Procon, Inc. is a leading concrete contractor specializing in commercial, industrial, government, and education projects. Procon provides turn-key concrete construction services, and specializes in formwork, flatwork, tilt-up, concrete frames, and concrete paving.
Procon prides itself on offering turn-key concrete construction services. The company’s comprehensive services set it apart from the competition. “Some companies do just one facet of the concrete construction; for example, they might just do formwork or flatwork. When we bid on a job, we want to do everything related to concrete on that job,” says J.T. Rutrough, Director of Estimating and Finance.
Headquartered in Rocky Mount, Virginia, Procon also has offices in Staunton, Virginia and Greensboro, North Carolina. The company serves Virginia and North Carolina, as well as areas of Tennessee and West Virginia.
Founded by Aaron Long in 2002, Procon has 16 years of experience in concrete construction. The company initially specialized in residential projects, expanding its services in 2006 to include commercial and industrial projects. In 2012 Procon discontinued its residential work to focus exclusively on commercial and industrial projects. “When the company started, it was just one person; today, we have over 200 employees and operate three offices in Virginia and North Carolina, and we have over $30 million in revenue,” Rutrough says.
What has driven Procon’s rapid growth? According to President and Founder Aaron Long, Procon’s success is a result of the company’s commitment to the safety and well-being of its valued employees, investments in technology, and strong values.
“Safety is one of our core values here at Procon. We don’t say safety is a priority, because priorities can change; if a project schedule gets tight, it’s easy for safety to get pushed to the side. That’s why we say safety is a value, because it’s something we do every day, no matter what else is going on. The safety and well-being of our colleagues is the most important thing to us,” Long says. Safety is deeply ingrained in the company’s culture and its daily operations. “Every day we have pre-task planning prior to going to work, when we discuss the safety hazards we may encounter that day and how we’re going to address them to make sure nobody is hurt. Every employee in the company also does pre-shift stretch and flex exercises,” Long says.
“Our motto for safety is ‘Step Safe,” which stands for Safety Takes Each Person – Smart, Alert, Focused and Educated,” Rutrough says. “We hold each individual accountable and provide the safety training they need.” Procon invests heavily in safety training for all employees, providing training sessions throughout the year. The company requires all of its supervisors to complete OSHA 30 hour training, and requires OSHA 10 hour training for all field employees.
Procon’s rigorous safety program has garnered countless industry awards. Among the accolades the company has received is the 2014 W. Burr Bennett Award for Safety Excellence from the American Society of Concrete Contractors, which recognizes one specialty contractor each year for its outstanding commitment to safety.
Procon also leverages industry-leading technologies to save time and cost at each stage of its projects. Tekla building information modeling (BIM) software allows Procon to virtually build each project before starting work. As project timelines are accelerated, designers aren’t always given enough time to design a project; as a result, drawings occasionally contain incorrect or missing information. Modeling each project allows Procon to identify and remedy 90 to 95 percent of these issues before starting work on the job. “Under the old way of doing things, [a contractor] would start working on a job, and if a problem came up they would have to stop work and involve the design team to figure out the problem. This software allows us to identify those issues and work with the design team to remedy them before we ever get to the job site. That allows us to accelerate our timeline on the jobsite,” Long says.
Tekla software streamlines communication with Procon’s trade partners and employees in the field. “We are able to share the model with our in-house layout engineers, our formwork suppliers, our rebar suppliers, and other trade partners, to make sure that we’re all building the same building,” says Long. The software also enables Procon to better communicate project details to its employees in the field by generating simplified drawings in-house. “It used to be that the engineer or design team would create drawings, and then we would generate our own drawings, and then our rebar supplier would have to generate its own drawings. Now, everything is built from the model, so the accuracy and coordination of the project are much better. Having the detailed information from the model allows [our vendors and trade partners] to give us quicker turnaround times.” This, in turn, allows Procon to accelerate its timelines, dramatically increasing jobsite productivity.
Procon also uses Trimble’s Robotic Total Station (RTS), which allows a single person to perform most layout tasks. The Robotic Total Station receives data directly from the Tekla model. “A lot of contractors still do this the old way, but the Robotic Total Station allows us to remove most of the human error that can occur, which really improves the accuracy of the layout, and allows us to be much more efficient in the field as well,” says Long.
Managing projects across three offices and numerous job sites can be challenging, but technologies such as Fieldwire, Citrix ShareFile, GoToMeeting, AboutTime and Trimble Connect allow Procon to share information efficiently across all of its locations and projects. “We’re virtually paperless, from plans and specifications, to all of our schedule and budget information; it allows us to seamlessly share that information across all offices and job sites,” Long says.
Procon believes that its single greatest competitive advantage is its employees. “We have all these technologies, but any company can buy the same technology we have. The people who operate our technology – whether it’s creating the models, building forms, or placing concrete – really make us different from our competitors. We really believe that good employees are the essence of a successful company,” says Long. Procon goes above and beyond to attract and retain talented employees, offering competitive compensation and benefits. “In addition, we are committed to treating our employees fairly and with respect.”
Procon’s employees are united by the core values that drive the company’s work. Aaron Long spoke about each of those values and what they mean to the company:
• Integrity: “Integrity, to us, is about being trustworthy and honest. Good communication is critical to success, and so it’s really important to us as a company.”
• Safety: “Safety is a value to us; it’s not something that we only do sometimes. It’s something that we’re going to do no matter what.”
• Moral Character: “Good character is so important to us. When we’re hiring new people, we want people who have strong moral character and a good attitude; if they don’t have experience in our area, then we’re willing to train them in the skills that we need. We believe that skills can be trained, but moral character is a hard thing to train. It’s an important part of our culture and who we are as a company.”
• Quality: “Quality is a given; it’s expected on all of our jobs. We want to make sure all the work that we’re doing would satisfy any customer, or any demand.”
• Timeliness: “We could use this word in a lot of different ways. From showing up to client meetings on time, to arriving at the jobsite on time, to responding to calls and emails in a timely manner, timeliness is something that is important to us at all levels of the organization.”
Procon, like many companies across the construction industry, faces a shortage of qualified laborers. The shortage has led to rapid wage escalation. “That creates a challenge because we’re bidding on projects now that will not be completed for another year or two, and we see a ten plus percent increase in labor costs by the time the project is done,” says Rutrough.
Due to a number of complex factors, the concrete construction industry is also experiencing rapid material price escalation. “The economy has been good for construction, so prices are rapidly rising, although there are other factors as well. Uncertainty around tariffs and other factors has been driving the rapid material price inflation. We expect to see inflation, but this price escalation is well outside of the normal inflation we’ve experienced in the past,” Long says.
Despite these challenges, Long anticipates that Procon will continue to grow. “Since 2012, we grew from $9 million in sales to $30 million. We’ve experienced strong growth and we’re always looking for profitable opportunities for future growth. Construction is a cyclical business and so our growth plans, while we have them, are always a bit dependent on what the market gives us. The overall economy and the construction market are robust in the area we’re in, and we’re looking at other markets and other market segments as well,” says Long.