The AsphaltPro staff continues the tradition of introducing the incoming chairman of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) with 2018 Chairman Craig W. Parker. He’ll be inducted during the 2018 annual meeting Feb. 11 through 14 in San Diego. He is the executive vice president of Silver Star Construction Co., Moore, Oklahoma. Let’s get to know the new chairman.
Silver Star Construction Co. Inc.
How long has Silver Star been a member of NAPA?
How long have you, personally, been in the asphalt industry?
Wife, Anna; Daughter, Ellen; Sons Kenny and Aaron; four grandsons Kaden, Kason, Krosby and Mateo; one granddaughter Silvia
Most influential book you’ve read:
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
I’m a pilot and love flying my Cirrus SR22. I also love to scuba dive, and I recently started flying a drone. My favorite hobby is golf (although my game has room for improvement). I also fly patients for Angel Flight South Central and dog rescue flights for Pilots N Paws.
How/why did you join the asphalt industry?
Back in the 1980s, I was working for a land developer, and hiring a lot of asphalt work. Specifications were starting to get tighter at the time, and agencies were trying to keep up with the changes. As part of my job, I had to push projects through the approval process, but, as the specifications started getting tighter, the paving company we used (the only one in town) started have problems passing the final inspection. Some of this was their fault; some of it was an overzealous inspector trying to put his own spin on the new specs. I lost a couple of arguments back then by being bluffed by an inspector, so I decided the only way I was going to win was to learn all the specifications—front to back—and then I could use the same specifications against the inspector. The more I learned, the more fun it became.
What does membership in NAPA mean to you personally?
Our membership in NAPA has allowed us to stay informed about what is on the horizon with regards to specifications, innovations and sustainability. But it also allows us to have a voice in shaping these and all the other issues that have far-reaching effects on our business. We can be planning one to two years ahead of someone who chooses to not get involved in NAPA just by keeping current on the issues the various NAPA committees are working on.
How has membership in NAPA benefitted your asphalt business?
Honestly NAPA’s amazing staff, the contractor relationships, and the associate member relationships we have developed through involvement with NAPA have truly shaped our company over the past decade. It’s informed everything from equipment decisions, environmental decisions, employee decisions, etc. Once you truly become involved, make a point to meet and talk with the staff, contractors from around the country, and the associate members, the benefits of membership are unlimited.
In recent months, what are the two or three positions for which your company has had the most difficulty finding qualified workers?
For us, the hardest positions to keep filled are equipment operators, truck drivers and laborers. In our part of the country, this has been going on for years. Oklahoma is a very oil-dependent state, and when the oil market is even marginal, the oil companies will pay premium wages. When the market is strong, they will pay easily 1.3 to 1.5 times the market rate for hands. On top of that, our average unemployment in this area is about 4 to 4.5 percent, which means just about everyone who wants a job has one.
Could you give an example of a way your state asphalt pavement association assists its members with workforce development?
The Oklahoma Asphalt Pavement Association (OAPA) goes out and makes several presentations at employment recruitment events every year. It’s a good opportunity to help people understand that the asphalt pavement industry is quite tech-savvy and exciting. A lot of equipment these days is highly computerized and fully GPS automated. We need people who understand automation, how to run this equipment and how to troubleshoot it.
Could you give an example of a way Silver Star works with area employment agencies or workforce development agencies to encourage interest in asphalt as a career choice?
I think we have a great HR director. She, and occasionally our safety director, attends every recruiting event in the Oklahoma City area, and she works with every agency she can find to help in recruiting people.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being none at all; 5 being very much), how much of a threat to the asphalt industry’s market share is the concrete industry in Oklahoma?
I would say it’s a 4 at this time. We have seen some large jobs in our state switch from an asphalt surface to a concrete surface.
Could you share an example of a time when the concrete industry encroached on the asphalt marketplace in Oklahoma?
The most recent example is a stretch of the Turner Turnpike, running between Oklahoma and Tulsa. That was always asphalt, and it is now starting to go through a widening/reconstruction project. The first section of this multiyear project was just let as a composite pavement with a concrete surface. OAPA is working to educate them about Perpetual Pavements as the turnpike looks towards the next phase in the project.
What are your top 2 or 3 ideas for helping NAPA members, and the asphalt industry in general, stay strong in light of PCA/NRMCA desires to increase their members’ market share?
Commit to 100 percent quality construction within your company. Take the initiative to get with your state executive and educate your state officials regularly to educate them about Perpetual Pavement design, balanced mix designs and other innovations. If we help our customers get the design right and we give them a quality job, we will win. You should also be engaged politically and always be on guard for hidden language in state and local legislation that would give concrete an advantage.
What other threats to the asphalt industry do you plan to guard against during your year as chairman?
I expect to see NAPA will have to continue working against the ongoing efforts by the PCA/NRMCA to get language inserted into legislation to provide concrete an advantage in pavement decisions, as well as their efforts to establish a checkoff program. We will also likely see misguided environmental efforts to limit the use of asphalt or the operations of asphalt plants.
As you take on the travel and engagements of a NAPA chairman, who will assist with your many responsibilities at Silver Star?
We have a lot of people in our office who do a fantastic job of taking care of anything that pops up while I’m out of town: Tim Caudle, our Vice President and NAPA’s incoming IMPACT Leadership Group Chairman; Greg Kalicki, Chief Estimator; Bob Crawley, Office Manager; Aaron Parker, Project Manager/Estimator; and Terri Madden, Administrative Assistant. We are extremely fortunate to have a seasoned administrative crew at our office. These folks can take care of almost anything that happens to come up while I am out of town. It’s very comforting to know that any problems that may arise will be taken care of and that bidding for jobs stays consistent.
Get to Know Craig Parker
What do you see as the most important part of your job as the 2017 chairman for NAPA?
Continuing and expanding the message of safety and quality for our industry. Safety has always been the number-one priority for our industry, but NAPA is working to help us all take that to an even higher level. Not just for the asphalt industry but for all the people working on roads, including the inspectors and our competitors. We need to help the DOTs, states, counties and local governments get innovative technologies and practices in place to protect our workers and theirs. I would like to get all NAPA members to commit to safety and quality in everything they do—no excuses.
What do you find most enjoyable about being an executive within your company, and how do you expect that experience will influence your activities as 2017 chairman of NAPA?
Always looking for ways to improve. Never take quality or safety for granted. We live in and are blessed to be running a business in very exciting times. Technology is moving ahead quickly, and our industry is advancing too. Yes, it can be daunting and a challenge deciding if you need that new gizmo or gadget, and there’s always the question of whether it will honestly pay for itself. But, if you don’t keep on top of what’s out there, you can quickly find yourself unable to compete. You always have to ask the hard questions … while still remaining polite.
Could you share a quote that you find inspiring/motivating?
“Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus.”—Jim Collins
I think this is so important for every company. You may not have the authority in your company to do this directly, but you can, in a polite and respectful way, help the person in charge understand why they need to get the wrong person off the bus. Having the wrong person in a position just drags the entire team down. In the end, that person may be being held back themselves by being in the wrong position, and they will flourish in a different position.