Blount Contracting Inc.
For 15 years, a family-owned civil construction company based in Apache Junction, Arizona, has set an example for the industry in how to build a strong, sustainable business. Blount Contracting Inc., founded in 2000, specializes in mass excavation, fine grading and underground wet utility services for clients throughout the Southwest. While clients have come to rely on the company’s expertise in the field, it is the team’s practices and core values that have kept Blount Contracting growing steadily.
Jerry and Trudy Blount founded the company, which is now led by their son, Randy Blount, president. What began as a small family business, operating from the couple’s home, now employs 65 people with operations spanning several states.
Blount Contracting operates in alignment with a strong mission statement: “To be excellent.” This companywide philosophy accounts for three core values that affect every aspect of the business. “We are committed to excellence through communication, education and accountability,” Blount explains. “That is what defines Blount Contracting at its core.”
Mitigating the challenges of the industry
Adhering to its mission statement has provided a strong avenue of growth for the business. Blount Contracting has established a lasting reputation in Arizona, with recent expansion into Utah, Colorado and Texas.
In the wake of the most recent economic downturn, the construction market is on a steady upward climb. Still Blount Contracting, like any other construction firm, faces hurdles. “We deal with the same challenges as any other company,” explains Blount. “But how we mitigate them is largely through the way we operate financially as a contractor. When we’re looking at tight margins, we try to drive business on metrics we can back up with numbers — what we buy, what methods we use to perform the work — it’s all data-driven, so we can choose the most economical form of equipment, vehicles or methods to complete the job.”
Year after year, those metrics back up the decisions of Blount and his colleagues. The team makes pragmatic financial decisions, such as not purchasing the most heavy-duty or luxurious trucks on the lot. Randy says he doesn’t spend money on items that don’t produce revenue. “We’re not driven by our image,” he explains. “But we still look good in the process. Especially three or four years ago, the conservative philosophy we have regarding money kept us in the clear.”
Diverse, integrated capabilities
Blount Contracting’s capabilities include a suite of civil construction services, integrated and optimized to meet the needs of clients without compromise. With a prudent, sizable fleet of equipment and a strong core of competent company leaders and experienced employees, the construction company tackles the most challenging and unusual earthwork and utility projects efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. Blount notes that beyond mass excavation, fine grading and underground wet utilities, the business also performs shoring, asphalt paving and asphalt maintenance work.
Currently, Blount Contracting is tackling excavation, earthwork, and fine grading for the complete overhaul of Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium. “Right now about 2/3 of the bowl is coming out for phase two and we’re responsible for excavation and grading for the new design,” says Blount. The university needs phase two complete for kickoff 2016. This is a tight timeline, but the project is broken into phases. We took part in phase one as well and phase three will be full completion of the project during the next football off season.”
The company is also working with Salt River Project (SRP), one of Arizona’s largest power and water companies. “We do quite a bit of work for SRP,” says Blount. “There are a number of different projects we’ve performed for them, such as a recent pond renovation. The pond is used for plant wastewater that cannot penetrate the groundwater.
It had to be cleaned out and totally remade. Not only did we excavate the existing pond, but we brought in the replacement material, cleaned it up, made it a little bigger and secured the pond to better retain wastewater in the future.”
The SRP pond project involved a range of challenging components. In construction of the waste reservoir, Blount Contracting utilized soil cementing: mixing native soils with cement, placing the combination to a certain specification, and compacting the final product. The project also involved the installation of a wet well with the associated discharge pumps and piping. The deep wet well presented its own unique circumstances with hard rock excavation and shoring requirements. Lastly, an HDPE liner was installed to protect the ground from the wastewater.
Blount Contracting has established a unique niche in solar contracting, providing organized design-build services for the construction of these renewable energy projects throughout the Southwest. “We have current solar work in Texas and Colorado,” Blount explains. “That includes solar fields in Fort Lupton, Severance and Windsor, Colorado. We have a significant solar job in Texas, which is a much bigger undertaking. This is for the Roserock Solar project, near Fort Stockton, Texas. The scope of work includes 1,100 acres of clearing, grubbing, mass grading, fine grading and building roads for access to the solar equipment. We also aided in the civil design for the project.”
While Blount notes that the solar market is not in any major expansion, his team has established a unique model for providing a distinct set of services for these projects. “We’ve been able to provide design-build civil scope to engineering procurement construction [EPC] clients. We procure the design and guarantee a maximum price, then complete the scope of work required to build solar fields. What we do is similar to what other contractors offer, but they’re often just providing budgets. Our alternative delivery system allows us to reduce the client’s risk in the project. We’ve taken on a little more with the maximum set price option, setting ourselves apart from others.”
An expanding scope
Blount Contracting continues to take on new challenges in a range of markets. The business recently joined forces with PCL to take on a project for the Flood Control District of Maricopa County, Arizona. The team’s scope of work includes constructing and modifying an existing earthen dam to prevent floodwaters from the surrounding mountain areas from entering into cities and neighborhoods. “This is a huge undertaking,” Blount explains. “Even though we’re in the desert and you wouldn’t think we’d have a lot of water, it sheds quickly and it has to go somewhere in storm events. Our goal is to channel and control that water with earthen embankments. We’ve already constructed the first one, along a 3/4-mile stretch that consists of 30-foot high embankments. This new dam will stretch five miles.”
These structures are challenging because of the stability requirements of the resulting dams. Over the next two and a half years, the project will involve significant earthwork and adjustments to existing materials for stability. Utilizing sand material, Blount Contracting will construct a central filter, covered with structural native materials to control water movement. The liability regarding flood control projects is huge, making the team’s focus and eventual success crucial.
With the earthen dam project and others, Blount Contracting relies heavily on relationships. Subcontractors for the company’s projects often include soils engineers, concrete companies and haulers for material not being reused on-site. “Sometimes the hard-bid approach makes more sense, but we have found more success working with the same team rather than going the cheapest route,” says Blount. “Having the right people on board really pays off in the end with increased margins and reduced change-orders.”
Blount Contracting has strong partnerships in place not only with subcontractors, but also with clients — and Blount says it all comes back to the way the company operates at its core. “Our vision is to become the premier civil contractor in the Southwest,” he says. “And right now we’re working in Utah, Colorado, West Texas and Arizona, trying to fulfill that within other states in our region.”
As the business maintains momentum in the Southwest, Blount and his colleagues continue to operate in line with strong core values: communication, education and accountability. This dedication gives Blount Contracting Inc. the capacity to perform critical civil projects that exceed client expectations of quality and innovation.
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