Komatsus have impressed Concrete Technologies, Inc.
The Des Moines metro area is growing at a healthy annual rate. Two of the nation’s largest interstates converge there, several major companies have established operations in the area and it regularly appears on the lists of the “Best Places to Live.” Concrete Technologies, Inc. (CTI), located in the Des Moines suburb of Grimes, is perfectly situated to handle all the growth and attention.
“We’ve been very fortunate to grow along with the Des Moines area,” said President and Owner Brad Baumler. “We started in 2001 with a handful of employees doing small concrete jobs. Today, we have three divisions and nearly 200 employees. We perform 80 to 100 highway and commercial concrete projects a year, ranging from $10,000 to $15 million – all within approximately 60 miles of Des Moines.”
CTI excels in heavy highway construction work, mainly on nearby Interstates 35 and 80 as well as the mixmaster interchanges that connect them. The company’s first large highway project involved redirecting a 3.6-mile section of I-35 in Ankeny, a northern suburb of Des Moines. CTI took the existing interstate and shifted it to the east, adding an exit and a bridge as well as pouring the pavement underneath it.
“Ankeny is growing rapidly, so the new exit was needed to help alleviate congestion,” said Vice President of Operations Andy Denker. “To create the exit and not interfere with what already existed, we curved it to the east. It is the main artery to Des Moines from the north, so we ran a number of different shifts – mainly at night – to keep the commute running smoothly.”
The company also tackled another high-traffic stretch of I-35, this time south of the I-235/I-80 West interchange. This project featured the construction of a new bridge adjacent to an existing one. CTI handled the paving work on the interstate and collaborated on the project with two separate contractors – one that constructed the new bridge and the second, which handled the dirt work.
“The biggest challenge on that job was keeping two lanes of traffic open in each direction,” recalled Denker. “It was very tight. There were several traffic switches as well as weekend and night shifts needed to complete the job.”
The company’s list of well-known projects includes more than major interstates. The growing population of the Des Moines metro area makes it attractive to prominent companies like Facebook and Microsoft. When they decided to build data centers in central Iowa, CTI was ready.
“Our sweet spot is vertical-integration construction,” explained Baumler. “We are well-equipped to build large, wide-open structures, like warehouses, which is what Facebook and Microsoft needed for their data centers.”
While those two customers are recognized around the world, Baumler points to two local jobs that put CTI on the map and prepared it for the tech companies’ projects. In 2004, CTI started work on sections of the Jordan Creek Mall – the largest shopping center in the state of Iowa at 1.34 million square feet.
At the time of the Jordan Creek construction, CTI also began working on warehouses for Firestone.
“The mall and Firestone work put us on the map and really accelerated our growth,” said Baumler. “When we started we had 30 employees, and we more than doubled in size during the two years it took to complete those projects. They helped us leap to the next level. Without them, I don’t know if we would have landed the Facebook or Microsoft work.”
Baumler says CTI’s ability to handle large, high-visibility jobs with success has made it a sought-after company on similar endeavors.
“We are proud to be associated with high-visibility projects, but we are thankful and don’t take it for granted. We know there is a lot of pressure to perform on those jobs, and we like that challenge.”
The company’s list of noteworthy accomplishments also includes work on Iowa State University’s Jack Trice Stadium, EMC Insurance Company’s new offices in downtown Des Moines, and several Kum & Go gas stations.
Diversification spurs growth
While building an impressive client list can spur growth, oftentimes diversification is necessary as well. To fuel CTI’s development, Baumler expanded his business in two ways. First, in 2005, he purchased a concrete company and then in 2014, he opened a crushing/recycling division.
“We were looking for a way to grow and be competitive, and both of those moves made sense,” said Baumler. “We bought the ready-mix company when we started doing large, heavy highway work, and nine years later, we added the crushing/recycling division.”
The addition of the ready-mix business also helped the company expand; it has about 60 employees in that division today.
“Our main focus was commercial concrete, so buying the ready-mix plant was a sound decision,” explained Baumler. “I also felt that highway construction was a market we needed to get into, so I bought a paver at the same time, and we went to work.”
The addition of the crushing/recycling division coincided with the company’s move to its Grimes location two years ago. With this division, CTI accepts material from other companies looking for disposal services, in addition to material from CTI Ready Mix.
“The crushing/recycling division has been positive from a cost-savings standpoint,” said Denker. “We’ve benefitted from having it, and we have had significant use from other companies.
Right now, the division is running at nearly 60 percent of its total capacity and processing 1,500-2,000 tons of material per day. “We believe this level of production is the most efficient for us,” noted Recycling Division Manager Jerid Shryock. “It’s a nice steady pace, and it allows us to keep up with what we need to do.”
RMS a big contributor
To ensure that all of its divisions are running smoothly, CTI enlists the help of Road Machinery & Supplies Co. and Sales Rep Bob Newman.
For large highway projects, CTI uses a GOMACO GHP-2800 slipform paver. The company made the purchase in 2008 when it began the I-35 project in
Ankeny. The machine can easily pave up to 3,000 yards a day. It is the largest paver in CTI’s fleet, but its efficiency is what makes it so valuable.
“The main benefit of the 2800 is its double sliders; we can do changeovers twice as fast,” said Supervisor Rick Byrkett. “The technology on it is awesome. We can enter all the data – footage, crown dimensions, and width – and it handles it automatically. This takes out a lot of the guesswork.”
At its crushing/recycling operation, CTI uses a Komatsu PC210LC excavator to process and separate material and a Komatsu WA470 wheel loader to feed its crushing spread. Both machines are less than six months old, but have already impressed those at CTI.
“The Komatsu equipment has been awesome,” said Denker. “We purchased the PC210 in December 2015, and it has been a workhorse. We demo’d the WA470 and loved it, so we have rented it since April.
“Two big selling points for us were Komatsu CARE and KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s remote machine-monitoring system,” added Denker. “To have the ability to track our machines through KOMTRAX and have RMS perform complimentary service for the first three years or 2,000 hours through Komatsu CARE provides added value.”
Having RMS as a partner in the purchases was another bonus. “Knowing that RMS will take care of us by having equipment and service ready when we need it is important,” said Baumler. “We rely on their expertise, and we trust them. Bob does an amazing job.”
Better is better
CTI has experienced tremendous growth, both in size and reputation, during the last decade. Baumler doesn’t anticipate that type of growth in the future for his company; instead, he simply wants it to improve each day.
“I don’t think we will aggressively look for growth like we have in the past,” he said. “If an opportunity comes up and it makes sense, then we’ll do it. Bigger isn’t always better. Better is better. We have great people working here, and we have a solid reputation. If those two things remain constant, we’ll be successful.”