BUSINESS: A.W.A. Contracting, Inc.
IN BUSINESS SINCE: 1987
LOCATION: Jacksonville/St. Augustine, Florida
DOOSAN MACHINES: DX350LC-5, DX140LC-5 and DX140LCR-5 excavators, DL220-5 wheel loaders (two)
DOOSAN DEALER: Bobcat of Jacksonville
St. Augustine, Florida, is lovingly known as The Ancient City. Residents enjoy a richly cultivated historic district and significant landmarks. It has maintained its integrity and looks almost identical to the way it did 30 years ago – with the help of people like Arthur “Artie” Allen and his crew at A.W.A. Contracting, Inc.
“We try to keep the city looking like it was originally built,” says Artie Allen, owner of A.W.A. Contracting. “We complete a lot of maintenance contracts for St. Johns County, Putnam County and Marion County, among others. This includes road repairs after major storms, DOT fast-track jobs, minor bridge decks, box culverts and installing underground utilities. We’re on call 24/7.”
Artie had an interest in construction from an early age, inspired by his father’s work for the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). He started out as an inspector while his father was still working, but quickly realized his passion was elsewhere.
“My dad was a state engineer and I kind of liked what he was doing; I just didn’t want to be an engineer,” Artie says. “I wanted to build things. I took my college money and what little bit we had back then and started my own company.”
That was more than 30 years ago, when Artie was only 21 years old. Today, his company employs 22 individuals who all live by the same mantra: “Safety first, quality always.”
OWNING THE WORK
With his strong ties to the Florida DOT, it was a natural fit for Artie to take on maintenance contracts with various counties across northeastern Florida. While on a job, Artie and his crew take great pride in ensuring the safety of the people who live in the neighborhoods they’re working in. They also firmly believe in doing the work right the first time. As a former inspector, Artie holds his crew accountable.
“Owning the job just means you’re putting a part of you out there in that neighborhood or commercial site, and you want to do the best you can. We see it as ours,” Artie says. “When the county does their final inspection and they accept it, we’re proud to say that we did that. That’s why we like doing things right the first time.”
In order to maintain such high standards, A.W.A. Contracting requires powerful, reliable equipment that is capable of operating in close proximity to residential homes. Around two years ago, Artie was in the market to add to his traditionally Caterpillar-filled fleet. Then Bobcat of Jacksonville stepped in and gently encouraged Artie to demo a piece of Doosan® equipment.
“He had to work pretty hard on me to demo one because I’ve always been a Caterpillar guy,” Artie says. “But we just figured we’d give it a try. What really sold me on the excavators is that Doosan has great visibility out of the back.”
TRYING NEW THINGS
A.W.A. Contracting owns about 23 pieces of equipment across a variety of brands. Artie purchased his first Doosan excavator – a DX140LC-5 – while on a piping job. Not long after, he added two DL220-5 wheel loaders and DX350LC-5 and DX140LCR-5 excavators with the help of Bobcat of Jacksonville.
“Good service from the dealer is very important,” Artie says. “Bobcat of Jacksonville is good on a personal note and a business note. We know the owners and the salesmen. They’re very good to us.”
His DX350LC-5 proved instrumental in a 60-inch pipe redo, where his company completely replaced failing stormwater pipes from the 1970s. This is an ongoing problem many communities around the United States are dealing with now or will in the near future. By 2020, the average age of these underground pipes will hit 45 years, closing in on the end of their useful life. But with the help of companies like A.W.A. Contracting, many of these projects are being taken care of quickly and efficiently.
“The DX350LC-5 gives us the movability and the strength that we need to accomplish what we’re doing,” Artie says. “They’ve given our company a boost and let us expand a little bit and go to other counties, so we’ve been able to put Doosan equipment on those jobs.”
FULL SPEED AHEAD
Despite owning and operating a successful construction business, Artie hasn’t let other passion projects slow down. In fact, he’s racing towards the finish line – literally. Artie and his brothers first discovered their love for the fast lane as teenagers.
“We went to local drag strips, BMX bike racing and motocross racing,” Artie says. “When you’re 18, your dad didn’t get to tell you no!” Artie took a breather from racing when he first started A.W.A. Contracting, but he discovered offshore boat racing in his late 20s. He raced his boat, Liquid Sugar, for two years before committing himself to drag racing. He and his brothers built their first dragster and hit the ground running. They’ve built more cars from scratch and also customized both new and used cars. Today, Artie has custom dragsters built for him in Indianapolis.
“These are 260- to 275-mile-an-hour cars,” Artie says. “You can run nitro and blown alcohol gas, and they can compete against each other. I also got my daughters involved with junior racing, and that’s been a lot of fun with them.”
Artie and his brothers avidly raced up until 2007, but they had to take a break when the 2008 recession hit, which had an especially hard impact on Florida.
“Things got a little tough there for the construction industry, so we wouldn’t be out racing and spending a lot of money,” Artie says. “We went from about 63 employees to about 12. But we managed through it, and now we’re pulling it all back together.”
Artie credits his successful rebound to selective spending and ensuring his debts were paid. In recent years, it’s been common for A.W.A. Contracting to complete anywhere from 130 to 150 jobs in a year. But, from 2005 to the end of 2008, that number had dwindled to about 50. “We had two major jobs that really carried us through those three years and let us pay all of our equipment off,” Artie says. “That’s how we were able to survive from 2009 until three years ago. Everything was paid for. I bought no equipment, no trucks. We just kept everything going and got what we got and made the best of it.”
Artie and his team overcame the struggle and have set themselves up for future success. Using Doosan equipment, they’ll continue to keep northeastern Florida beautifully maintained with every project.
COMFORT IS KEY
In the construction industry, it’s not unusual to be operating equipment for 10 hours at a time. Which is why Artie Allen, owner of A.W.A. Contracting, Inc., and his crew value both comfort and quality when it comes to the equipment they choose.
“The Doosan excavator is more comfortable to me,” Artie says. “And it has an air ride seat rather than an adjustable spring ride. It’s the little quirks that the guys like. You’re in that thing 10 hours a day – you want to be as comfortable as you can.”