Flynn Company Inc.
Jeff Flynn is the third-generation owner and operator of Flynn Company Inc. (FCI), a family business based in Dubuque, Iowa. FCI has been in business since 1932, when Jeff’s grandfather, Frank Flynn, as well as his great uncle, Tom Flynn, established Thomas Flynn Coal Company.
Over the years, the business has evolved significantly. While the business began as a coal delivery operation, it grew into heavy construction. Today, FCI specializes in concrete paving services, working for public and private customers throughout Iowa and beyond.
Jeff has been with the business full-time since 1983. He grew up in the industry, working alongside his father through school and eventually taking over with his brother Mike when the second generation retired.
As of 2014, FCI employs 80 experienced paving professionals who provide quality services on regional highways and runways. While the company is most frequently involved with projects within Iowa, FCI’s geographic footprint extends into Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. In the past, Jeff’s crews have traveled as far as Texas, the Carolinas and Georgia.
Highway work makes up the majority of revenue for the business. The team is currently finishing work on Interstate 35 (I-35) in southern Iowa. The most recent phase includes a 12-mile stretch of northbound highway in Decatur County. In 2013, the crew repaved the southbound lanes of the same stretch. In a rural setting, Jeff says his team has run into few challenges on this expanse of the roadway, although another current project has proven a little more troublesome.
“We are on a project right now, another stretch of I-35 in Des Moines, right in town,” Jeff elaborates. “We are a subcontractor on this contract. The weather has been dramatic this year, which made keeping timeframes a struggle. We worked a lot of overtime, which isn’t unusual for us. Our typical day is 12 hours, but we had to pave at night down there and bring the light plants out. On top of that, this is an urban environment, which makes logistics significantly more difficult. We were moving a lot of big pieces of equipment at night and the heavier traffic can slow crews down quite a bit. Being in Iowa, most of our work is more rural.”
The FCI team has performed several contracts for the Des Moines International Airport starting in the 1990s, including a UPS parking ramp, the taxiway for Delta and a project for the National Guard. Most recently the business repaved the taxiway and part of the ramp area.
“This was a little unusual, because there was a large electrical contract with it, for all the different lights and signage,” Jeff explains. “We worked with an electrical subcontractor to pull the whole thing together. We have completed the paving portion of the project and the electrical contractor is finishing up his part now.”
Paving a future
Jeff considers his business fortunate, despite recent market challenges that have made it harder to maintain margins. With a large number of pavers in Iowa and not so many contracts available, the industry is in a competitive holding pattern.
“Our chapter of the Concrete Paving Association is the largest of all 50 states,” Jeff explains. “Other areas have high volume in contracts and some big contractors, but the quantity here is not as balanced. We have a lot of mainline highway pavers here in Iowa and when the volume drops, so do the prices.”
Nonetheless, the crew is determined to keep going. “We won’t sit here and die,” Jeff explains. “We are not diversified – we just do concrete paving – so we have had to expand our service area. We put on our traveling shoes and work all over the place.”
Recent contracts have taken the team all over the Midwest, performing efficient, high-quality work in the surrounding states. Jeff says the mobile nature of the business puts a strain on his employees, but he is constantly impressed by the team’s dedication and willingness to follow the work.
In order to streamline the business, FCI continually reinvests profits into technological improvements. The company was one of the first in the state to utilize stingless technology with trimmers and pavers. These systems control paving thickness and alignment using total stations instead of a physical guide, allowing pavers to have better control over the process while reducing the workload for crews. The result is a faster, more cost-efficient project that saves money for clients and improves margins for contractors.
Looking ahead, Jeff and his team plan to continue running lean and mean. The company is always on the lookout for new opportunities. With the ability to travel within a broad geographic footprint, the crew has more flexibility than other similarly sized contractors. While management does not foresee any major expansions in the coming years, Flynn Company Inc. is holding steady in the Midwest paving market.
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