local parking lot striping contractor," Fresa says.
Fresa says general contractors always are looking for the low bidder.
"It's dog-eat-dog out there. That's just how it is. The one who's the cheapest is going to get the work," Fresa says. "So if we're bidding a job, we're bidding to get it. We're quoting it to be the lowest we can be and still be both competitive and profitable."
But that doesn't mean Clark's bids are always the lowest—or that it always loses work to lower-priced contractors.
"To set ourselves apart we try to provide more of a service than contractor XYZ might provide," Fresa says. "We provide a product the contractors need, and that product is quality striping and traffic control in a timely manner. Whatever they need, whenever they need it, we try to provide that to the best of our ability through our trained people on our crew, and we hope that has an impact on the general contractor when he's selecting his subcontractor.