Lanford Brothers Co.
Road and bridge maintenance may not be the most glamorous line of work, but Virginia-based Lanford Brothers Co. (LBC) makes it look good. Since 1960, the employee-owned company has delivered specialty turnkey road and bridge maintenance and construction, building a solid reputation for reliability and quality workmanship. LBC can tackle everything from bridge repair to asphalt and concrete milling, guardrail repair, highway signage and latex overlays, excelling in any application.
“My father and uncle, Jack and Stan Lanford, started the company in 1960 following in the footsteps of my great-grandfather who was also in construction,” reveals Ken Lanford, second-generation president of LBC. The company began with a concentration on bridge and box culvert construction and over the years, evolved from building new structures to repairing them.
“I’ve been in the business since 1985,” shares Ken. From a young age he worked in the LBC shop and equipment yard, lending a hand throughout the summer. After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1985 with a business management degree, Ken jumped right into the field under different supervisors.
He eventually ran his own crew as a superintendent and by the early 1990s moved into a larger leadership role as an estimator and project manager. “I was named president in 2004,” he adds.
A core crew of employee owners
LBC has been family owned since its inception, but is now 100 percent employee owned. “Once LBC really took off, my father and uncle wanted to find a way to reward longstanding employees and get equity out of the company they’d built up,” recounts Ken. “The process started in 1986 and we’ve gradually become 10 percent employee owned and remain so now.”
Today, LBC has some 200 employees covering Virginia and North Carolina. “We’ve stayed in these two states because we’re able to keep busy enough inside this range,” explains Ken. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of longstanding, dedicated employees that have helped us build a good, respected reputation. We feel like we do a quality job and our customers can trust us.”
Ken says anything bridge related and LBC does it. The company has become a trusted partner on critical projects throughout the south with services ranging from concrete milling to pothole repair, gunite to joint repair and reconstruction, bearing rehabilitation and beam-end repairs, carbon fiber wrap and structural steel repair, as well as welding, cutting and straightening beams.
“We work closely with two or three subcontractors because LBC doesn’t do asphalt paving and all demo work, but we try to do as much as we can in-house,” says Ken. “We offer specialty services such as painting and latex overlays that some of our competitors don’t.”
LBC’s bridge projects go from the $50,000 range, all the way up to $6 million or more and Ken says there is always a lot going on. “We’re constantly moving around and bidding on projects months out because it’s the nature of this line of work; projects have a quick turnaround, unlike general construction contracts that last for years,” he explains.
In Greensboro, N.C., LBC has taken on a multifaceted $6 million project for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The Greensboro Urban Loop is part of NCDOT’s plan to improve traffic flow within the city, allowing traffic to bypass the busy Greensboro downtown. It will help improve congestion on existing I-40, particularly in the area where I-40, I-85 business and U.S. routes 29, 70, 220 and 421 all run concurrently.
According to NCDOT, the loop provides a more direct route for traffic heading south and east of Greensboro to destination north and west of the city. There are four projects in various stages of the construction process which will complete the remaining 15 miles of the 44-mile loop around the city.
It’s these kinds of public projects that LBC has relied on through the recession. “Most of our work is through public works contracts,” details Ken. “There was some uncertainty through the downturn even in the state and municipal sector. We were unsure if there were going to be enough jobs to bid on, but thanks to our geographic location, when things were slowing in Virginia, the market in North Carolina was picking up.”
Ken says the company had to do what almost every other company in the industry did; get lean and mean. “It was a matter of monitoring costs – everyone has to do that when things get tight,” he says. “We looked closely at the bottom line and monitored labor more, which is the biggest variable in our line of work. We managed to stay stable and busy.”
Ken says he’s hopefully for larger public projects in the near future. “Obama has a proposal for increased spending but it’s a question of whether or not the money is there to fund these projects, but our highway and bridge maintenance division will keep going steady even if there isn’t a great deal of new construction,” he notes.
This diversity has allowed the company to withstand the test of time for more than 50 years, in which Lanford Brothers Co. has become a trusted public works contractor.
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