West Contracting Sees Value and Benefit from Industry-Specific Business Organizations

asphalt and concrete contractorWest Contracting is a customer-oriented company specializing in asphalt paving and concrete construction. Headquartered in Pacific, MO – about a 20-minute drive southwest of St. Louis, it has been paving driveways, parking lots, roads and highways for more than six decades.

The company’s tagline, notes vice president Chris West, is: “Improving Your Ride Since 1956.”

Services provided by West Contracting include asphalt paving; chip seal, NovaChip; hot and cold mix asphalt sales; and a full range of general contracting services. In addition, the company operates four asphalt plants. 

It primarily serves the St. Louis area and Eastern Central Missouri, 90 miles southwest of St. Louis along the I-44 corridor. The company does travel some for specialty work, including to Illinois, Indiana and Michigan with its spraypaver.

West’s grandparents – Norman West and his wife Mary – founded the company in 1956, a few years after Norman came back from World War II. After the war, Norman worked as a truck driver for a paving company located in Steelville, MO. He and Mary saw an opportunity to start their own asphalt business – West Contracting – in St. Louis.

Norm and Mary put their son Larry (Chris’s father) to work at an early age. He took the company over in the early 1990s and positioned it to complete general contracting work as well as larger roadway projects. This growth allowed the company to continue to hire great talent. 

Larry put Chris to work at 13, doing general cleaning and maintenance around the properties. By 15, Chris was on the chip sealing and parking lot crews. Once in college, he spent his summers on larger highway projects. He has moved up through the ranks, learning every aspect of the business. 

“There are employees still with the company from 20 years ago when I was in high school,” Chris noted. “We get to laugh about the times we all worked in the field together.”

West Contracting MissouriCompany Fundamentals 

One of the key things that has contributed to the company’s longevity and success is that “it delivers on promises, on time and within budget,” says West. That has led to a lot of repeat business.

There is also a “big focus on inclusion and diversity.”

The company is always searching for ways to do things more efficiently, economically and safely. On the material side of the business, it constantly strives to produce the highest-quality product at its asphalt plants.

Workforce Training

Regular training enhances the skills of the company’s workforce, West points out. A well-trained workforce increases operational efficiency and productivity, plus helps keep workers safe. All of this helps to improve the company's bottom line.

“That is why we invest in continuous training, especially safety training.”

Part of the training includes training the workforce on any new equipment and cross training equipment operators and plant personnel so that they can do multiple tasks if necessary.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG Peer GroupsSafety Training and Certification 

West Contracting’s safety training and certification is done each winter and spring. The goal is to provide its workforce with the knowledge and skills to perform their work in a way that is effective, yet safe, for them and their co-workers, explains West.

Safety training is also done on a regular basis because workforce alertness tends to go down over time and safety protocols change.

The company constantly holds Toolbox Talks, he says. These are short, informal group discussions that focus on a particular safety issue, such as workplace hazards or safe work practices. The meetings are typically conducted at the job site prior to the start of a job or work shift.

Constant Search for New Technology and Equipment 

West Contracting has been making a “very concerted effort” to bring onboard new technology and software solutions, says West, who is tasked with that challenge. It  continuously invests in equipment and machines so its workforce has the latest technology with which to work.

The company is also investing in the latest accounting and project management software.

Chris West, West Contracting“We run Astec software so we can better monitor and manage what is going on in our asphalt plants on a daily basis,” he says. “We use WEX software for our tractor trailers and heavy equipment to monitor things like idle time and fuel usage.

“In the last year, we incorporated a program called XBE that we use to monitor the efficiency of our dump truck operation on our jobs and our asphalt plants.”

Attracting Employees

Like so many companies in the construction industry, West Contracting is dealing with how to attract, hire and retain workers. One advantage it has over other asphalt paving and concrete construction, notes West, is that “we have been around for a long time and have great reputation. There are a lot of people that want to work for us. A lot of our workforce comes from word-of-mouth.

“We treat our employees as we would like to be treated. That is why we have many second and third generation family members working for us.”

There is a bonus program for field employees that has worked well. If they bring on someone they know, and that person stays with the company for more than three months, the employee gets an initial bonus. The employee gets an additional bonus if the person stays for six months. 

For attracting field personnel, Facebook has worked well, he says. The company goes to job fairs at local community colleges and trade schools to pursue younger talent.

“Finding people is a constant battle,” notes West. “However, we have not been hindered by not being able to get work done because of a lack of a good workforce.”

National Asphalt Pavement AssociationUsefulness of Industry Organizations 

West Contracting is a member of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). It is the only trade association that exclusively represents the interests of the asphalt producer/contractor on the national level.

Through networking at NAPA meetings and events, West learned that several other asphalt companies, all in non-competing markets form around the country, wanted to start a peer group.

A believer in the value and benefit of membership in industry-specific business organizations, he got involved with the effort. With the help of NAPA, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Asphalt Executives Peer Group was established.

The Peer Group comes together a couple of times a year and to discuss all types of matters, says West. The meetings are a “deep-dive into how other companies in my industry run their operations and have handled particular challenges. It opens up your eyes to new things and new ideas.”

The meetings also help members learn best practices and keep on top of industry trends and advances within in the asphalt industry, he adds.

Membership develops and enhances business relationships, points out West. It is also a particularly good opportunity to learn from others, especially from those that have more experience.

The CONEXPO-CON/AGG Asphalt Executives Peer Group is one of four. The other three are Heavy Civil Executives, Excavation Company Executives and Aggregate Executives.

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