Carolina Character

Geography and major aggregate source ownership contribute to North Carolina’s unique concrete production profile. Coastal access opens the state’s cement


Geography and major aggregate source ownership contribute to North Carolina’s unique concrete production profile. Coastal access opens the state’s cement distribution channels, yet key sand & gravel and crushed stone players, Hanson Aggregates and Raleigh-based Martin Marietta Materials, have limited or no integrated concrete assets. North Carolina might also be the only market to have at least two multinational operators retreat from ready mixed since the mid-1990s.

North Carolina natives also distinguish the state’s concrete business, prompting a decision to visit this month’s cover story subject, Concrete Service Plant 3, and its Fayetteville, N.C.-based owner. It was a safe bet on the heels of more than a decade of productive dealings with peer operators in ready mixed and manufactured concrete, including Chandler Concrete, Concrete Supply, Macleod Concrete, NC Products, RMC Carolina Materials, Ready Mixed Concrete, S&W Ready Mix Concrete, Southern Concrete Materials, and Unicon Concrete.

Tom Chandler, Ready Mixed’s George Turner and S&W’s Harry Shaw, or their colleagues, can leave a good impression on anyone familiar with concrete production and delivery. Another industry ambassador, Charlotte-based Concrete Supply’s Henry Batten, is in line to become the 2009 National Ready Mixed Concrete Association chairman.

A tour of North Carolina concrete producers is incomplete without a stop at D.R. Allen & Son, Inc., parent of Concrete Service and Fay Block Materials. A clean fleet, tidy showroom with clever masonry product merchandising and consistently professional staff from one department or plant to the next are among immediate signals registered by a D.R. Allen company customer or visitor.

Concrete Service and Fay Block would stand out in most any state these days, due to their hold on a medium-sized market surrounded by bigger operators. North Carolina, after all, arguably ranks second only to Florida among states where major concrete production assets have changed hands. The recent shuffling of those assets has netted three vertically integrated players, Cemex USA, Cementos Argo, and Titan America, staking claim through deals for RMC Carolinas, Ready Mixed Concrete and S&W Ready Mix, respectively.

D.R. Allen & Son Chairman Richard (Bob) Allen knows a few things about vertical integration as a contractor and ready mixed producer. Prior to a mid-1980s decision to exit general contracting to concentrate on ready mixed and block, D.R. Allen had operated a heavy/commercial construction business alongside Concrete Service and Fay Block Materials for decades.

He also knows a few things about foreign companies. In 1991, D.R. Allen sold 12-plant Concrete Service to Evered, a U.K. operator. In an interim capacity as Evered USA director, Allen was confronted by a skeptical U.K. shareholder, questioning why the company Û in the face of construction materials market opportunities to the east Û was investing in the colonies? The matter was put to rest with a brief observation on financial stability and trading in dollars vs. rubles.

A bastion of strong independent producers to this day, North Carolina turned out to be a short-lived chapter for Evered, which a) merged with Bardon Plc, morphing a few years later into Aggregate Industries eastern operations; and, b) exited the state through a sale of two Fayetteville plants back to the Allen family, and remaining properties to Ready Mixed Concrete and S&W Ready Mix.

The deal gave Bob Allen, Sr., his son, and loyal D.R. Allen managers an opportunity to solidify a niche as a deft, debt-free operator poised for a growing market and increasingly demanding customer base. A walk through Concrete Service Plant 3 and discussion with Allen team members (pages 35-41), especially their take on the Character First management model, show how skillfully they seized a most unusual opportunity.

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