The money was supposed to be for college. But Artie Allen had other plans for the cash. At age 21, Artie took his college savings and launched his own company: A.W.A. Contracting Co., Inc. He has no regrets.
Thirty-one years later, the company has 22 employees and specializes in road maintenance and DOT projects for a handful of counties in the St. Augustine, Florida, area. The crew takes on 130 to 150 projects per year, including bridge decks, underground stormwater pipes, sidewalk updates, box culvert jobs and more.
“We’re always on call – 24/7,” Artie says. “We do safety first, quality always. The safety is protecting the neighborhoods from our work area. The quality is that we do everything right the first time, and we have no come-backs.”
During the Great Recession, A.W.A. Contracting had to reduce its crew from 63 employees to 12. But the company survived.
“We managed through it, and now we’re putting it all back together,” Artie says. “We had two major jobs that really carried us through those three years and let us pay all of our equipment off. That’s how we were able to survive through 2009 until three years ago. Everything was paid for – I bought no equipment, no trucks.”
Fast forward to 2018, when a sales specialist at Bobcat of Jacksonville convinced Artie to demo a Doosan DL220-5 wheel loader.
“We liked the visibility out of it, and the guys seemed to like it in the field,” Artie says.
That one Doosan machine turned into three more: a DX350LC-5 excavator, a DX140LC-5 excavator and another DL220-5 wheel loader.
“What really sold me on the excavators is the Doosan machine has great visibility out the back, where the new Caterpillar [excavators] do not,” Artie says. “Good service from the dealer is very important. 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.”
The fleet of Doosan equipment has been lending some muscle to the company’s latest project: a 2,600-foot waterline job in East Palatka, Florida.
“It’s a 16-inch watermain for potential subdivisions in the future,” Artie says. “That DX350LC-5 is perfect for digging a trench for laying the pipe and everything. We’re running elevation at about 48 inches. And we’re using both loaders on the job for the section pipes with gate valves and everything.”
The crew will be using the excavator with a lift eye to place the pipe into the trench, which runs alongside State Road 207 toward the city of St. Augustine.
“The DL220 wheel loader works really well with the pipe crews,” Artie says. “It’s the right-size machine for getting whatever you need. We stick mainly to pipe lifting, carrying and laying.”
Artie says the equipment has allowed the company to offer additional services and make sure jobs are done right the first time.
“They’re orange; everybody sees them,” Artie says. “They’ve given us a boost in the company and let us expand a little bit. Owning the jobs 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 do. We see it as ours. We’re proud to say that we did that.”
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