MAA Construction Sets Their Foundation in the Bakken
Concrete contractor MAA Construction traded in their hotel reward points and traveling work schedule for a home in the Bakken and the comfort of a familiar pillow each night. The company is going on their sixth year of building their business in the Williston Basin.
A Concrete History
Mike Aldrich has been in concrete construction for as long as he can remember, stretching back to 1985. He eventually started MAA Construction in central Oregon and has since provided nearly every sort of concrete construction service including commercial, residential, water structures, bridges and even decorative concrete.
Over the years, the company grew and evolved with the market and followed work up and down the west coast as well as Arizona performing work for private and public-sector clients.
Seeking a Change
The work required a lot of travel which grew old for Mike and his wife Suzie so they decided to look for a change. Over the Thanksgiving dinner table in 2010, a friend described to them all the activity going on in Williston, North Dakota and the Bakken where he was working in construction.
“Let’s take a road trip,” Mike said to his son. The two packed up the truck and trailer and headed to North Dakota. They were among those early arrivals discovering a housing shortage and found themselves setting up their trailer in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
After a whirlwind tour of the region, the duo returned to Oregon to inform Suzie that “It’s boomin’.” They decided to pursue it further.
A Decision and Commitment
Mike spent the next year beating the streets finding concrete jobs, establishing relationships, and building momentum. “After the first year,” relates Suzie “We determined that this was not like the boom and bust of the 80’s, that this is going to last.”
“We considered commuting but said ‘No way’,” continued Suzie. “We want to be home each night.” The other factor that solidified their decision was the people. Coming from a small town, the area felt familiar, comfortable, and welcoming. The two decided to establish a permanent presence.
Making the move a reality was as hard as making the decision to move. The couple scoured the area for a place to live making numerous offers in Williston, North Dakota and Sidney, Montana. They finally received an acceptance in Sidney and have been living there since.
A Growing Business
The past six years have been an evolution in business development through the frenzy of the boom and the contraction of the slowdown.
The company grew rapidly through the boom times, expanding services, adding employees, and investing in equipment. Their work included structural foundations, slab and flatwork, parking lots, curb and gutters, roads, and white paving.
MAA Construction has worked on numerous private and public projects including the TARO Energy Building, Williams County Highway Complex, the new Train ND facility, the Four Bears Casino Event Center and road paving projects among others.
MAA grew to meet demand and the needs of clients, expanding services requiring additional skill sets and crews. The company also invested in additional equipment to meet their clients’ needs including curb and gutter equipment and a large power screed. They now have their own bonding capability, a valuable and hard-to-find feature among sub-contractors in the Bakken region.
A slowdown in the energy industry has been a welcomed event for the company. “It’s just not as frenzied, yet there is still plenty of work to do,” said Suzie. “There is a lot of catching up to do and we’re still optimistic that this is not a ‘bust’ but a shift to a more sustainable pace of development.”
As the slowdown began to set in, Suzie could see the market changes reflected in the bid packets and project plans for the forthcoming year or two. “You have to be aware of market changes and adjust accordingly,” stated Suzie. “You have to be able to pivot.”
MAA’s pivot was focus. The company narrowed their focus to project types and clients with the greatest demand that matched a group of core services. It enabled the company to retain key skill sets and divest others that wouldn’t be fully utilized.
This has allowed the company to reduce and consolidate office and shop space as well as other expense areas.
Focused on People
The number of employees has dropped from around 50 to about 20. Managing employee recruiting and retentions remains a key challenge and MAA is focused on long-term employees.
“While we still see some of the mindset of people ‘coming here just to work’” explains Suzie, “We are slowly seeing more of them moving to be permanent residents. And housing is eons better than what it was. Their confidence is building that this will be a long-term job and they see the communities investing in themselves with the Rec Center, the schools, and the kids’ programs.”
“Developing a positive workplace and focusing on people – that is your core,” explains Suzie. “They are our service delivery and represent the performance and perception of our company.”
“I think the future looks great,” stated Suzie. She points to a change in administration that has outlined a focus on infrastructure and deregulation. “The market has settled into a core group with a more normal pace,” said Suzie. “We are moving to a more traditional work/life balance, a long-term sustainable approach.”
It’s a future MAA Construction has positioned themselves to thrive in given their ability to pivot.
Visit MAA Construction at www.maaconstruction.com.