A Manhattan-based company with plans for a new sand plant north of Lawrence is buying LRM Industries Inc. for its concrete business and then selling LRM’s asphalt and construction operations to a Lawrence-based contractor.
Midwest Concrete Materials, which has operations in Manhattan, Wamego and Junction City, is scheduled to close its purchase of LRM on Monday. It will then sell LRM’s asphalt, excavation, recycling and trucking operations to R.D. Johnson Excavating Co. Inc.
The deal will be expected to give R.D. Johnson more equipment and personnel, but not necessarily more business anytime soon.
“The economy won’t let us grow,” said Roger Johnson, CEO of R.D. Johnson, which now has about 40 employees. “That’s just the truth.”
Steve Glass, president of LRM, and John Eichman, president of Midwest Concrete Materials, have declined to discuss the deal.
LRM started in Lawrence in 1955 as Lawrence Ready Mix with a concrete plant at 430 Maple in North Lawrence. Investors from Kansas City started the business to supply concrete for bridges being built along the Kansas Turnpike, which would open a year later.
The investors’ plant manager was Travis Glass, who ended up buying the business by 1960 and adding a second business, Lawrence Asphalt, in 1966 by opening an asphalt plant along the west side of North Second Street.
In 1974, Lawrence Ready Mix established a concrete plant at the northwest corner of 31st Street and Haskell Avenue.
In 1991, the combined company, now known as LRM Industries, opened an asphalt plant along the south side of Kansas Highway 10 at the southeastern edge of town, where a concrete plant was added in 1999.
Today the original asphalt plant is an empty lot, and the plant in North Lawrence has been replaced by a line of business condominiums. The concrete plant at 31st and Haskell is gone, too.
At its peak, in the 1990s, LRM had about 150 employees. Today the payroll is down to about 80.
Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, said it would be sad for the community to lose LRM, but good for others — including another Lawrence contractor — to be building on its operations.
Whether it’s for building new streets, repaving old ones or installing waterlines, sewer pipes or other infrastructure, city officials and private developers count on having contractors compete. That way, the thinking goes, they get the best price.
Regional contractors have become interested in Lawrence-area work, a trend Soules hopes to see continue.
“The city of Lawrence has been very fortunate to have had two very good contractors for many years, providing good products and good prices,” Soules said. “We’ve been pretty successful to put our programs together, to maintain interest from contractors from Kansas City and Topeka areas as well.
“We’re pretty confident that we’ll continue that healthy, competitive market.”
Midwest Concrete Materials, which has about 100 employees, has applied for permission to establish a sand plant on a 310-acre site near Midland Junction in northern Douglas County. The company owns the property, of which about 30 acres would be used for processing, said Matt Eichman, quality control manager.
Adding a concrete plant at the property remains a possibility for the future, he said.