Sunbelt Sealing Inc. Operations Manager Jeff Marshall polled his supervisors about what makes the Jackson, MS, contractor different from the local competition, and the answer he liked best was the shortest: “We rock!” one supervisor told him.
“I asked what he meant by that and he said that’s something they’ve heard from our customers,” Marshall says. “We’re told that our guys pull up on the jobsite and get out of their trucks and they don’t stand there scratching their head. They get right at it and hit the ground running.”
That’s a great image for any contractor to have, but dig a little deeper with Marshall and owner Joe Lauderdale and they begin to discuss what it is that enables the crews of the pavement maintenance contractor to mobilize like a SWAT team as soon as they roll up on the job.
“You have to give customers good value and save them some money, otherwise they won’t have any use for your services,” Lauderdale says. “If you do a good job and help save them money then you’re valuable to them. They’ll not only call you back but they’ll tell other people about you – and referrals are a big part of our business.”
Started in 1982, Sunbelt Sealing Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, but the celebrating company is substantially different from the original start-up that focused on sealcoating and sealed cracks with a cold pour product only as they came across them on a job.
“We soon realized that approach wasn’t going to help us survive,” Lauderdale says, so he began slowly adding services that complement what he did and better met the needs of an ever-expanding customer base. “We added all these things over the years out of necessity. People would call and ask ‘can you do this?’ and we figured out a way to do it.”
Today the full-service pavement maintenance contractor offers sealcoating, pavement rejuvenation, and an array of services short of paving to airports, DOTs and private properties throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. The company employs up to 25 people during peak season and generally runs two or three crews depending on the type of work and the size of the project. Lauderdale says Sunbelt operates as a subcontractor on most DOT work and frequently as a general contractor on other jobs.
Lauderdale and his son John are both licensed civil engineers, Marshall has a degree in industrial technology, and many people in key positions have a college education. In addition, more than half of the company’s crew has been with Sunbelt since 2008 or longer.
“Our associates are real quick studies and they know how to communicate,” Lauderdale says. “They know how to communicate with the customer and out on the job. All of my associates are really good people.”
He says that in 1983 Sunbelt Sealing branched into sealcoating runways, taxiways and aprons at airports. “Then we did a little work on concrete runways and because some of the runways had spalling we got into epoxy repair to prevent FOD (foreign object debris),” he says. Soon the contractor added hot pour cracksealing, and Sunbelt still has its original Crafco melter/applicator in the yard “though it’s been cannibalized a little.”
“We were doing cracksealing with cold pour until late 1983 or 1984 when we bought our first hot pour cracksealing machine,” Lauderdale says. “We bought a pallet of material to start with and the salesperson gave us an additional pallet because he said we were going to make mistakes as we learned and would need more …and he was right.”
But hot pour cracksealing soon helped Sunbelt Sealing grow its sealcoating business, and late in 1985 the company started sealing joints in concrete, primarily on highways and airfields. An outgrowth of that is pressure grouting using Portland Cement Grout (PCG) to stabilize concrete slabs that have voids beneath them.