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JH STRAIN 9/13/07

3:35 PM

Page 84


JH STRAIN 9/13/07 3:35 PM Page 84 J.H. STRAIN AND SONS INC. west Texas,” he notes.

west Texas,” he notes. “We are prepared to bid on several new rehabilitation projects in the next year.” Strain expects TxDOT and other public work to remain strong for the next few years. “There is money until the present highway bill is up,” he says. “Long term, I think there will be more consolidation of contractors. Family construction compa- nies will be absorbed into larger, more pre- dominant companies. I’d say, probably in 15 to 20 years that could happen to this company.” One reason behind this trend, on the local level, is TxDOT bundling projects to- gether, he says. “They used to let a lot of $3 million to $5 million projects,” he explains. “Now, they’re in the $15 million to $25 mil- lion-plus range.”

they’re in the $15 million to $25 mil- lion-plus range.” will travel the roads. “You can’t

will travel the roads. “You can’t just blade a road,” he says. “The grade must be less than 10 percent, and the cross-slope can’t be more than 1 percent, [or] a top-heavy crane could tip over. “We built Trent Mesa for AEP, and are subcontractors for Mortenson on a BP project, and Wanzek for an Edison Mission project,” Strain adds. The company is finishing up a $15.2 million project on U.S. Highway 277 in Haskell, Texas, for TxDOT. It is realigning the highway, creating a bypass around the city of Haskell. In October 2006, J.H. Strain and Sons started a $22.6 million project on Interstate 20 in Taylor County, Texas, on the north edge of Abilene. “We are tearing down and replacing three bridges where IH-20 crosses U.S. 83,” Strain says. “Those bridges were 30-plus years old, and the clearance was too low – they have been hit numerous times. “We are also upgrading and rebuilding frontage roads,” he adds. “We are changing the traffic pattern out here to one-way frontage roads around the bridges. We are installing 125,000 tons of Ty B hotmix, restabilizing existing base with flyash, undersealing, and will overlay 43,000 tons of Superpave D.” There is no shortage of this type of project, Strain says. “TxDOT has a very aggressive replacement program out here in

‘A Little Bit of Everything’

Strain says J.H. Strain and Sons sets itself apart from competitors in the west Texas market by offering a wide range of servic- es. “We do a little bit of everything,” he says. “The trend a few years ago was to spe- cialize, but we haven’t done that. One thing we don’t do is concrete paving. There’s just not much of it in west Texas. “There is a good supply of limestone out here, which makes asphalt paving so much more economical.” Employees, however, are not in such good supply in the area, he notes. The com- pany currently employs 110 people, a num- ber Strain would like to be higher. “It’s tough now with the labor force out there,” he says. “We’re in direct competition with the oil field industry, which is booming right now.” The company does, however, have a core group of dedicated staff members. “Thirty-one of them have been with us for 10 years or longer, and 20 have been with us more than 20 years,” Strain says. “We have some third-generation employees.” He credits this longevity to the company’s willingness to accommodate people. “We understand them having to take off for family things,” he says. “They’re good to us, and we’re good to them. The success and longevity of our company – we owe it all to the employees. “One in particular, Bobby Rushing, came here the same year I did,” he continues. “I’d graduated from college, and he’d been working for another contractor. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime employee – honest, knowledgeable, gets along with everyone, knows how to handle everyone from TxDOT engineers to superintendents to suppliers to subs. To illustrate, last year, the son of a retired engineer director, the No. 1 guy at TxDOT, bought some property around Austin with a creek running through it. They had to span the creek, and they called Bobby Rushing for his advice.”