How One Asphalt Contractor Fought for Their Business

Self-determination and stubborn hard work were the starting points for the Joliet Asphalt company, but it was their commitment to meeting their customer's needs that helped them grow.

Provided by Joliet Asphalt

Way back in 2006, two years before the devastating economic recession that hit in the fall of 2008, Gary Schumal, a superintendent & estimator for a construction company in the Chicagoland area, as well as a professional civil engineer; and Ron Plunk, who owned a landscape company, formed a partnership to be a utilities construction company. That venture would eventually become the Austin-Tyler Construction Co., and include Joliet Asphalt, as well. For one reason or another, the winds of change had come, and they felt that it was time to start a new venture and have more direct agency over their careers.

Rick Rahn, the current operations manager for Joliet Asphalt (He joined the company in September of 2011, and just celebrated his eleventh year at the company) said, "The issue for some kind of subcontractors in Illinois is that you end up not having very much leverage," and so they struck out on their own and formed the Austin-Tyler Construction Company.

However, in the early days as they worked to build up their reputation as a company, the group met some hurdles and resistance. They found it incredibly difficult to find a company that would furnish asphalt to them. Faced with being cutoff from their essential construction resource, they attempted to work with a few suppliers from further away, but the distance made it unfeasible. There was only one choice left for them to make.

"The only way you really can be a full fledged contractor is to own an asphalt plant. So that's what they decided to go ahead and do," Rahn said. "They purchased an asphalt plant in 2009, an Aztec 400 ton went up in in June of 2009. Which, if you recall, wasn't the greatest time to be putting up asphalt plants."

422 View S East 7 7 09[62]Provided by Joliet Asphalt

These early challenges were just the start, as the company faced more hurdles ahead as it tried to establish themselves in the area. Rahn continued to layout Joliet Asphalt's story, "There was all this workings that we had to get around, trying to get approved. We fought the EPA stuff, we fought the zoning, we fought to get the awards for these projects that we bid on. Essentially, we fought through all that stuff and you know, here we are. So and it's been a fight for us to become who we are." Important to note that Rahn said that Astec was highly instrumental in helping them get the proper permitting done.

With such difficult beginnings, one of the big questions for Joliet Asphalt and the entire Austin-Tyler Construction Company, was how they managed to over come them all and, not only survive, but thrive in their area? From Rick Rahn's perspective, a lot of their success comes from two things. The first is the company's understanding of how their client's think about a project and keep clear and open communication with them throughout a job's process. The second is their determination and can-do mindset.

Rahn went on in detail, "We have we have a whole group of people that have been in construction for so long and know all the aspects of the job. So, we can help along with tight schedules, and we also keep that line of communication open. It's important to be able to communicate with the engineers, so that they know exactly what's going on. We have a really well rounded group." But the group didn't stop there.

Looking towards the future, Joliet Asphalt wanted to bring more sustainable asphalt paving solutions to their area, but, for now, it seems that it could be another challenge to face. "We are providing pavement preservation technology from RePLay," Rahn said. "This is all based on soybean oil, and it's a sustainable product. It's just getting people on board. Down the road maybe it'll start catching up, but [for now] we are the sole distributor for all of Illinois."

Image0Provided by Joliet Asphalt

The Austin-Tyler Construction Co. and Joliet Asphalt was founded by the kinds of people that don't take "no" for an answer. When faced with all sorts of challenges, they are determined to overcome them, and push forward. That's a part of who they are and, surely it will continue to be a central facet of who they are in the years-to-come.