In 1968, Walter Earle borrowed $25,000 to start an asphalt paving company. With the money, he bought a small paver, a roller and a used pickup truck and went to work.
At the time, few would have predicted that Earle Asphalt Company would one day become a group of related businesses known as The Earle Companies, which would be one of New Jersey’s leading full-service construction-related firms. But that’s exactly what happened.
Walter passed away a few years ago, but not before training his three sons — Walter “Rob” Earle II, T.J. and Michael — and turning The Earle Companies over to them. Today, with Rob serving as president, T.J. as vice president and Michael as corporate secretary, The Earle Companies have continued to grow and prosper.
“Our father definitely set us on the right path,” said Rob.
“We all worked here growing up, starting out as machine washers and working our way up to laborers, operators, foremen, supervisors and managers. He made sure all of us earned college degrees, but there was never any question that we would all end up back here in the business. I don’t think we ever even talked about it. It was just presumed. Dad expected it and we expected it. I guess it’s in our blood.”
“Our father stood for certain things and he taught us his values, which we’ve since distilled into the three guiding principles of The Earle Companies,” said T.J.
“They are quality, efficiency and integrity, and we believe in them just as he did. Because of that, Rob, Michael and I get along great. In fact, I’d say we’re probably best friends.”
“I think we’ve been able to remain successful largely because we share the same work ethic and the same values,” said Michael. “It doesn’t mean we always agree, but we do respect each other’s opinion and ultimately, because we all want the same result, we end up on the same page.”
Today, The Earle Companies consists of Earle Asphalt, which does heavy-highway work including asphalt paving, milling and concrete, as well as all types of general excavation, pipe and total site work; Walter R. Earle Corporation, which is an asphalt-manufacturing firm; Pure Soil Technologies, which specializes in handling petroleum-contaminated soil and broken building products; and Walter R. Earle Transit, which transports road construction materials.
Earle Asphalt Company started primarily as a paving contractor, but in recent years has become much more involved in general construction activities including excavation and pipe work. Based in Farmingdale, near I-195 and the Garden State Parkway, the company works throughout central New Jersey and has done numerous, high-profile jobs.
• reconstructing the Route 33/34 roundabout (completed five months early);
• removing and replacing a bridge on Route 130 in Florence (completed eight months early);
• milling and paving of Route 34 in Wall and Howell Townships using a new, cutting-edge asphalt mix (winner of the Category No. 1 Award from New Jersey Asphalt Pavement Association).
Earle Asphalt also is currently in the midst of another project, milling and paving I-195 from Route 9 in Howell to Route 34, using a new state rideability specification.
“Anytime there’s a new mix design or technology required — Superpave, Glassphalt, any type of R&D — we want to be involved so we can get our education early,” said Rob. “Then, when it becomes the norm, we’re already up to speed and ready to proceed.”
“We also believe our experience and expertise in mix design can be helpful to the state as it tries to find the most cost-effective, long-lasting asphalt mix,” said T.J.
“We like being part of the process in helping state engineers develop a superior product. By doing that, we hope we’re helping create a better asphalt industry.”
As that attitude would suggest, the Earles are very active in industry organizations. Currently, Rob serves as vice president of the Utility/Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA) and T.J. is treasurer of the New Jersey Asphalt Paving Association.
“We like to be involved,” confirmed T.J. “We also view our membership and leadership roles in groups like UTCA and NJAPA as a way to give back to the industries that have given so much to us.”
Productive, Reliable Equipment
In order to do large, complex jobs in a high-quality, cost-effective manner, The Earle Companies have recently turned to Komatsu Equipment from Binder Machinery Company. Included in the company fleet are four Komatsu wheel loaders (WA500, WA480 and two WA320s), two Komatsu excavators (PC228 and PC138) and a Komatsu D155 dozer.
“Our Komatsu equipment has been excellent,” reported Michael. “The more we get into excavation and utility work, the more we lean toward Komatsu. Personally, I love the combination of a PC228 and a WA320 for municipal work. We can take those anywhere and really knock out a job fast.”
“The wheel loaders are fast, smooth and comfortable for the operator,” added T.J.
“In our manufacturing operation, we run them 24 hours a day. We don’t have many replacement machines, so we need outstanding uptime and our Komatsu wheel loaders have delivered. They’re very productive and dependable machines.”
“Because we run equipment hard, we want the best, and we want our operators satisfied,” noted Rob.
“Before we buy, we let them demo the machines, and we listen to what they tell us. So if we buy a machine, it was most likely demo’d and outperformed the competition. I know that was the case with our WA500, which really blew away the other machines.”
“We also appreciate that Komatsu machines are technologically advanced,” said T.J.
“For example, we like that the KOMTRAX equipment monitoring system is standard equipment on most new Komatsu models. It allows us to track error codes, utilization and fuel consumption online, and by doing so, helps us be more cost-efficient.”
The Earles also are sold on the support they get from Binder Machinery Company.
“In my opinion, Binder support is the best,” said T.J.
“They understand what we need in regard to production and uptime and they make sure we get it. Our Sales Representative Harry Rice, does a great job for us; parts are readily available; and service technicians respond quickly.
“In an emergency, they do whatever’s necessary, including bringing us a loaner machine. What it really comes down to is attitude. Rob, Michael and I love this business. We’re committed to it and we look for that same level of commitment from our associates. I believe Bob Binder and the entire Binder team share our commitment, and it’s a pleasure to work with a group like that.”
“The Komatsu machines have run well and the backup we get from Binder has been excellent,” confirmed Chip Graves, equipment superintendent.
“We have our own team of mechanics, but Binder works closely with us to make sure we have what we need and to help us as needed. I especially appreciate the Komatsu “epartscentral” online ordering system, which is a quicker, easier and more convenient way to order parts.”
“The bottom line is that Binder and Komatsu provide us with the value we’re looking for,” summarized Rob.
“They’re not always the least expensive, but when we factor in machine uptime, productivity and longevity, as well as outstanding dealer support, we believe they are often our most cost-effective equipment option.”
Dedicated Work Force
Compared to when the company started with Walter and a small handful of employees, The Earle Companies has grown into a major employer in east/central New Jersey.
“We take a great deal of pride in our work force,” acknowledged Rob. “We have many people who’ve been here 10, 20 even 30 years and they’re the backbone of The Earle Companies. We can’t succeed without good people working for us and with us. We go to great lengths to train them, give them good equipment, and they deliver for us with conscientious, quality work. I would say many of them care as much as we do about the company’s reputation and its continued success.”
“Despite the fact that we’ve grown, we try to foster a family-type atmosphere and a team-based approach to any job,” observed T.J.
“That means everybody is willing to pitch in and do whatever it takes to get the job done for our customer. We have worked alongside many of our employees while growing up. They know we’ve been there and wouldn’t ask them to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves.”
The brothers make decisions jointly, but also have their own areas of responsibility. Rob oversees general management activities, particularly on the construction side. T.J. manages all the manufacturing, recycling and trucking businesses, while Michael oversees field construction.
With the growth The Earle Companies has experienced recently, the brothers are optimistic about where they are and where they’re headed.
“We seem to be on a good track for continued success and we will be keeping our eye on the ball,” stated T.J.
Further down the road, the brothers hope that the third generation of Earles will someday take over the reins of the company.
“Among the three of us, we have 10 children, so we think there’s a pretty good chance that somebody will want to continue the business,” said Rob.
“Of course, it will be our job to teach them the values our dad taught us. We don’t ever want to compromise what the company is known for.”
“It all comes back to quality, efficiency and integrity,” summarized T.J.
“Even in a low-bid environment, quality work counts in the long run. As for efficiency, if we’re not efficient, our bids will not be competitive and we can’t stay in business without winning bids. But for us, integrity may be the most important aspect of who we are and what we stand for. In this business, and in life, you’re only as good as your work. At The Earle Companies, you can bet that when we tell you we’re going to do something — we’ll do it.”
“Those are the roots we grew from and that we intend to instill in the next generation,” concluded Michael.
“As long as we, and they, keep those values as our guiding principles, we’re confident The Earl Companies will be in good hands.”
(This article appears courtesy of “Building With Binder,” magazine.)