Making money in the off-season

Running an asphalt maintenance and paving business in the Midwest, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep cash flowing in during the long winter season. But Angela Wilburn, owner of Affordable Asphalt, Middleville, MI, has found a way to keep her employees working and her customers happy in the winter months.

Wilburn's certified woman-owned company has been in business for five years and offers paving, milling, and an array of asphalt maintenance services including sealcoating, patching, and pavement marking. "I don't think that there's another company in our area that has the same services and delivers like we do," Wilburn says.

Since starting Affordable Asphalt, Wilburn has also offered hot mix winter patching, which is something she says most of her customers don't know about. "We're in Michigan, so we have about a five month off-season. We're able to do a lot of work for municipalities and such for water main breaks and that kind of thing because we can produce hot mix. And that's a pretty big deal in our area," Wilburn says.

Before hot mix patching, Affordable Asphalt filled potholes in the winter with a cold mix, which would then need to be taken out and replaced again in the spring, Wilburn says.

"I know it's just a hole, you wouldn't think it would be exciting, but they [customers] don't have to revisit it in the spring," she says.

Hot mix winter patching is Affordable Asphalt's main source of business during the winter months, Wilburn says. And she has been trying to improve that service over the years. "Every year it seems like we're implementing a new system or a new process," she says. "We're always looking for ways to refine and do better."

Milling, another new service Affordable Asphalt offers, also helps the hot mix patching. "We stockpile our millings and basically rejuvenate and reheat them and use them again for our winter patching," she says.

Another improvement to the company's winter patching business was the recent purchase of a new Bagela reclaimer. The reclaimer can produce 15 tons of hot mix an hour, a much larger quantity than Affordable Asphalt's previous reclaimer, Wilburn says.

One of the benefits of the new reclaimer is that is recycles. "I think that's a big selling factor," Wilburn says. "It's almost a 'green machine' if you look at it that way." Wilburn is looking into the process of getting the reclaimer certified as a "green" machine.

To make the winter patches even better, the company has recently started combining infrared repair with the winter patching process. "With a reclaimer we recycle what we milled up," she says. "The infrared actually recycles mix in place, and it's a seamless patch."

Wilburn hasn't overlooked the benefits the new reclaimer offers her company either. "For me as a business owner, in Michigan, in a seasonal business, having that is phenomenal because I'm able to generate income in the winter," she says. "It's very exciting."