Patriotism runs through the veins of Rich Carron. Carron served his country in Vietnam, while his dad served in World War II. His father in-law was in the Marine Corp for 27 years, which included two tours in Vietnam; and two nephews are in the Air Force in special operations.
Patriotism also runs throughout his company - Valley Paving - as his four newest Kenworth T800s feature paint schemes promoting the four military branches - Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Rich Carron with his four newest Kenworth T800s, which have paint schemes promoting from left, the Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army.
According to Carron, about a dozen of his Minneapolis-area company's 100 employees and owner operators have served in the military, "and when we're hiring, we absolutely look for military applications," he said. "We're one of 117 veteran-owned businesses in our state - Valley Paving is recognized for road and highway projects. It's wonderful that the state has a commitment to working with veterans. The Minnesota Department of Transportation gives veteran-owned prime contractors up to a six percent ($60,000 maximum) preference on state funded highway projects."
As one of the largest road pavers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Valley Paving operates 22 company Class 8 trucks, and complements it with up to 80 additional owner operators (depending upon demand), pulling belly dumps for its windrow paving operations. But, it wasn't always smooth sailing for Carron.
"After I came back from 18 months in Vietnam in 1969, I worked at a supermarket - the same one I had prior to my military service. But after a short stint, I decided I wanted to do something different," Carron recalled. "While driving home one day I stopped at a highway construction site and asked if they had any job openings. They did and I started the very next day."
After seven years and moving up to the position of foreman for the asphalt/paving company, Carron decided to start his own company. "But I went broke within the first year," he said. "I went back to my old company for two years before giving it another go."
At the age of 28, Carron said life was full of change as he tried once more to start a company. He got married and bought a house with a GI loan. But, what made the attempt a "second-time's-the-charm" was a trip to California. "I saw the wave of the future when it came to road building - windrow elevators," he said. "They weren't being used much in Minnesota, not at all within the metro area. I saw how fast they allowed roads to be built. So I started using this technology and our productivity went way up. We figured it out before others in this area, however soon after, the rest followed. But, it helped launch our business and increased our ability to tackle larger projects."
Growth for Valley Paving has been steady. "We've had controlled and increasing growth through the years, and continue to be one of the major players in the Twin Cities," said Carron. "Our road building season is just now about to start in Minnesota. Typically it runs from mid-April through Thanksgiving, but this year it's considerably later due to all the late snow we've had."
One of the largest projects coming up for Valley Paving is a 13-mile repaving stretch on Highway 95 that is estimated to use 100,000 tons of asphalt. "It's a three-month job and will keep us plenty busy coupled with other projects within the metro area." said Carron.
Since Carron uses his trucks till they drop, his preference this time around is Kenworths. "I have a 1994 Kenworth W900 with more than a million miles on the odometer," he said. "And, I've never had a problem with that truck and it's still running strong with a rebuilt engine we put in this spring. We've tried other trucks, but with high usage demand, and the need for dependability, we decided to go with Kenworth once more. I've been in this business long enough to know experimenting with unproven equipment, of any kind, will cost you more money in the long run. We're very excited to be putting these T800s to work and our drivers are chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel."
Equipped with Cummins ISX15 engines rated at 450 hp and driven through 10-speed transmissions, the trucks were purchased through Rihm Kenworth.
"Reliable equipment is such a critical thing for us, especially since we have a short working season," said Carron. "When we get contracts with governmental agencies, there are penalties attached -- if you can't get the work done as stated. Penalties are not cheap which makes us demand both good people and excellent equipment. For airport work, for example, fines can be as high as $5,000 per half hour. So, if you have a piece of equipment down, you not only lose money and pay penalties, you also may be answering to the public on the nightly news. For this company, we can't have that. It's why we're going with Kenworth. They've proven to me they'll hold up over the long haul."
Rich Carron, left, with his son, Brent Carron.
As for his new Kenworths and the military paint schemes? "They really showcase who we are and our values," said Carron.
The trucks stand out so much, and along with Valley Paving's story on being a veteran-owned state contractor, the local ABC affiliate in Minneapolis did a story on the company: http://kstp.com/news/stories/S2989845.shtml?cat=1
"Everyone here is very proud of our commitment, proud to show support to the retuning vets, and we encourage others to put veterans back to work," Carron said.
Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World's Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth's Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com. Kenworth is a PACCAR company.