Case Studies

Arco Excavation & Paving Inc.

Digging in to Arkansas’ construction boom

When Heath Taylor started Arco Excavation & Paving Inc. with partner Brian Adams in 2004, he only had a dump truck, trailer and a D3 dozer to his name. So for the first three years, the excavating contracting company focused on building up its reputation, completing earthwork and utilities for commercial projects in northwest Arkansas.

Taylor also began searching for an asphalt and concrete subcontractor he could trust, which is how he met Chris McDaniel.

Arco Excavation & Paving Inc.

At the time, McDaniel was working for another company doing pavement maintenance and installation for large retail outlets and commercial projects. Then one day, he got a call from Taylor and the pair began pricing work for each other’s company.

In 2007, McDaniel officially joined forces with Taylor, becoming the co-owner of Arco. “We merged what the two of us had, and I think we’ve made a pretty strong team out of it,” McDaniel says.

In the past decade, Taylor and McDaniel have worked side by side, expanding the company’s services to include site development, excavation, concrete and asphalt paving, site utilities and storm water installation.

Today, they say Arco is a household name for excavation work on commercial and municipal projects in northwest Arkansas. The Bentonville-based company also has a lesser presence in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and even as far as Colorado.

“We’re at a good size where we can focus our crews on a single large project or spread them out to tackle multiple jobs at once,” McDaniel says. “We’re not at the level where we’re all corporate, but we’re not a mom-and-pop operation—we’re somewhere in the middle. So the guys who have been with us for a while feel like they are part of the Arco family.”

Arkansas’ boom

While Arco is prepared to travel outside Arkansas for a project, Taylor says their home state keeps the company busy.

“There’s definitely been an uptick [in construction] in Arkansas,” he says. “The economy is rebounding, and it’s turned into a boom.”

“We’re not at the level where we’re all corporate, but we’re not a mom-and-pop operation—we’re somewhere in the middle.”

Between 2014 and 2016, Arco did the excavation and earthwork for three student housing projects in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “We took whole city blocks and demolished the houses to complete the sitework for that area,” says McDaniel.

During that time, the company also began working with general contractors to build a new tower and parking lot for the JB Hunt Parking Garage, located in Lowell, Arkansas.

But of all the company’s projects, McDaniel and Taylor say the most fulfilling work is the excavating, bridge installation, concreate and drainage work Arco has done for the Razorback Greenway Trail System, consisting of bike and walking trails owned and maintained by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

Arco Excavation & Paving Inc.

“Seeing all the families, including our own, able to use and enjoy the trail system, and knowing that you were a small part of it brings a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get from some of the other work we perform in this area,” says McDaniel.

Hovering over hurtles

While the boom in northwest Arkansas has been good for companies like Arco, it has also brought in some outside competition.

Taylor says the problem with some of these other contractors is that they are usually there to make a quick buck, and are not planning to stay.

“They want to get the gravy out of a job,” he says. “So maybe they have the earthwork done, but they won’t come back to fine tune it and finish it. Or they might have put the storm drain in, but can’t afford to travel back to pour the inlet boxes.”

On more than one occasion, general contractors have called Arco to help them out of these tight spots because they trust Arco won’t leave a project half done, Taylor says. “It’s true we don’t make money on every job, we’ve even lost our butts on a couple, but we have an obligation to finish what we start, so we do.”

This commitment holds true even when nature is against them.

In 2008, Arco was hired by a general contractor in Springdale, Arkansas, to complete the earthwork, utilities, drainage, site concrete and asphalt for a low-lying 25-acre development.

The project should have been routine, but over the next six months it rained so much that “the whole job site looked like a lake,” says Taylor. To make matters worse, over 1,000 acres of property surrounding the development drained onto their low-lying job site. This all wreaked havoc on Arco’s building schedule, forcing the excavating contractor to get creative.

Arco Excavation & Paving Inc.

When it came time to pour the concrete, for instance, Arco hired a helicopter to hover over the job site in order to dry out the subgrade. Taylor says it worked like a charm; “unfortunately, it rained again the next day.”

McDaniel and Taylor both agree that the company’s employees are the reason Arco can pull off these kinds of ideas, and the owners appreciate that the employees know how to work as a team to accomplish the task at hand.

To show their appreciation, Arco offers 401k retirement plans and health insurance for all employees. It is also an E-Verify employer, which means the company uses federal systems to check potential employees’ work eligibility. Taylor says this brings in more qualified employees and keeps the company accountable.

However, that’s not the only reason McDaniel and Taylor offer these perks.

“When one of your long-term guys is able to go out and buy a piece of property and build him a house and his wife is driving a nice car, it makes you feel good that they’ve been able to make a good living with you,” Taylor says.

Published on: June 20, 2017

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