Minnesota Cultivates A New Breed Of Hands-On Operator

The past decade’s emergence of three key Minnesota operators Aggregate Industries, Cemstone Products and Knife River Corp. covering markets from the Twin

Don Marsh

The past decade’s emergence of three key Minnesota operators Û Aggregate Industries, Cemstone Products and Knife River Corp. Û covering markets from the Twin Cities to rural points north, south and west has spurred seasonal opportunities in smaller, primarily nonspecification work for upstart North Benton Redi-Mix (NBR). Based in the central Minnesota town of Foley, the company opened a semi-automated plant in summer 2006, bringing Benton County its first new concrete business since perhaps the 1960s.

After two years of seasonal (AprilÛNovember) operation, the company has staked a claim in residential and agricultural work, logging one slab project in the 1,200-yd. range. Customers see we are small and hands on, and will work with them in off hours and on Saturdays, says NBR founder Bob Potter. Our timing has been good. Farmers are spending money on buildings, thanks to high crop and milk prices.

NBR leases three acres at the pit of live-aggregate source Lentner Gravel. Both companies have been able to steer each other business. For Potter, the arrangement is an extension of dealings with Jerry Lentner, who had mined the property under lease and more recently acquired the site, including 5 million tons of reserves. Lentner Gravel is among customers Potter has supplied through his established mining equipment business, R & R.

NBR has three full-time drivers and tags two CDL-bearing farmers for delivery duties as schedules dictate. The producer has started with a fleet of five front discharge mixers, although the immediate area, like much of Minnesota, remains a rear discharge mixer market. The Foley experience has Potter examining prospects elsewhere in the state. In partnership with Northfield pit operator Tri-County Aggregate, he aims to replicate in 2008 the NBR land lease and plant model. The seasonal nature of our business allows us to work in the summer and build plants in the winter, Potter affirms.