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Smith-Rowe Tackles Biggest Ever Contract as a Prime

Tue January 25, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed

First came the clop of hoofs and the rattle of wooden wheels, then the mournful cries of train whistles, followed by the bark of car klaxons. Now the sound of big iron at work can be heard in King, strung along U.S. 52 (the future I-74) and the largest municipality in North Carolina’s Stokes County.

Once a stagecoach stop, progress brought the railroad to King in the late 1880s. The first autos appeared in the city in the early 1900s, leading to highways being constructed for this more modern form of transport. Some 50 years later Highway 52 was built, being completed in the 1960s.

The rapid and continuing growth of King, which is located fairly close to Winston-Salem, has increased traffic, making it necessary to reconstruct a diamond interchange and replace a two-lane bridge with a six-lane span at the interchange on U.S. 52 and Main Street in King.

Smith-Rowe LLC, based in Mt Airy, N.C., is overseeing the $15.3 million project. Smith-Rowe has an unusual connection to the original construction of U.S. 52 because company president David Rowe was a laborer working for the Mount Airy Grading Company, later to become H. B. Rowe Inc., when the highway was built in the late ’50s and early ’60s. He recalls flagging traffic near the U.S. 52 and Main Street interchange when there were perhaps 10 cars a day, a far cry from the thousands of cars passing through the area today.

With regard to the current project in the same location, Rowe said, “This is the largest single contract Smith-Rowe has ever had as a prime contractor. We have been sub-contractors on similar projects, but never prime on this large a contract before this project.

“Phase One work has consisted of constructing a new bridge and approaches beside the existing bridge as well as the re-construction of the ramps,” he went on. “Phase Two consists of the demolition of the existing bridge and building the remaining portion of the bridge built in Phase One. The Phase Two work will be predominantly bridge work, as the heavier grading will have been been completed in Phase One.”

The company has an average of 24 employees working on the job, peaking at 37. Equipment in use includes three Komatsu PC 300 excavators. In addition, Smith-Rowe are fielding one apiece of Komatsu excavator models PC200, PC220, PC228, PC50 and PC55, as well as D39, D41, D51 and D63 bulldozers plus two WA250 wheel loaders from the same manufacturer.

“Obviously, Komatsu equipment has played a major role on this project,” Rowe said, “and it has done an effective job with very little downtime.”

Smith-Rowe’s Komatsu equipment was purchased from the Charlotte branch of Linder Industrial Machinery Company. The two companies have been doing business since Smith-Rowe was founded in 1983, and Rowe praised Linder for its sterling work with them.

“You can count on Linder to be a valuable, but unofficial, partner in our work. We look to them first for our equipment needs. Their service department has performed well on what little service work has been required,” he said.

The friendly relationship between the two companies was noted by Chris Wilkes, regional manager of Linder’s Western North Carolina division, covering Charlotte, Greensboro and Asheville.

“It is an absolute pleasure to deal with Smith-Rowe. David Rowe, Locke Rowe, and all of their employees treat Linder like a partner,” he said. “They really put a lot of educated thought into the way they purchase machines. With the amount of competition out there today, Linder really considers it a compliment that they own so much Komatsu machinery.”

Smith-Rowe began work on the project in May 2009. It is on schedule for an estimated time of completion in August 2011, despite encountering occasional problems, as is usual with any project.

One problem in particular concerned the relocation of overhead utilities.

“This slowed the initial work down considerably, about 90 days to be more exact,” Rowe recalled. “The resolution occurred only after the utility got all its overhead lines moved.

“On the other hand, the project was a stimulus project and enabled us to retain workers as well as hire five additional workers to develop a utility section,” he added. “The paperwork associated with a stimulus project has been greater than the normal projects we perform. Or at least the scrutiny was greater.”

Several subcontractors are working on the job, including APAC-Atlantic Inc., whose Thompson-Arthur Division in Greensboro, N.C., is serving as Smith-Rowe’s paving subcontractor.

“We have been working successfully with APAC since 1983,” Rowe stated, “and they are a reliable, good-performing company with which to work.”

Smith-Rowe LLC, formerly Smith-Rowe Inc. developed from a company called Surry Bridge Builders, which was founded in 1979 by Russell Smith and Carl Ray Smith.

The construction industry slowed considerably in the early 1980s and Carl Ray Smith became interested in divesting himself of his interest.

David Rowe, who was then working for H. B. Rowe Inc., saw this as an opportunity and bought Carl Ray Smith’s half of the business in early 1983. Russell and David worked together until Russell’s untimely death in 1998.

The company has continued to grow and the production work is now being handled by Locke Rowe, David’s son.

As is the case with most contractors in the current economy, work is scarce and difficult to find. However, as company president Rowe puts it, Smith-Rowe LLC continues to look to the future with optimism.

Linder Industrial Machinery Company has been in business for more than 55 years. Serving clients in the Carolinas, southeast Georgia and Florida, it specializes in equipment for the highway, landscape, commercial and residential construction industries, as well as for paving, demolition, utility aggregates, mining and other markets.

With 16 locations, Linder represents Komatsu construction products; Wirtgen milling machines; Vogele pavers; Hamm compaction products; Kleemann crushing products; Atlas Copco hydraulic attachments; Genesis demolition and scrap attachments; Exodus scrap handlers; and Esco, Hensley and Superior Brooms. CEG

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