P&Q Profile: Caldwell Stone’s Clay Albright

By |  January 22, 2018

Albright

As a third-generation miner, Clay Albright, assistant quarry manager at Caldwell Stone Co. Inc., developed a career in the aggregate industry at an early age. His introduction to aggregate through a family-owned quarry in Kentucky has molded Albright into one of the industry’s young leaders.

P&Q: How did you make your way into the aggregate industry?

Albright: I was born and raised in the aggregate industry as a third-generation miner. I recall as a young child, riding with my dad around the pit and going out on job sites just tagging along. One job site that sticks out in my mind was the construction of Cedar Creek Lake in adjacent Lincoln County, Kentucky. It was a pretty large project and I remember riding with dad down in to the area of what is now the bottom of the lake and just thinking how awesome it was and how big the area around me seemed.

I entered the aggregate industry as a career at the age of 16 when I began mowing the lawn around our office and scale house. I would run errands, like delivering state tickets to the state highway garage in town or driving to get parts, too. Once I was 18 years of age, I moved down into working with the guys in the pit. I learned to drive haul trucks, run our crushing plant and backup at the scales for our dispatcher. Finding me covered in mud at the end of the day was nothing unusual, as cleanup after a crushing shift was always a dirty job. I would continue helping crush and load shots during the summers and winters while I attended college at the University of Kentucky for the next few years.

My last semester at college brought about a new challenge. I was working two days a week and attending class the other three days while living an hour away from the quarry. Working while going to school still wasn’t exactly how I had planned on ending my college career, but it was necessary as my grandfather had just passed away. I felt compelled to get back to the quarry and help my dad out with anything I could. My initial responsibilities were taking over our blasting duties from a long-time blaster that was no longer with us, and to learn about everything in the crushing plant.

From then, my duties have evolved into taking care of a plethora of things, including environmental, safety, sales, blasting, payroll, among other things. That’s one joy of a small family owned business, you really get to have your fingers on all the moving parts.

Dad has always made sure that I focused initially on the drilling & blasting and crushing parts of the quarry as he said there is nothing to do in the office unless you get it done down there first.

P&Q: What can you tell us about your family’s history in the industry and the history of the quarry there in Danville, Kentucky?

Photos courtesy of Clay Albright

Albright: My Grandfather, D.K. Albright, was a civil engineer for Norfolk Southern Rail and had traveled around the central United States, while having my dad and aunt in different states before moving to Danville, Kentucky to continue working with Norfolk. Danville seemed like the place they wanted to raise a family, so they stayed. After a stint as a surveyor for our local government, W.P. Caldwell hired my grandfather to work at Caldwell Stone. Upon the death of Caldwell back in the 1960s, my grandfather became an owner and subsequently so did my dad after he graduated from the University of Kentucky, as well. The quarry operated with my grandad, dad and aunt until my grandfather’s passing in 2005. Since then, it’s been owned by my dad and aunt and someday I hope to take the reins and continue the family business so that one day my children will have the opportunity to work here, as well.

P&Q: How was 2017 for Caldwell Stone in terms of construction materials demand?

Albright: We saw a steady amount of work from the commercial and private sector, as we have for the last couple of years. This work has helped to sustain us while we continue to see the government sector take a nose dive year after year. While we don’t operate an asphalt plant, they have historically been our largest customer every year. Unfortunately, without a fix to Kentucky’s infrastructure funding, the amount of blacktop being placed in our area has taken a huge hit.

P&Q: What’s your outlook for the industry in 2018?

Albright: I’m optimistic that we will continue to see steady work in the commercial and private sector. We already have a few good size projects set to start in 2018 that will keep us fairly busy. I still hold a small bit of hope that we can pass an infrastructure funding bill at the state level that will allow us the opportunity to have more road work and paving in the area that we just aren’t able to have without it.

P&Q: What’s the next big upgrade or equipment purchase you’re exploring for the quarry?

Albright: If things go well in 2018, we would like to build a new shop to do maintenance on our mobile equipment. Our current shop was built decades ago when our trucks and loaders were much smaller. Today, we can fit our largest pit loader in by only a few inches all the way around, leaving us with no room to really work with. A new shop will give us the ability to work inside during inclement weather and to have a place to even park equipment in when we have extremely cold nights.

P&Q: What’s a typical winter like at Caldwell Stone? Anything unusual in the plans for this winter?

Albright: We typically hold off large scale repairs until the winter time and we also do quite a bit of stripping rock as well. Winters are a time for us to catch up on some things that we haven’t had time to get done during the year and to look over the plant for any hidden issues. Knock on wood here, but we have never laid anyone off and we are quite proud of that. There is always something to do here and dad has always said, “If the weathers so bad we can’t do anything, then we will just sit in the shop and hang out and we will pay you for it.”

Winters in Kentucky are relatively mild in temperatures and rainy, but we did have some 20-inch snow showers in 2015 and 2016, which basically shut down the schools and most businesses. That’s when we got the call to help the city and county out with clearing snow from roads and schools. With loaders, skid loaders and trucks we cleared snow from main street and hauled it back to our quarry to dump it, we cleared parking lots for the local schools, athletic fields for Centre College and the local housing authorities public housing communities. Our employees like doing things like that, as it breaks up the monotony of daily work duties.

P&Q: Any other topics within the industry you’re passionate about that you’d like to discuss?

Albright: I’m very passionate about getting the younger generation of the mining sector involved in networking and being a voice for our industry. The NSSGA Young Leaders has been a great experience for me over the last 9 years and I currently serve on the Steering Committee. Our younger generation is the future of the industry and we have to start early in getting involved in policy, advocating, and networking. The sooner we start out the more we will learn and the more effective our voice will be as the years go by.

Our Kentucky Crushed Stone Association has just started an Emerging Leaders group, of which I was fortunate enough to help plan and to be part of the inaugural class. I encourage any young person in the industry to speak to your company about getting involved in the NSSGA Young Leaders or your State Associations Young leaders program, if they have one. It’s extremely important that we all help move our industry forward.

I also recognize the importance of the spouses of those in our industry. We all put in some long hours and sometimes work never seems to stop. Without their love and support we wouldn’t be able to have the home life that we all cherish so much. Thank you to my lovely wife Megan for giving me the time to tend to work matters while you take care of the household duties and thank you for blessing me with an amazing six-year-old son Jackson and four-year-old twins Boy and Girl – Keightly and Kherington.

Four things

First job – Mowing lawns at the quarry.
Top travel spot – Take me to any off-road park and let me ride side-by-side and ATVs with my wife and kids
Hobbies – riding ATVs and side-by-side
Sports teams you follow – The University of Kentucky Basketball and Football teams and my high school alma matter Danville Admirals Football team, who just finished their 2017 season 15-0 and won the Kentucky High School Class 2A State Championship (the 11th in school history).

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