Young Entrepreneur, D.L. Smith Concrete & Design, Helps Smooth Streets of Norwalk
At an age when many boys are just starting think about a career path, Derek Smith of Norwalk, Ohio, was already running his own business. Smith was only 15 years old when he established D.L. Smith Concrete & Design in 2001. The home-schooled son of a concrete worker got his company off the ground by doing residential driveway jobs before he held a driver's license.
"My mom would take me to the rental company with a bucket of tools, and I'd jump in the truck with the guys delivering rental equipment to the job," Smith says. "They'd drop me off with a backhoe, and I'd have to get the job done by the end of the day to get a ride home."
Now an industry veteran at 29, Smith laughs at the memory of being a teenage business owner dependent on Mom for a lift to work. He has grown D.L. Smith Concrete & Design into a 12-person paving and excavating operation that handles a wide variety of projects including concrete flatwork, sidewalks, driveways, floors, curbs, steps, curb ramps and excavation.
Fixing Community Streets
D.L. Smith Concrete & Design has earned a reputation for high-quality commercial and residential work around Norwalk, a leafy north-central Ohio city of 17,000 people. One important project the company recently completed involved fixing eight deteriorating streets for the Norwalk public works department's 2015 Street Resurfacing & Concrete Repair Program.
Under the program, the city of Norwalk uses annual inspections and independent third party scoring to identify and prioritize streets to repair. Funding for the program comes from a one-quarter percent income tax which generates $300,000 worth of resurfacing annually, according to the city's website. The program usually sees 10 to 15 streets resurfaced in one season.
Street resurfacing and concrete repair projects are just one part of Norwalk's annual Public Works Department (PWD) upkeep program. The PWD also upgrades around 1-mile of sidewalks and applies for a Community Development Block Grant from the federal government. They are using this year's funds to update a sewer separation system.
"With a $300,000 budget, repairing pieces of a street instead of replacing the whole thing gives the city a bigger bang for their buck," Smith says. "This year the program involves 3,000 square yards of concrete repair, with most of the streets in an urban residential setting. We're doing joint repair and patches on streets up to 40 years old to help the city extend their life."
Equipment Helps Minimize Traffic Disruptions
Smith says the major challenge his team faced on the month-long project was ensuring safe traffic flow. The need to minimize traffic disruptions and the duration of street closures heightened the importance of efficient concrete drilling.
For his company's drilling needs, Smith relies on equipment from Mansfield, Ohio-based Minnich Manufacturing, an industry leader in dowel-pin drills, concrete paving vibrators and vibrator monitoring systems. The D.L. Smith Concrete & Design crew used the Minnich A-2V Equipment-Mounted Drill and Minnich A-1-36 On-Grade Drill on the Norwalk Public Works project.
According to Smith, the crew drilled approximately 1,000 holes (8 inches deep and 2 inches in diameter) with the Minnich A-2V Drill and 3,000 holes (8 inches deep and 1-inch in diameter) with the Minnich A-1-36 Drill. The Minnich A-2V Drill is powered by a compressor and mounted to the counter-weight of the carrier, offering a self-contained and highly mobile solution. The A-1-36 drill is ideal for small spaces and provides a more efficient alternative to electric hammer drills.
"We mounted the A-2V to a skid steer to quickly drill for pulling slabs with a slab puller, and we used the A-1-36 to drill holes in three seconds that would've taken two or three minutes with an electric hammer drill," Smith says. "Drilling is where all the time is in a project like this, but with the Minnich drills working so fast, we got the job done right and on time. That efficiency was vital for the community to maintain the flow of traffic and keep everything safer."
Taking Good Advice
Smith says he couldn't have competed for the Norwalk street repair job in the early days of his business. As a cost-conscious young owner, Smith resisted acquiring the dowel-pin drills he needed to earn more jobs. Eventually, the young entrepreneur heeded his father's wisdom, and it proved to be a turning point for Smith's fledgling company.
"A couple years in my dad told me, "˜A dowel-pin drill is the best thing you could buy,'" Smith says. "I listened to him, and I'm glad I did. The Minnich tools are vital to what we do. If we didn't have them, I don't think we'd be doing pavement repair like this Norwalk project. These drills put you into a level playing field with everybody else. It's definitely the difference between getting a job and not getting it. The drills have paid for themselves."