From a modest beginning patching potholes in 1981, Albuquerque Asphalt Inc. has been on a path of continuous improvement and growth ever since. Bob Wood, president and partner, joined AAI founder Bruce Loughridge in 1985 to grow the business.
“We were primarily a subcontractor to general contractors in the area and we sourced materials from local suppliers,” Wood recalls.
Over the years, AAI has developed extensive experience working with asphalt, concrete, earthmoving, soil stabilization, pavement reclamation, underground utilities and other various types of civil construction, with the intent of positioning the company as a primary general contractor qualified to work on public projects let by local, county and state agencies.
Albuquerque Asphalt builds projects for the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico Department of Transportation, Bernalillo County, Valencia County, Sandoval County, Town of Edgewood, Town of Estancia, City of Socorro and the City of Santa Fe just to name a few. As Wood explains, “Generally, we’ll pursue work however far we can haul mix from our Albuquerque plant.” There is currently one exception to that rule of thumb and that’s a customer in the I-40 corridor west of Albuquerque to the New Mexico state line. For that customer, NMDOT District 6, AAI will purchase mix from a regional producer close to the project.
A Major Player
Albuquerque Asphalt consistently places the largest amount of Hot Mix Asphalt in the region. The company has relied on two primary suppliers to deliver a consistent quality and quantity of materials for the projects it builds.
“We were purchasing between 125,000-175,000 tons of asphalt mix per year from the two suppliers we used,” Wood notes. “With that volume, along with our commitment to continue growing, we decided it made sense to own and operate a plant.”
That realization came six years ago, and it involved not only in selecting the right plant, but also in finding the right location. The right location had to be far enough away from residential developments and a designated bird sanctuary. Eventually, AAI secured property at 5012 Broadway in an industrial park just south of the Albuquerque city limits.
“We thought we were ready to buy a plant, we wanted to buy a plant,” Wood recalls. “The two materials-supplier market went away with merger/asset swaps, which removed the competitiveness we enjoyed. We also enjoyed a growth spurt, and started expanding our general contracting business.”
As Wood explains, city, county and state DOT agencies mandate that a certain percentage of a project contract must be handled by a general contractor who has the capability of delivering most of the work required, including grading, asphalt, concrete, etc.
“We were always focused on expanding our services to meet those agency requirements for a primary general contractor,” Wood says. “In 2008 we bought a pugmill plant and started our own milling operation. We were crushing material, producing foamed asphalt treated base material, basically whatever we needed to do to secure those general contract bids.”
Finding the Right Plant
In order to make this decision work everybody had to be on board. First and foremost all of the owners were in support of the idea. Next the Vice President of Field operations had to be comfortable taking this on and he was really the tipping point in the decision. Then we had to have the office management and engineers involved with the process and providing critical input. So, after all had bought in to the new venture, in 2017, Wood took a contingent of key AAI people to CONEXPO in Las Vegas to evaluate all the major asphalt plant brands.
“I took my plant operator, plant manager, Vice President of Field Operations, Vice President of Materials, other PE’s and My business partner – all good people who know plants – to look at the plant technology on display at the show,” Wood says. “We were looking to buy a plant that would be located on the property we purchased, and we were also waiting to obtain air quality permits for that location.”
Since AAI didn’t receive final approval for the location it wanted to erect the plant, the contractor opted for a portable plant that could eventually be moved to the permanent location.
“We were doing business with a new quarry 22 miles southwest of the city and because we were one of their first customers, they allowed us to set up our new plant in their quarry,” Wood explains. “We ended up taking delivery in October of 2017, setting up the plant at the quarry, and eventually relocated the plant to Broadway Avenue industrial park location in January 2019 once all permit issues were cleared. It took the County nine months to finally approve our plant at the location we wanted to set it up.”
While the portable plant purchase decision was necessary due to the temporary location, and will be operated at the permanent location, Wood does see the opportunity to move the plant to accommodate projects along the I-40 corridor.
Albuquerque Asphalt’s new plant is an Astec Portable 400 TPH 8-foot by 38-foot Double Barrel Drum Mixer equipped with a Green System Generation 3.0. Other components include a portable 10-foot by 14-foot five-bin cold-feed system, a portable 10-foot by 14-foot dual-bin recycle-feed system, a portable 69,685 CFM Express Baghouse with Inertial Dust Separator, two 200-ton 14-foot diameter New Generation Storage Silos, a Blue Smoke Package for the top of the silos, an 11-foot by 80-foot Low Profile Truck Scale with Weigh Mate 2000 Truck Loadout and Management System, an Observer Control Center and Power Center, a CEI 35,000-gallon portable asphalt tank with HC-120 heater, a CEI 30,000-gallon portable asphalt tank and a CEI 1,000 GPH heavy-duty preheater.
Albuquerque Asphalt’s new production facility not only allows the contractor to better manage the cost of materials, but also expands its capabilities of producing a variety of mix designs.
“The (state’s) DOT is comprised of six districts that all have different allowances for RAP (recycled asphalt pavement) content,” Wood states. “Some don’t allow RAP, others allow up to 15 percent in surface mixes, some allow up to 25 percent in base and intermediate course mixes.
“But it’s definitely increased our overall production capabilities to keep our two paving crews supplied,” Wood says. “In 2018, we produced approximately 230,000 tons for our own projects. Included in that tonnage is 30,000 to 40,000 tons for (DOT’s) District 3 projects. We do sell some mix to a small parking lot paving contractor and occasionally to other independent paving contractors, but most of what we produce is for our projects, our crews.”
Another advantage of the new plant location is that it’s equipped with three buildings that house an office, shop and a full-blown testing lab.
“With the lab facility and the fact that this location is permitted for up to six asphalt storage silos, we’re really in a good position to pursue more work and grow the business,” Wood states.
With a climate that allows for year-round road construction and nighttime paving during the summer, Wood anticipates he’ll keep the new plant busy, and the fact that the company added 25 additional employees since purchasing the plant supports that claim.