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P&Q Profile: The Frazier Quarry’s Kevin Baker

By |  June 21, 2022
Baker

Baker

P&Q paid The Frazier Quarry a visit in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia back in May. Kevin Baker, the company’s CEO, sat down with the magazine to discuss his start in aggregates and the latest with the growing family company that’s now in its fourth generation.

You transitioned from coal to aggregates a few years back. How did that change come about?

I left in the first part of 2016. The coal industry came off a high in the 2012 to 2014 range. We had a few good years, and then it just bombed out. I had an operation with probably a little over 500 guys. We ran 24/7. We were loading unit trains – two or three a day – and then the downturn came.

We went through a couple of bankruptcies with the company I was with, and I had enough. People were getting laid off, and scaling back the workforce is not easy. It’s hard to sit across from guys that you know who have families at home – who are talented and can do anything you need them to do – and then say: ‘Hey, I don’t have a place for you.’ That’s tough.

I’m a mining engineer from Virginia Tech. The mining engineering department is a small department, but we have people everywhere. Some of my good friends were in aggregates, and I asked how I can transition over to this. After talking to them, it felt good. I wanted to make the jump, and I can’t complain. It’s been great.

How challenging was the adjustment?

With coal, you can never mine enough to meet demand. That’s the roller coaster. You’re going as hard as you can 24/7 mining all you can. [Then], you [hit] the wall and the trains quit showing up because sales demand just shrinks.

I still talk to a lot of guys in coal. The prices they’re getting for coal now are mind-boggling. The war in Ukraine hasn’t really affected exports on the metallurgical side. So they’re going gangbusters trying to get everything they can.

The aggregate industry is more steady. You’ve got your concrete and asphalt guys and construction. With the state dollars and even the infrastructure bill coming, that’s a lot of money getting pumped into the economy. We don’t have the extreme roller coaster – the highs and lows – in this industry that I saw before.

What’s the latest you’re seeing within the supply chain?

Some of our vendors are having labor shortages, but then you have price increasing, as well. Steel went from, I’m guessing, around about 40 cents a pound to $1.30 a pound. So pricing has really increased.

Labor has really delayed projects, but it’s also just the little things. For example, we’ll have an excavator go down or something. I’ll call my vendor and they’ll say it’s going to take eight weeks to get this little part. It’s so random. So we’ve had to stock a lot more of our stuff in-house because a lot of vendors either can’t get it or they can’t produce it in time to have it next day for us.

Featured photo: The Frazier Quarry


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