published on February 12, 2016 - 8:43 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Outback Materials is putting the finishing touches on its new $3-million concrete batch plant in northwest Fresno and Curtis Lovett, the company’s owner, expects the facility to be open for business early next month.

Outback Materials already operates five batch plants in the Valley and will hire as many as 25 workers to staff the new Fresno plant.

The company’s entry into the Fresno marketplace comes after it won a contract to supply concrete for the initial segment of the bullet train project.

As a Certified Small Business, Lovett said Outback secured the bullet train contract, in part, because the Rail Authority is required to work with smaller, local and minority-owned businesses. “We’re a small business but the High-Speed Rail contract has given us the opportunity to come into Fresno and compete with the large multi-nationals,” he said.

Although Outback’s customers include the California Department of Transportation, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service as well as companies like Fresno Concrete, Don Russell Construction and Airport Specialty Products, Lovett said his company’s bread and butter continues to be smaller, custom and single-truck orders.

“We serve residential, commercial and do-it-yourself customers and are really focused on providing a level of service reserved for larger customers to the smaller guys and some of the local companies and contractors doing smaller projects and backyard work,” Lovett said.

Lovett’s family has been in the concrete business for three generations. His grandfather, Peter Stodola, was a concrete finisher in Canada who founded his own company supplying cement to homebuilders in Saskatoon.

David Lovett, Curtis’s father, spent more than 30 years working as chief operating officer for a large multi-national concrete company.

Before moving back to the Valley and purchasing Outback Materials in 2004 from its founders, Nick Goldman and Dennis Flammang, Lovett worked as a manager for Standard Concrete Products in Southern California, which is owned by Heidelberg Cement, a large German corporation.

In business since 1968, Outback started in the Bass Lake as Corral Ready Mix and for nearly 50 years has specialized in supplying concrete, aggregate, rock and sand to customers in the foothill and mountain regions around the Central Valley.

Today, the company operates batch plants in Auberry, Friant, Mariposa, Oakhurst and O’Neals — and has about 50 employees. The company’s business office is located in Coarsegold.

Many of the foundations for Granville Homes new houses in Shaver Lake were poured with Outback Materials concrete.

So were the chair lift towers at China Peak.

“We’ve been battle-tested in the mountains,” Lovett said. “Our drivers know how to operate on all roads and in challenging conditions.”

“We’re excited about coming into Fresno,” he added. “I think we are to be able to be much more flexible and responsive to what our customers need.”

Outback’s new Fresno facility is located on a 7-acre parcel just off Bullard Avenue at 5829 N. Golden State Blvd.

The plant will be capable of producing 30 truckloads an hour and Lovett just spent another $3 million to purchase 18 new mixer trucks to service it.

The Fresno facility has also been designed to be environmentally friendly. Lovett said his central mix plant produces concrete that is “more consistent — and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions because we’re mixing in a mixer instead of a truck. That reduces the need for trucks to be idling so much.”

Michael Dunnagan, Outback’s Fresno plant manager, said the company also plans to recycle all of its processed water, capturing it in a 14,000-gallon slurry tank for future re-use.

“And we can expand the size of the tank from there if we see the need,” Dunnagan added.

Lovett is also in the process of purchasing a $50,000 CarbonCure system, which injects carbon dioxide into the concrete so that the gas binds with particles of cement to make them stronger — and reduces the company’s overall carbon footprint.

According to its website, CarbonCure “retrofits concrete plants with a technology that recycles waste carbon dioxide to make affordable, greener concrete products.”

“The system also allows you to reduce the total amount of cement needed,” Lovett said.

A ribbon cutting and open house for the new batch plant is scheduled for March 11.

“We’re actually one of the last family-owned businesses of its kind in the area,” Lovett said. “Most Ready Mix companies are now owned and operated by multi-national corporations.”

Lovett said his move into the Valley was inspired, in part, by his grandfather. “I really wanted to own my own business and be able to make decisions that are best for my customers and the local business community instead of getting my directions from some manager in another country,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to deliver that personal touch and do things for your customers and employees,” Lovett added. “We’re all about giving the customers what they want. We’re in a better position to do that than the larger corporations.”

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