Replacing a parking lot for the Saydel Community School District in Iowa, JAS Concrete deployed a strong team, with the latest, most-technically advanced equipment available to deliver the project on time.
“We do well with our customers,” says Joe Free, President and Owner of JAS Concrete and K&J Excavating in Altoona, Iowa. “They know what we say is the truth. Most of our customers use us over and over again. We build strong relationships, because we do a quality job and show up when we say we will.”
The $170,000 Saydel project at the Cornell Elementary School parking lot entailed removing and replacing a 35,000-square-foot of parking lot, originally poured in the 1960s but overlaid with asphalt in the past.
JAS Concrete also added underground drainage, which required digging out 6 inches, then placing tile and 6 inches of clean rock. Because of the poor subgrade and not wanting to damage the new drainfields, Free decided to use multiple pumps. The company pumped the concrete using a 56-meter pump to a 47-meter pump and onto the area where the pour was taking place.
“To reach where we needed to go, we had to use two pumps,” Free says.
JAS used a Somero S-940 Laser Screed Machine from Star Equipment in Des Moines, Iowa. The machine is fast, reliable and can increase productivity, according to the manufacturer. Its removable head allows for easier transport and access to jobsites. The laser screed requires less overlap per pass with its offset screed head, and the quick pass feature leaves just enough concrete for a final pass with no rakers needed.
“It’s good for a narrow pour, when a boom screed would be cumbersome,” Free says. “This does it more efficiently.”
The Somero equipment uses Trimble total station with a 3D Profiler System for automatic, accurate pours on contoured sites, which allows JAS Concrete to slope the concrete and change elevations.
“We profile the job, get our points and elevations shot in, and it communicates with a total station, which is telling it the elevation,” Free explains. “It eliminates a lot of labor, doing the job by hand. We can put down more concrete faster with fewer people.”
Family-owned Star Equipment sells new and used equipment, rents heavy machinery and services equipment. The company, founded in 1968, offers service and sales throughout Iowa and parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, and Missouri. Star likes to say it sells productivity, offering the latest technology.
JAS Concrete’s fleet includes a curb and gutter paver, three laser screeds, six skid loaders, four excavators, bulldozers, dump trucks and a crane truck for moving concrete forms. On this job, the company also used a self-propelled Husqvarna Soft-Cut 4000 and a Husqvarna Soft-Cut X150 early entry saws connected to Husqvarna vacuums to suck up the concrete dust.
“It worked well,” Free says.
JAS Concrete owns most of its equipment but will rent for one-off jobs, needing not commonly used machines.
“I’ve known Bruce at Star Equipment since I was too young to work,” Free says. “Star brings out what we need right away. We get taken care of good, and the service department is great.”
JAS Concrete also uses Trimble grade control on one of its dozers. In addition, the company uses Topcon total stations for surveying and excavation.
“We’re not scared of the new technology,” Free says. “It’s the way everything is going. If you do not jump on the bandwagon, you get left behind. I still like my guys to know how to do it the old way. If on some jobs it does not make sense to use it, we can still pull out tape measures and string lines and do it the old way.”
Joe Free founded JAS Concrete in 2005, after working for other concrete and excavating companies.
“Coming off of a bad economy, with the upswing getting started, it was a good time to jump in,” Free says.
Free remains hands-on. Clients receive personalized attention from the owner on every job.
Many years ago as a child, Free began working with his grandfather, tagging along on jobs during the summers. He would sweep the shop and run some of the equipment. He says excavating and construction is in his blood.
“At 14, he started paying me,” Free recalls. At 18, he earned his commercial driver’s license.
Joe Free’s brother, Kurtis Free, also works at the company and runs the excavating business. Even so, the two brothers enjoy each other and talk football or other things when they get together outside of work.
Other key personnel include Jason O’Brien, a supervisor who handles the foundation work; Cindy Eamer, manages the office and takes care of accounting and payroll; and Chad Kirschbaum, Project Manager. About 50 people work for the JAS Concrete and K&J Excavating.
JAS Concrete works on both public and private work, including residential and commercial projects. The company recently finished an apartment complex and hotel. The company also works for a petroleum company, excavating for fuel tanks. The company has completed industrial projects without interrupting ongoing activities. It regularly performs site grading and preparation as well as installing foundations.
JAS Concrete and K&J Excavating often work together on projects, coordinating excavation, backfill, foundation and flatwork. Joe Free’s oldest son has expressed interest in the family-oriented businesses and moves equipment at the company’s headquarters and performs other duties.
“He and my other children need to decide for themselves what they want to do,” Free says.
The company works throughout Iowa and will occasionally work in surrounding states. JAS Concrete recently began installing helical piers, which provide support on hills. The pipes are driven as deep as 40 feet.
Looking ahead, Free plans to maintain the company’s niche. But if the right person came along, he said he would consider expansion.
“We have not met a challenge, we couldn’t handle,” Free says. “We know our limitations, but if we can get enough money for the job, we will figure out how to do it.”
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