Blessing Construction

KEARNEY, NEB., CONTRACTOR’S SECOND BUSINESS STARTS OUT BIG AND CONTINUES TO GROW

Nov 20, 2012

RoadBuilders and Komatsu equipment impress

When Ron Blessing decided to go back into business for himself, he was determined not to start the same way he did with a previous venture.

“That was basically a one-man show at the beginning, and much of the work involved pouring private driveways and sidewalks,” said Blessing, who sold his first business in 1987 after about 15 years in operation. “I didn’t want to do that this time around, so I immediately hired about 10 workers and went after larger municipal and commercial paving projects. That remains the bulk of the business.”

The move paid off quickly as Blessing Construction immediately began a $2 million paving project on North Railroad in its hometown of Kearney. The Blessing crew handled nearly every aspect of the 4,000-yard pour.

“I knew my employees very well, and I knew they had the experience to make it a successful project,” said Ron. “They proved me right. That helped establish us and we’ve been building ever since.”

But concrete paving does not make up the total Blessing Construction picture. While Ron founded Blessing Construction in 1998 with a focus on paving, today it provides additional services, such as site work, demolition and crushing, throughout central Nebraska.

“Concrete paving makes up about 70 percent of our work load,” said Blessing. “Included in that is municipal street and county road projects, often as a general contractor, which I prefer. I like to be in control and handle everything on a project from the initial site prep to the final grading. That goes for the commercial aspect as well, where we tend to provide an entire site package that includes paving sidewalks, parking lots and any road work. We try to sub out as little as possible.”

Crushing growth

Many projects also involve removing old pavement, something Blessing Construction has done since its founding. For the past 10 years, it’s taken those materials to its Recycling Center in Kearney, where they’re crushed to make four products that Blessing Construction uses in its own projects and sells to other contractors as well. It also accepts old pavement materials from other contractors, and does a small amount of portable on-site crushing.

“Crushing and reusing old materials continues to gain acceptance, which wasn’t the case when I had my other business,” said Blessing, noting he was an advocate for reusing materials before it gained prominence during the past decade. “It became a natural extension of what we were already doing. Our main product is inch-and-ahalf- minus, which makes a good base material.”

In addition, Blessing Construction produces Class B riprap, golf-ball-size product — what Blessing terms as “overs” — often used as a base product for parking areas and farm driveways, and a product called fines, used for subgrade and site prep.

“When I first started, I figured if I could crush 10,000 tons a year, that would be good and we could justify having our own crusher,” said Blessing. “It’s continued to grow. Last year we crushed about 150,000 tons. That may not be the case every year, but the total has always been well beyond that 10,000 mark. Buying the crusher proved to be a solid business move.”

Demolition expands, thanks to staff

Another solid move for Blessing Construction is expansion beyond concrete demolition. The company also offers traditional demo work that includes tearing down houses, buildings and other structures. Project Manager Scott Blessing, Ron’s brother, oversees that aspect of the business.

Scott noted that lately much of Blessing Construction’s demolition work is in the agricultural market, tearing down old silos and other buildings to make way for more crops. In 2010, the company recycled 54 acres for the Platte Valley Academy, which included approximately 20 buildings, two sewage lagoons and more than 100 large trees. Crews then leveled the entire site for farming. Blessing Construction has also torn down houses and office buildings and razed several dorms at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, recycling 98.7 percent of the material from the dorms.

“Our demolition work runs the gamut, from taking down an industrial warehouse to removing outbuildings on farms,” said Scott. “As with concrete removals, we’re recycling a good percentage of the materials from tear-downs. We separate the steel and iron and take it to scrap yards. Of course, much of the concrete goes back to our yard but in some instances, we crush and reuse it on site. We’re taking less and less material to the landfill.”

Including the demolition, crushing and concrete work, Blessing Construction employs about 50 people who are split into multiple crews. Many of the initial workers Ron Blessing hired remain on staff. In addition to Scott, he cites Office Manager Emily Burchell as a key employee.

“A business like this is only as good as the people who work for it,” emphasized Ron. “I believe I have the best in the business, hands-down. Many people have been here a decade or more, but a fair number only have a few years or less on staff. It’s a really good mix that allows me to pair more experienced workers with the newer people. That’s allowed me to develop some ‘home-grown’ talent and a dedicated group. I can’t say enough good things about them and their role in the company’s success.”

RoadBuilders and equipment impress

Blessing also credits RoadBuilders for its help in attaining and maintaining much of Blessing Construction’s equipment fleet. Working with Grand Island District Sales Manager Tony Randone, Blessing Construction has added Komatsu excavators (a PC300HD, a PC300, a PC200 and a PC138) and a WA450 wheel loader, as well as Metso and McCloskey crushing and screening equipment.

“One of the biggest factors in my buying decisions is dealer support, and Tony and RoadBuilders haven’t let me down since I purchased the PC300 about six years ago,” reported Ron, who also rents and has purchased NPK breakers and processors and Ingersoll-Rand products from RoadBuilders. “In fact, that’s why we looked at Komatsu in the first place. I didn’t feel I was getting the best service, and I talked with another company that used Komatsu. They said I should contact Tony. RoadBuilders has provided us great service after the sale, so we’ve continued to work with them from sales, rental and service standpoints. They take good care of us and they have quality equipment.”

Blessing Construction uses the Komatsu excavators in all aspects of the business, especially demolition. “Komatsus have good power and they’re durable,” said Scott Blessing. “They also give us versatility because we can dig, run a breaker or use a thumb. For smaller jobs, the PC138 really comes in handy. We use it often for breaking concrete. Its size allows us to get into areas where larger excavators won’t fit, and it is productive without the risk of the counterweight swinging into an obstruction.”

“At the crushing yard, we have the PC200 dedicated to breaking oversized material, while the WA450 wheel loader moves between the crusher and the stockpiles, as well as loads trucks,” added Ron. “We have some fairly sizeable piles, and the loader has good power to make the climbs.”

Not affected by downturn

The downturn in the economy the past few years has not affected Blessing Construction. Ron said revenues remained consistent, and in some cases, grew. He credited hard work — he’s very hands-on and works alongside employees — and a focus on always providing a quality job.

“The volume of demolition and crushing work will probably continue to grow,” predicted Ron. “During the past few years, we’ve seen our paving work stay consistent and the other types of projects grow; at some point it might become a 50-50 split. Having that diversity is a great asset.

“I’ve always believed that the finished product is our best form of advertising,” he concluded. “Giving customers more than they expect by providing a high-quality job in a fair and honest manner goes a long way. Customers call us back repeatedly and spread the word about us. In turn, we have numerous repeat customers and are gaining new ones based on our reputation. As long as we do that, we’ll continue to be successful.”