Concrete Products

AUG 2014

Concrete Products covers the issues that attract producers of ready mixed and manufactured concrete focusing on equipment and material technology, market development and management topics.

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Page 29 of 55

24 • August 2014 Rappahannock Concrete Corp. shows how an independent ready mixed operator can look beyond semi-rural roots to stake claim in larger markets with integrated producers. Smart management of financial and human capital has seen the Gloucester, Va., producer triple its two-plant scope since 2000. Acquir- ing two peer producers, then developing two greenfield sites, Rappahannock Concrete operates at its best with an eight-mixer, 100- 150 yd./hour output transit mixed plant. The business model is recession-tested, at least for Virginia's Middle Peninsula market, where Newport News and Hampton approach Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the Tidewater market. Rappahannock opened a Newport News plant in 2008 and another in neigh- boring Hampton earlier this year. Expansion at the dawn of the Great Recession proved unexpectedly timely for an operator whose production and delivery employees aver- age 12-15 years' tenure. A group from the Gloucester headquarters brought the Rappa- hannock brand to Newport News, which like the rest of the Middle Peninsula market has seen stability or strength in commercial and military project work offset volume lost in a home building freefall. "The company was founded on service and quality," says Rappahannock President and CEO Scott Finney. "Those goals resonate with customers and we have maintained them moving into Newport News and Hamp- ton. We came into these markets aiming for the best service and quality, not trying to get all the business. "We could handle downturn better than many producers because we are lean and set high expectations for everyone. Attitude is key. If employees exhibit a positive one, you can develop their skills for a business like ours. I've quit trying to change people who bring negative attitude—few things damage a company worse." QUITE QUIET Employee attitude is among the positives at Rappahannock Concrete's sixth plant, Hamp- ton, opened in March. Anyone wise to ready mixed production will see operational smarts at every turn: fast truck-loading provisions; component placement for easy access to maintenance-prone points throughout the batch plant structure; elevated dust col- lection in tight proximity to cement weigh batcher; and, shrouds or mini shelters pro- tecting electrical or valve cabinets and mechanical lines. Attention to detail is not limited to out- door iron, as the simple but solid offce/ driver break room building shows. With a 14-in. thick wall, it is built of insulating con- crete forms with clay brick veneer from a sis- ter business, Rappahannock Masonry, serving markets north of the Middle Peninsula. The ICF and brick assembly assures a quiet driver break room and batch operator and dispatch offce, the latter less than 20 feet from the truck charging alley. In a small offce separating the break room and batch/dispatch console, staff or visitors can conduct business in sur- prising solitude—even with a cement tanker unloading 30 feet away. As a nod to Hamp- ton plant employees and neighbors, Rappa- hannock included in the cement transfer scheme an insulated shipping container to house a turbo-style, blade-free blower, plus muffer and 50-hp motor. Raw material handling and truck charging noise abatement suit staff and neighbors, along with plant visitors and in- habitants. The latter would include frogs, ducks and snakes that frequent a shallow pond collecting site stormwater and backing up the fnal portion of a three-part settling pond structure near the main property en- trance. The pond occupies about 1/10 of the 3.5-acre Hampton site, owing to Virgin- ia stormwater collection requirements. It is equipped and permitted to overfow in the storm sewer at a level about 2 feet below the main plant pavement. Sensing gradual housing market recovery in the peninsula, while maintaining commer- cial project activity at Newport News, Rappa- hannock Concrete acquired the property in 2012. Located a half mile from the Hampton Roads Beltway/Interstate 664, the Copeland Industrial Park site was already permitted for concrete or asphalt production. The Hampton and Newport News plants have shared dispatch. Smaller sites to the north handle their own dispatch—a service point not lost on customers in a smaller town. The Middle Peninsula market arrival was on the heels of York Supply (New Kent, Va., 2000) and Quality Concrete (White Stone, Va., 2005) acquisitions, extending the producer's presence from long-held Glouces- ter and Saluda, Va., operations. Through much of its frst four decades, Rappahannock functioned as a two-plant, mom and pop company supplying residen- tial, commercial and agricultural markets— the owners were content and proftable with facilities and equipment equal to 100 yd./ hour or less. Family ownership and man- agement have remained through 15 years of company growth. Chairman and founder John L. "Zeke" Finney keeps a limited of- fce schedule after years of seeing son and daughter, Scott and Cora Randolph, well suited to their roles, respectively, as pres- ident/CEO and secretary/treasurer. Their brother, Sam Finney, runs Tidewater Mason- ry, a gray block producer in Suffolk, Va., and Rappahannock Masonry's key supplier. Continued on page 26 COVER STORY READY MIXED Operational Smarts Recession, slow recovery no barrier to Virginia independent's growth beyond small market base By Don Marsh President and CEO Scott Finney has run Rappa- hannock Concrete for 25-plus years, growing it from two to six plants, with a feet of 40 mix- ers, dumps and tankers, and a payroll of 65.

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