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Tacoma asphalt company celebrates one-year anniversary of branch office

What started as an experiment with three people and a couple trucks last summer has blossomed into a bustling enterprise, as Tacoma asphalt company Rainier Asphalt & Concrete celebrates the one-year anniversary of its first-ever branch office in Tacoma.

“In some ways, it’s back to the beginning,” says owner Tom Merry, a Gig Harbor native. “This is where I started the business 17 years ago as a college student.”

The Tacoma office now has over 15 people, including a dedicated Project Manager and Account Manager, and offers its full suite of services including asphalt patching and paving, concrete, curbing, crack filling, seal coating, striping and drainage.

Tacoma asphalt contractor

Asphalt paving Tacoma

“We wanted to be better able serve our customers in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties,” says Merry, while noting that many of its regular customers have jobsites throughout the Puget Sound. This allows them to be more nimble in serving those clients, and also more price competitive because of reduced travel time and better vendor relationships.

Another benefit to the branch office has been to enhance its recruiting efforts.

“The demand for our services is very high right now, and one of our biggest challenges had been finding enough talented workers,” Merry says. “This has allowed us to recruit new areas that wouldn’t have been available to us before.”

Branch Manager Joe Garrison, who was born into the pavement business and himself has over 20 years of industry experience, has been instrumental in leading the effort.

“I am very proud of our Tacoma crew,” Garrison says. “They have worked hard to build a successful branch in a very short time.”

The company’s home office, in North Bend — around an hour away — continues to serve clients in King, Snohomish and Kittitas counties. The Tacoma office serves the communities of Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey in the south end, Puyallup, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Tukwila and Renton to the north, and Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Bremerton and Bainbridge Island to the west.

Underscoring the company’s commitment to this new branch office, in June it purchased the property where their new yard and offices sit.

“It’s pretty remarkable how successful this experiment has been,” Merry says. “It’s a testament to the dedication of our our employees. Now we’re thinking about the possibility of a third location in the near future.”

Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has been in business since August, 2000, has over 50 employees in peak season (including approximately 15 Tacoma asphalt employees) and services more than 1,200 individual jobs per year, which total around $10 million.

Rainier Asphalt & Concrete announces annual community gift of services

On the occasion of our company’s 10 year anniversary of being located in North Bend, we make a significant announcement of our intention to partner with the community (see letter below). If you’d like to submit an idea, please fill out the form located at the bottom of this page.

January 5, 2017

Kenneth Hearing, Mayor
City of North Bend
P.O. Box 896
North Bend, WA  98045

Mayor Hearing:

I wanted to share with you an initiative that our company, Rainier Asphalt & Concrete, will be launching this New Year that will involve our company providing an annual $20,000 gift-in-kind to the City of North Bend. But first a story:

Our company slogan is Your Trusted Partner. The idea of partnership is something that was first presented to us in the context of our sales efforts. We hired a consultant three years ago and he encouraged us to seek customers who wanted to act like and be treated like a partner — not just a customer. The results have been fabulous as our business has doubled in the last two years.

Because of the success in the sales arena, we decided to expand this concept to our relationship with our employees, and we have greatly expanded our health care and retirement benefits for our employees. This year we’re launching an incentive pay program that will involve every person in the organization. We also meet individually with each employee at least twice a year to check in and make sure their career trajectory and role with the company is moving in the right direction. I think if one would talk with any of our employees, they would tell you that their relationship with the company is one of a partner, not merely an employee.

Next we approached certain key vendors and asked how we could collaborate to help one another reach our shared goals. Again, we were amazed at how we were welcomed into a great dialogue and we have seen lots of progress with our vendor relationships.

About 18 months ago, we gave a small gift to the City in the form of some asphalt seal coating at Torguson Park. In some ways, you were doing us a favor because we had leftover material at the end of our season and we needed a place to put it. Nonetheless, this experience planted the seed of how we could do similar things in the future to be a blessing to our neighbors and community.

Therefore, today we would like to engage our city in partnership as we announce the beginning of an annual program where we will donate up to $20,000 of value of any of the services that we provide. We suggest taking proposals from the community and we will work with Public Works Director Mark Rigos or his designee to choose which project(s) to do each year and to arrange the orchestration of the work.

As you may know, we are an asphalt, concrete and pavement markings company. So the nature of the work could involve, but isn’t limited to: fixing trip hazards, fixing potholes, installing ADA (wheelchair ramps), installation of new sidewalks or paths, preventative pavement maintenance, traffic calming devices, pedestrian safety, etc.

We are passionate about what we do every day, and are excited how we can be involved in the community in this way. Longer term, we would like to lead efforts to encourage (and organize) other Valley businesses to follow suit with the services and talents that they have.

I look forward to your response and I suggest we meet to discuss how we can move this initiative forward early in this New Year.

Thank you,

Tom Merry

Benefits of Recycled Asphalt

Asphalt is the most recycled material in the world, measured by weight — approximately 75 million tons per year (or about twice as much as paper, glass, aluminum, and plastics combined.)

Despite this, there is a tremendous oversupply of recycled asphalt that is removed from roads, parking lots, and driveways when it’s repaired or replaced. Current technology allows a maximum of about 20% recycled asphalt to go back into new hot asphalt mix (pilot projects are trying to push it to 40%). So what happens with the other 80%?

We have been working with our suppliers to think of some creative ideas, both from a functional perspective and from an environmentally-conscious perspective, of how we can find end-of-life uses for this material that are not currently commonplace.

The potential applications for recycled asphalt to add value are vast. Any area that’s currently dirt or gravel that’s either a mud pit or full of potholes is a candidate for recycled asphalt — dirt parking lots, private roads or driveways, alleys, or pathways. It also greatly reduces the consumption of scarce resources such as fuel, equipment, hauling, and labor when compared with producing virgin materials for the same end-use applications.

There are sometimes misconceptions about what exactly recycled asphalt is. It’s appropriate to think of it more like gravel than like traditional asphalt. It’s a soft surface, not a hard surface. The excavated materials are ground up and reprocessed so there’s an appropriate mixture of large aggregates and small aggregates (or fines). This helps the material to bind together better. The presence of liquid asphalt from the old pavement (usually about 4-6%) also provides an element of cohesiveness that gravel is not going to have, especially when it’s applied in the hotter months and the oils can soften up a little, and then re-harden.

Fortunately, recycled asphalt can be applied using the same trucks, tools, equipment, and employees as traditional asphalt, so large quantities can be placed efficiently. Moreover, the material is much cheaper than virgin aggregates, so the end user can get a nice product very inexpensively.

An interesting side note is that placing recycled asphalt over large surface areas actually allows nature to continue running it’s course. Over time, tiny microbes will begin to eat away at the liquid asphalt materials and return it naturally back into the environment.

According to the Asphalt Institute, “the results of leachability tests show very low levels of leachable compounds, well below any current Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.” In fact, Washington and Oregon have more than 35 fish hatcheries with ponds that contain asphalt linings — an asphalt surface, plus an asphalt emulsion sealer. What’s more, many of the world’s water reservoirs built in the last century contain asphalt surfaces or linings.

The possibilities of recycled asphalt are also good for our company and our employees. We’re not bashful to announce that. As a seasonal business, we’re always looking for ways to extend our season as long as possible. This material can be placed in almost any kind of weather, as long as it’s not snowing. Our employees and their families certainly appreciate how this allows them to get solid paychecks throughout the winter.

Rainier Asphalt & Concrete strives to be an industry leader in trying to find creative ways to manage this product at the end of it’s life.

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