Oil and gas pipeline specialist Latex Construction of Conyers, GA separates itself from the competition in a very measurable way – by devoting full attention to one job at a time whenever possible.
“I tell our clients we aren’t a company that wants three or four major projects going at the same time. Our specialty is to go out and do one large job and we’ll devote our entire company to that one project,” says company President and Civil Engineer Dave Stotz, whose vast industry experience includes a stretch working the Alaska Pipeline back in 1979 with one year in Prudhoe Bay.
“Our goal is for clients to have a more personal relationship with the company and to know they have somebody dedicated to them,” adds Manager of Business Development Eddie Davis, with the company since 2001.
Established in 1946, the company name mixes the abbreviations of the home states – Louisiana (LA) and Texas (TEX) – of the original owners. “William Honey Sr. worked for them and opened a branch office in Atlanta. Over the years he moved the entire company to Atlanta and it’s always been family-owned,” says Stotz, a Past President and current board member of the Pipeline Contractors Association.
Bill Honey is owner and CEO of what is now the largest family-owned pipeline contractor in the United States. “We were the third but the two largest were recently bought out,” says Stotz. “We’re either a big little company or little big company.” Latex is licensed to operate in 37 states, has averaged $200 million in gross revenue each of the last several years and maintains a full-time staff of 30.
Key to the company’s stability during the recession is the fact each job it undertakes will have at least 80 percent of company-owned equipment on it and maintenance is performed in-house. “Fortunately we have had three good years in a row. It’s a bit slow right now but since we own our equipment and our warehouse sites, we’ve been able to ride it through better than some of our competitors,” Stotz explains – without staff reductions.
Latex recently completed a project in Lake Charles, LA for Kinder Morgan that proved logistically challenging on a number of levels and required 26 horizontal directional drills. The first 35 miles traversed either marsh or water, including 17 miles of shallow water across Lake Sabine. Project staging was accomplished with barges, tugs and crew boats.
“There was just no way to access it without a boat or barge and it sometimes took people an hour to get out to the site just to start working,” Davis says. The remainder of the 132-mile installation of 42-inch pipeline involved conventional land lay techniques.
Projects completed in 2008 included 104 miles of 42-inch pipe for Kinder Morgan in Kansas ; 30 miles of36-inch and 30-inch pipeline for Panhandle Eastern, in Indiana and Illinois ; and 11.5 miles of 36-inch pipeline for Florida Gas Transmission in Coral Springs, FL along the Florida Turnpike.
The company’s rolling equipment includes bulldozers, backhoes, large excavators and sideboom tractors unique to the industry that place pipe ranging from six to 42 inches in diameter that is bent in the field to fit the local terrain. Latex typically sets up a temporary warehouse facility on out-of-state sites then breaks it down upon project completion.
“We’re also fortunate to have our own trucking company, Vesco Specialized Carriers. They do all of our heavy hauling and run up to 13 axles long. They do some very big work and are available to others when we’re not using them,” says Davis.
Environmentally sustainable construction practices have impacted the industry to the point that, Stotz says, “It’s now about 20 percent of the cost of every project that’s passed on to the consumer. We have very strict guidelines. Since 1995, most states have pretty well adopted national guidelines, i.e. FERC.”
The company maintains a crew dedicated solely to addressing environmental issues. “It requires constant education and training to stay up to date,” Davis says.
Davis has an extensive safety background and says safety is a priority that requires extensive re-training of veteran workers entrenched in old practices. “That’s a big challenge, getting them to change and take ownership of safety. The younger guys are usually no worries. Working with large equipment and large pipe, there are a lot of dynamics going on. There are 20–30 people on a crew working in close proximity and a lot going on, so you really have to watch. That’s a real challenge – there is nothing out there that is little and it’s a constant concern,” he says.
In recent years, owner companies have been using existing right of ways. Often times, Stotz says, “pipeline crews find themselves working around a lot of power lines, either inside or right alongside the right of way. They have to be extremely careful.”
Latex performs the majority of site preparation work, including the clearing of timber and on the rights of way. Horizontal directional drilling and non-destructive testing (X-rays) are sub-contracted out to a handful of trusted partners.
The company’s nod to technology comes in the form of Primavera used for project scheduling and tracking and new technology installed on equipment to warn when you are to close to overhead powerlines.
IN THE FUTURE
Where operations were once confined east of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Latex is now a respected national contractor and that’s just fine with Stotz.
“We’re not interested in overseas work. I would say we’re pretty well going to remain status quo. We want to grow a bit but we’re going to be a family-owned company and our bread and butter is still going to be here in the Southeast,” he concludes.
FACTS At A Glance:
Company Name: Latex Construction
CEO: Bill Honey
Operations: Latex is the largest family-owned pipeline contractor in the United States.
Revenue: $200 million