For Ray Labbe and Sons Inc. necessity was not the “Mother of Invention” but the impetus that led it into the aggregate business.
Originally named Ray Labbe Trucking, the company had its start in 1955 in the excavation business. As the company grew and expanded into other phases of the construction industry, its name was changed to Ray Labbe and Sons Inc. when Paul, Ray (now deceased) and Peter purchased the family business from their parents Raymond and Madeline, in 1982.
To supply materials the company needed for its growing list of projects, Ray Labbe and Sons purchased a gravel pit in Brunswick, Maine, in the mid-1980s. Later when the company added paving to its offerings and needed a ready supply of crushed stone for roadbeds, the company purchased a 150-acre quarry in Bowdoin, Maine, in the late 1990s. These two purchases plunged Ray Labbe and Sons deeply into the aggregate business.
At first, the company’s gravel pit and quarry supplied materials needed for its own jobs. However, over the years, Ray Labbe and Sons expanded its business, which now supplies area contractors and municipalities with product from these facilities. The market area for selling products from these facilities is a 20- to 30-mi. radius of each pit.
Each year Brunswick gravel pit produces 50,000 yds. (45,720 m) of material and the Bowdoin quarry produces more than 100,000 yds. (91,440 m) of material yearly, which includes riprap, crushed stone and crushed gravel. The company uses a variety of aggregate-producing equipment, which includes a Telsmith cone crusher, a Cedarapids jaw crusher and a Kuekan 15 by 30 jaw crusher, which was made by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, in 1954.
All the quarry blasting is done by Maine Drilling and Blasting. Ray Labbe and Sons works closely with Tom Purrington of Maine Drilling and Blasting to make sure the blasts, which are scheduled four times a year, are planned for minimal disruption to the local community.
Eventually equipment needs to be replaced or equipment fleets expanded. When the time came for Ray Labbe and Sons to expand its loader fleet, it went to Gorham Tractor and Equipment, which has locations in Buxton, Maine and Concord, N.H. It was not a difficult decision to purchase the loaders from Gorham Tractor because Pat Leavitt and his son, Cole, who own Gorham Tractor and the Labbes have done business with each other for many years.
“Pat Leavitt started selling us equipment back in the 1980s,” said Paul Labbe Sr., vice-president of Ray Labbe and Sons.
“They [Gorham Tractor] recently acquired the Kawasaki line. The Kawasaki loaders have had a great reputation among aggregate producers for years. We had a need to expand our loader fleet and our comfort level with Gorham Tractor enabled us to purchase a new Kawasaki 90ZV from Gorham Tractor.
“We have been very pleased with the machine. Its breakout power has been phenomenal. The cab gives us great visibility and the machine’s operator and our Superintendent Everett Hilton regularly remark on the machine’s stability,” Labbe said.
Hilton went on to explain that the Kawasaki’s simplicity is another of the features that he especially likes.
“I like everything about this machine. One of my favorite features is its simplicity. Many of today’s loaders seem to have hundreds of different switches in the cab to provide you with all kinds of adjustments that really just get confusing. The Kawasaki machine has four switches, which provide all the same functions with a lot less to go wrong, ” Hilton explained.
“This is the first loader that I have operated that has a joystick. I don’t use it all the time, but at the end of the day, I can put down the armrest and operate the loader using the joystick, which really relieves fatigue.
“The speed of the Kawasaki loader is very good. It’s just as fast or faster than any other loader in our fleet. I am particularly impressed with the loader’s tremendous breakout force,” he said.
Although the new Kawasaki 90ZV fills a special need, the company still owns a 1967 2-yd. rubber-tired loader, which was the first loader the company purchased. It is still put to work around the yard.
Ray Labbe and Sons not only purchases equipment from Gorham Tractor, it also rents equipment that it needs for a short period of time. This year, rental equipment included a McCloskey trommell and some Doosan excavators, which complemented the company-owned machines, which includes five rubber-tired loaders, a fleet of excavators and several pavers.
Gorham Tractor not only has the equipment that Ray Labbe and Sons needs but it also provides the support that is critical to keep the contractor’s equipment running.
“It’s not just our relationship with the Leavitt family that keeps us coming back to Gorham Tractor. It also is their excellent service and response time. In most cases, if we need them, they are here within six hours. We really prefer to work with companies that support our industry and Gorham Tractor does not hold back in that area,” said Labbe.
All in the Family
In addition to Paul and Peter Labbe, president, there are several other members of the Labbe family involved in the business. Paul’s son, Paul Jr., works as an equipment operator and Shane Rector, nephew, is the subgrade foreman. Shirley, Shane’s mother, has worked for the company for 11 years in Accounts Receivable while Peter and Paul’s sister Monica has been office manager for 25 years. Many of the company’s employees also have family members working for Ray Labbe and Sons such as Hilton’s son, Brian, who works as an equipment operator.
Ray Labbe and Sons is not only a family-oriented company, it also is a community-oriented company that sponsors youth teams; contributed labor, equipment and materials to build two baseball fields and a skateboard park; donated free construction services and materials to many non-profit organizations; and currently it is conducting a scholarship fundraiser in memory of their brother Ray Labbe, who passed away two years ago. CEG