M. Luis Construction Co. Inc.
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Chuck McKenna
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Based in Baltimore Maryland, M. Luis Construction Co. Inc. (M. Luis) is the Mid Atlantic’s leading asphalt manufacturer and road contractor, paving more than 750,000 tons of asphalt throughout Maryland in the last several years, from Baltimore to Montgomery. But that’s not the only point that makes M. Luis exceptionally unique in the industry; the company is also the only family-owned asphalt manufacturer to be MBE and WBE certified in the country.
“M. Luis was established in 1985 by my parents, Albertina and Manuel Luis,” shares Natalia Luis, now vice president of the company. “We started out as a public works concrete business, doing curbs, sidewalks and driveways. Slowly but surely, we got into utilities and asphalt. Now, 30 years later, we own one of the region’s most productive asphalt plants and we’re the only woman- and minority-owned plant in the U.S, according to the Commerce Department.”
Pride in female ownership
Of Portuguese descent, Albertina and Manuel Luis founded M. Luis on the principles of hard work, dedication and performing at a higher level. Over the course of two decades, the couple grew M. Luis into a thriving paving and construction services company. In 2008, Natalia and her sister, Cidalia Luis-Akbar, president of M. Luis, assumed ownership and management from their parents.
“We’re now a multigenerational asphalt manufacturer and construction services company,” says Natalia. “My sister and I are proud to run the only woman and minority owned plant in the U.S. and our subcontractors, which we have very strong relationships with, are also mostly woman-and minority-owned.”
The sister-run executive team has helped M. Luis flourish, growing the company into a multidivisional enterprise with a broad range of services from aggregate and asphalt manufacturing to a wide range of construction and quality control services. “Despite our growth, we haven’t forgotten our roots and heritage, nor the values that brought us to what we are today,” assures Natalia.
Rock-solid business in Rockville
2010 was a year of major milestones for the family-run company. M. Luis acquired its Rockville, Maryland, manufacturing facility. “The plant is a multimillion-dollar investment in Montgomery County that has significant local economic impact on business and employment,” explains Natalia. “The decision to vertically integrate the company with manufacturing allows us to better control the integrity and quality of our products as well as offer a higher level of service to our diverse client base. The venture has been a resounding success.”
Also in 2010, M. Luis became the only company in Maryland to offer a state-certified mobile asphalt testing unit. “This enables us to rapidly mobilize and respond in evaluating the quality of production and placement and verifies field test results against independent lab results on the job site,” measures Natalia.
The centralized Rockville asphalt plant serves Maryland, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, providing high-quality asphalt, aggregates and sand. More M. Luis products include: liquid asphalt and tack coat, recycled aggregates and QPR (high performance cold mix).
M. Luis now deploys a team of more than 200 professionals through its three locations, with highly trained engineers and asphalt mix design specialists in Rockville. The Rockville plant produces up to 300 tons of asphalt per hour and offers a storage capacity of 900 tons.
“We utilize American-made plant and lab equipment, as well as U.S. sourced quarry stone and sand,” adds Natalia. “Rockville has an in-house Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)-certified laboratory and can produce around the clock, 24/7, upon request.”
Turnkey solutions that keep Baltimore moving
The company also supports a wide mix of federal, state, municipal and county clients, as well as large area general contractors and site developers. “We’re large enough to provide the human and equipment resources our clients need, yet nimble enough to mobilize rapidly and provide flexible, responsive services,” considers Natalia. “Our professionals work with our diverse client base, tailoring our services to their needs to help meet specifications, while providing detailed planning and expert project management.”
From completing a full rehab of Maryland State Routes 193, 187 and 212, to redeveloping neighborhoods, such as Battery Park and West Chevy Chase, increasing the longevity of city infrastructure and helping move communities is central to M. Luis. Natalia notes M. Luis is much more than aggregate and asphalt products and construction services. “We are committed to quality service, leadership, and excellence in our industry while making a positive contribution to society and the community in which we live and work,” she says.
For years the company has been integral to the success of projects both big and small in Baltimore and beyond, connecting people, homes, schools and businesses with the highest quality roadways, highways and streetscapes. “In just the last three years, M. Luis hasmanufactured and paved more than 750,000 tons of asphalt throughout Maryland,” measures Natalia. “We serve as an economic engine for the region, ready to build roads and so much more for the next generation.”
Connecting business to community and conquering mountains
Many firms say they are invested in promoting strong, vibrant communities, but M. Luis really stands behind this commitment. “Our employees log thousands of volunteer hours every year and the corporation financially supports many worthy causes, because we’re truly passionate about our ability to improve the lives of the communities we serve,” says Natalia.
From serving on the Beauvoir, National Cathedral Elementary School board to the Maryland Minority Contractors Association to the Associated Builders and Contractors, The River School, School of the World, Ayenda Foundation and more, M. Luis lends its time and support to many community organizations.
And M. Luis has reached its biggest goal yet November 2014 when Natalia and Cidalia summited Mount Kilimanjaro to raise $250,000 for the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C.
“Neither my sister nor I had done anything like this before,” shares Natalia. “The journey was about raising money for CNMC’s Fetal Medicine Institute but also to mark a victory over personal struggles.”
“Twelve years ago, after five in-utero surgeries, I lost my first son Joseph, unfortunately, our CNMC did not have the facilities to help us, so my husband and I went out of network to CHOP in Philadelphia for care,” Cidalia told the Huffington Post in an interview. “We went without obtaining permission from our insurance network, and came back to Washington without our son, with broken hearts, and with a huge medical bill. Hence my desire to raise substantial funds for a fetal monitoring system. Six more losses and cancer would tragically follow. However, we never lost hope, and in November 2009, Sophia came into our lives. Today, the world is a better place because she exists.”
Relying on each other for support and a family-like team at M. Luis, the sisters have learned they can conquer anything. More recently, M. Luis was recognized by the Baltimore Business Journal as one of the region’s Top 50 woman-owned businesses. Natalia and Cidalia have also donned the cover of Enterprising Women Magazine, not once, but twice -from March 2013 to June 2013, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 MBE and SmartCEO Circle of Excellence.
M. Luis Construction Co. Inc. is stronger today than it has ever been, as a testament to female leadership and the genuine difference connecting business to the community can make.
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