Jackson — Since 1945 the bright yellow trucks with red lettering of Jackson Ready-Mix Concrete have been a familiar sight in Central Mississippi. GIs returning from World War II saw a tremendous need for building homes in the area and started the company, which operates under the umbrella of Delta Industries Inc. For a time the new company was affiliated with M.T. Reed Construction Company, a firm that is no longer in business.
According to president and CEO Dave Robison, the bulk of the company’s business for many years was in the Jackson area with 50 to 60 concrete trucks and four to five plants. “In the 1960s, the expansion into concrete blocks, pre-stressed beams and other masonry products began along with the addition of more plants,” he said. “In the 1990s, we grew outside the Jackson area and now we have plants all over the state and in Louisiana and Alabama.”
Jackson Ready-Mix Concrete has 32 plants, primarily located in Mississippi, and more than 300 employees. They run about 200 of those familiar trucks with the spinning drums but now those trucks, like other phases of the business, are computer controlled and are tracked with a global positioning system.
However, the time-honored mix of sand, gravel, water, cement and chemicals put into the truck to make cement is still dependable. Quality control has always been emphasized, and now a fully-equipped lab is utilized to evaluate mix designs and aggregates. Robison says the company is constantly striving to improve the delivery of ready mix concrete by maintaining a newer fleet of trucks.
“I look at the pictures on the wall of the trucks through the years and I know we have stability,” Robison said. “The philosophy remains the same, too. We are trying to maximize the value of the company to our shareholders. The relationship with the four groups involved — customers, employees, shareholders and vendors — has to be good for all to be successful, and it must be beneficial to all for the company to do the best job we can do.”
Robison, who’s been with the company since 1971, says the company’s longevity, stable workforce and commitment to service will continue to be the building blocks of success. Some family members of the original founders still serve on the board of directors.
Two of Jackson Ready-Mix Concrete’s three Gulf Coast plants were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Gulfport plant is running, and the Biloxi plant will be up soon, but it will take longer for the Hancock County facility to be back in operation. Additionally, the plant in Tylertown had wind damage.
Currently, the biggest problem facing the ready-mix concrete business is the rising cost of fuel and raw materials. “Fuel is a heavy cost, and we’re struggling to keep up,” Robison said. “The cost of cement has significantly increased and will continue to do so too. The four plants we buy from have already announced cost increases for 2006, and we must take that into account when we bid projects.”
Robison, an accounting graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, says the length of lead-time for bidding depends on the size of projects. That time span is farther out for large commercial projects. The company supplies the product but does not do construction.
He adds that Jackson Ready-Mix will try to contain costs as best it can and hope rising costs level off. “We will be as diligent as we can and work efficiently,” he said.
Soon he expects a building boom to begin in the coastal areas but has observed a slowdown in rural markets. Jackson Ready-Mix’s workforce remains stable and the company can utilize employees at different plants around the state.
“We do all concrete work from patios to high-rise buildings and bridges,” he said. “Probably commercial projects are the largest part of the business here in the Jackson area although home building has been strong. We have a real good mix of projects but are able to see the commercial ones out farther than residential.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.