Monday April 8, 2019

'Success Story': Lindsey Aggregates

Lindsey Aggregates becomes industry leader after significant investment
By Lou Sorendo

    Jeff Warner, pit manager

    For Lindsey Aggregates, success is only a stone’s throw away.


    Headquartered in Scriba, the business that began under the watchful eye of Warren Vandish and his wife Virginia in 1999 has evolved into a diversified corporation that not only provides construction and trucking services, but also features the highest-quality aggregate on the market today.


    The business digs for aggregates and crushes them to make a variety of products.


    Lindsey Aggregates has invested about $7.5 million over the past three years into the company, and now is positioned to reap the dividends.


    “What we’ve done over the past few years is an investment in our equipment along with a change in our business model. We are less job specific and more material specific,” said company CEO Alan Levine.


    “That’s huge for a small business in a relatively small market,” Levine said. “We decided to take that risk because we feel that our future success is based on our ability to produce new items from our existing inventory of raw material, which is huge. Our assets are terrific as far as inventory goes.”


    The changed business model now features Lindsey Aggregates as a manufacturer as well as supplier of labor and materials to accommodate specific jobs.


    Its aggregates have been supplied to virtually every market place including heavy highway, municipalities, airfields, industrial facilities as well as many residential applications.


    One of the most significant aspects about its new wash plant in Palermo is the ability to take what was a byproduct and convert that into $17 to $18 a ton material.


    “It takes material that we couldn’t utilize before, but we can now use for concrete and mason sand. It’s all high friction,” said Vandish, noting the company makes everything but blacktop and concrete.


    “We can make any material to any specification,” said Vandish, noting all aggregate is state Department of Transportation certified. The DOT conducts inspections every year, making sure the business meets its requirements.


    “Now we do in-house testing three times a day of our material to make sure it meets state specifications,” Levine said.


    “The state is always looking for high-friction material,” said Vandish, noting that commonly used limestone is a 1-to-3 on the hardness chart, whereas Lindsey Aggregates’ material is a 7-to-9.


    “In using this for asphalt and concrete, it is stronger and lasts longer. When plows go across the road, they are scraping it, but they are not breaking stone out. It’s that hard,” Vandish said.


    The new plant in Palermo is capable of making seven products in one pass, whereas before, there were individual set-ups for each material.


    The new equipment features a wash system, and all stone products are washed of all sediment and silt.


    The 25-foot highly computerized wash plant uses more than 4,000 gallons of water a minute. It is one of only a handful in the Northeast and one of two in New York state.


    “It’s a true state-of-the-art wash system that is way beyond most of our competitors, who are using systems that are 35 to 50 years old,” Levine said. “This new machinery puts us in a class all by ourselves.”


    In 2017, the business grew 120 percent in sales.

    “It was painful, but worth it,” Vandish said.

    “The same thing may happen this year. We may double in size,” Levine added.


    Intricate process: The new washing process is intricate.


    Raw material is initially dumped into a 20-yard hopper, and is then directed into a scalping machine that separates all of the fine particles, which are then steered into a sand plant.


    A system of jaw and cone crushers then pulverizes the rock that comes from the scalping plant, with the stone going into another plant that completely washes all the dust and fine particles from it before it becomes the desired spec size off the conveyor belt.


    Any of the sediment that comes out of the stone plant then get pumped back to the sand plant and reused for concrete and mason sand.


    The manufacturers of the washing system, based in Ireland, sent representatives to the Palermo site in March to ensure that the equipment was tuned exactly right.


    “They want to use us as an example as well,” Levine said. “We built a state-of-the-art system, and we did a nice job on the installation.”


    Vandish’s staff offloaded equipment that came in Conex railroad boxes and put together what Levine described as a $2.5 million “giant erector set.”


    “It’s not just something you go and turn a key on and fire up,” Vandish said. “There’s a control room that’s all electronic, with monitors that tell you what everything in the plant is doing, right down to the amperage it is drawing to run the electric motors.”


    While based in Ireland, the wash plant’s manufacturers have a supply depot in Texas and are looking for another site in the northeast.


    Levine is hopeful that the company will choose Oswego County to site its northeastern supply depot.


    “I would love to see it be in Oswego County and create some jobs,” Levine said. “I think we could be the right people to accomplish what they are looking for. We know the industry and the machines.”


    Meanwhile, the addition of a state-of-the-art excavator is helping the business tremendously as well.


    The custom-built excavator with a 70-foot stick and boom allows the business to gain access to 30 more feet of material from its underwater resource.


    “We can dig down more than 60 feet into the water, whereas before, we did 20 feet. This machine can grab down 66 feet and pulls up four ton of material every time,” Levine said.


    That underwater inventory spread over 29 acres was previously untouchable to the business.


    In total, the business has nearly 1,000 acres to work with, with over 100 acres permitted for mining.


    Lindsey Aggregates location on state Route 104 East in Scriba is its hub for maintenance work and offices. It features a 10,000 square-foot maintenance shop for trucks and equipment.


    In the winter months, the business does snowplowing at Nine Mile Point, home to the Units 1 and 2 nuclear power facilities. It provides the benefit of keeping the business’ key employees working in the winter.


    Getting diversified: The Palermo site is one of only a few that is state DOT approved for high-friction material, a fact that Lindsey expresses to potential customers.


    “The products that we are producing with this wash system has diversified the company to where all the blacktop and concrete companies need these materials,” Vandish said.


    Prior to that, the company was involved in bidding on construction and road jobs, and while normally successful in that endeavor, after the job concluded, the business was looking for its next opportunity.


    “Now with the materials that we are producing today, whether we get the job or not, the concrete and asphalt companies still need this material,” Vandish said.


    The new plant will produce almost 4,000 tons of material daily compared to 1,800 to 2,000 tons prior to the new equipment.


    The business is coming off a busy winter that saw it deliver 2,500 tons a day throughout the season.


    Lindsey Aggregates features an array of workers with both the experience and knowledge to take the business to the next level.


    Ginny Vandish said Levine is “very instrumental in researching equipment options for us, especially in divergent ways we may not always think of.”


    “We appreciate that he is able to think of the means of getting to the goal in a manner that might be outside the box, while still keeping the outcome, the goals, clearly inside the box,” she said.


    “He also helps me tremendously in all things related to ‘running the office.’ This is my second career, but he has a wealth of experience. He is a true asset to our company,” she added.


    Jan Davidson, 75, who has been with the company for 18 years, is one of several industry veterans who help anchor the staff. Davidson attends to engineering, setup and site prep work.


    Workers of his caliber are practically irreplaceable today, Vandish said.


    “To be honest, at this stage of the game, they are few and far between,” he added.


    In terms of the next generation of workers, Vandish said, “They got to want it for one thing. That’s a hard thing to find today.”


    He said it’s a challenge to motivate younger workers.


    “You don’t start out at the top. There’s a lot to learn,” Vandish said.


    However, the business’ pit manager, Jeff Warner, is a younger worker who has “learned the business in and out and has become a tremendous asset,” he added.


    Equipment intensive business: Whether it’s the new wash system, the excavator or a new wheel loader the business purchased, the cost of equipment is oftentimes jaw dropping, forcing business owners to seek outside financing and lending support.


    The costs associated with trucking are significant as well when factoring in fuel, highway use tax, drivers’ ages, vehicle depreciation, insurances and overweight permits.


    The average dump truck costs about $200,000 while tractor-trailers are more than $300,000. A tarp for trailers alone costs $10,000.


    Kevin LaMontagne, business finance director for the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, has been instrumental in securing a $140,000 Consolidated Funding Application grant from the state for Lindsey Aggregates.


    Empire State Development, meanwhile, has granted the business $700,000 to back its project.


    Another significant financial partner is Key Bank.


    “We have a lot of key people who have helped us get to where we are right now,” said Levine, noting the business’ quarry and trucking teams are top-notch.


    Lindsey Aggregates has teamed with organizations such as the Slocum Development Corp. on student housing projects at SUNY Oswego; Rifenburg Construction on the state Route 104 expansion project; Pooler Enterprises on a City Line Road project in Oswego; and O’Brien & Geer and the Onondaga Lake cleanup project.


    “With each one of these jobs, our company has build a relationship and the customer has really liked the way we served their account,” Levine said. “That is happening with a lot of people.”


    “We’ve got some terrific customers and we’ve made some good relationships by doing exactly what we say we’re doing to do, be on time, and be capable of switching gears when the customer make a change or needs a different material.”


    “We’ve done a lot of work at the nuclear facilities as well, paving, digging, you name it,” Vandish said. “It’s nothing to get a phone call at 1 o’clock in the morning with a problem, and you have to get out of bed and go over there.”


    “We both have our individual strengths and the business wouldn't run without him, or without me, or without any one of our people,” Ginny said.


    “Every single team member is instrumental, a gear in a machine. They each are an important part of the process with individual strengths, value and importance. If one of the gears comes out, it doesn't work. We are a team and a family,” she added.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 164

Issue 164
October/November 2019

Cover Story

  • Cruse Control
  • Jeff Cruse takes over as top leader for Novelis’ Oswego Works


Linda Eagan

On The Job

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Success Stories

The Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County

My Turn

Why President Trump Won’t Admit Mistakes


News Briefs on Local Businesses & Business People

Economic Trends

Oswego County IDA Recapitalizes Popular Loan Program

Last Page

Rodmon King