Thousands of clients each year will tell you that ACI Asphalt & Concrete Inc. is their first choice when it comes to all things asphalt and concrete pavement, a reputation backed by thirty seasons of delivering on projects of all sizes. Now, the focus goes beyond project quality to include a heightened level of safety as the company grows its capacity and footprint.
Established in 1993 by founder Jim Bebo, ACI is a multi-award-winning operation regarded for offering world-class service for the best value. With unmatched quality, performance, and professionalism, it has become a trusted name in the Minnesota and Wisconsin markets and this will continue to be the case as it embarks on a new era of success.
A company in transition
In July 2022, ACI was acquired by Soundcore, which formed ACI Holdings Group, LLC, and in January 2023 the newly formed company acquired ACS Asphalt Concrete Solutions Inc., another player in the asphalt and concrete market in Minnesota and Wisconsin that had an esteemed reputation. The result: “Two great companies merging into one,” says Justin Meyer, Safety Manager at ACI.
“They were a company in Blaine, Minnesota doing almost the exact same type of work we did. There were a lot of similarities.” It just made sense, he notes. This will be the first year that the two operations will function together under the ACI name.
ACS will be absorbed into ACI’s operations, adding to its capabilities, resources, and ability to deliver exceptional project results. Clients will get greater value and the same job well done that they have come to expect from ACI.
Further to growing its size and capability, ACI is committed to adopting new tools and technologies as they become available.
For instance, poly jacking is a new concrete repair method offered by ACI that uses polyurethane foam to raise and correct concrete slabs. The material is injected under the concrete slab, where the expansive properties of the material go to work.
“We can do non-invasive work, raising and leveling concrete pads,” Meyer says. This is particularly useful where the ground has settled or lifted over the years. In colder climates like the Minnesota one where ACI is based, frost is a major cause of unwanted settling or buckling and now there is a handy solution.
“It’s very useful in residential areas where they don’t want to redo the whole sidewalk, but they need to fix it because they have upheaving here with all of the frost,” says Meyer. “It’s a good tool and we’re starting to push that to customers.”
Built on trust
Just like trust from customers who have come to depend on ACI for quality work, service, and professionalism, trust within the operations has been an important aspect of the company’s success and is essential to supporting it through this current merger.
Meyer personally knows the insecurity and skepticism that accompanies mergers, and he is working hard to put the team at ACI at ease, making clear, and demonstrating by his actions, that their best interests are protected in the process.
“They’re looking forward to having a structure, reporting systems, and things like that, but at the same time, they’re nervous about having somebody in safety and being watched, and what’s going to happen if they are going to be disciplined out there—how is that new safety person going to work?”
“The commitment is top-down from our President, our CEO, our Director of HR,” he says. “They met with as many crew members as they could individually to see what their concerns were. They already started that foundation for me and now I can go further.”
Since Meyer is the first full-time safety professional for ACI (and ACS), much effort has gone into ensuring that the team members trust him and his approach to safety, an important part of the adoption of a new safety program or culture.
He notes, “I’ve talked to the crew members about that, explaining my philosophies and how I operate, and now that they know who I am and what I’m about we can have good conversations about where we take safety from here. So, my big challenge is, let’s take this to the next step.”
By building a bond with the crew based on commitment to people and their safety, his goal is to ensure everyone returns home safely at the end of each day and this, in turn, has created a buy-in from team members company-wide.
This buy-in starts with the institution of a strong feedback loop and reporting system backed by a commitment to take concerns seriously. There is also a greater emphasis on on-time reporting and near-miss reporting to get an accurate snapshot of safety performance.
So far, Meyer sees safety on every worksite he visits. “The guys in the field are very committed to safety. The crews actually care about their safety and the other crews, the other guys and their safety, and what they’re doing out there, so there’s good commitment from the ground up,” he says.
The crew not only take pride in themselves but also in the collective work they do. A large part of that is knowing that a safe job site is the first step of a job well done and will reflect in the company’s experience modification rating (EMR).
When EMR and accident rates are low, the workforce can be better focused on the performance of their craft on site. From the basics of safety to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to maintaining a safe worksite, ACI is about more than a job well done; there is a reputation of thirty years to be upheld.
Meyer is taking his passion for safety and infusing the company culture with that same level of enthusiasm. He has become a constant presence and voice for the crew members when it comes to safety on the worksite, and his safety initiatives are backed wholeheartedly by the company’s leadership.
Another aspect of Meyer’s work is setting the stage for an expanded safety program he can scale with the company as it grows. Once ACI and ACS are operating as a single entity, there will naturally be future opportunities for expansion which means the present safety program forms the safety blueprint from which the company’s success will spring unimpeded.
For Meyer, the goal is, “being able to refine this merger and then streamlining it in another company, making it better and making it smoother; learning from our mistakes and learning from our lessons with this one and getting them vested sooner. That will be a big priority.”
In the meantime, Meyer, who is new to the sector, hopes to learn how to do every job found on a worksite to better understand the ins and outs of what ACI does, and through this inclusive lens develop a safety program that leads the way. He says, “I want to know what they go through. I want to know what they see when they are out there; what their mindset is,” which will better enable him to anticipate an entire company’s needs, delivering an intuitive safety program that will stand the test of time.