Texas Cordia Celebrates One Year of Asphalt Production
For Christmas 2018, Yara Corbitt and Isaac Heredia of Texas Cordia Construction, Edinburg, Texas, had quite a lofty present on their wish list. The heavy highway/civil construction company had spent all of 2018 establishing its first asphalt plant, with the goal to produce its first batch of mix by the end of the year.
A few days ahead of its deadline, on December 19, the company produced its first batch of mix, which was then delivered to Texas Cordia’s yard to pave over the existing caliche driveway. “You could see the pride in our drivers’ and our crews’ eyes, being able to pave with their own mix,” Corbitt said.
It was a goal Corbitt and Heredia had discussed since the pair founded Texas Cordia back in 2011. AsphaltPro has followed the team throughout the process.
Part one, “Texas Cordia Plans for a Plant,” covered the company’s need for a new plant, finding the right property, and bringing in asphalt production experts to assist them. Part two, “Texas Cordia Pursues Its Plant Plans,” covered acquiring the correct equipment, transporting it to Texas, and getting the plant up and running. Both are available online at theasphaltpro.com.
In the final installment of our three-part series following Texas Cordia’s pursuit for a plant, Heredia and Corbitt share what they learned in the first year of running their plant.
Supply, Sell, Succeed
There were a number of reasons why Texas Cordia wanted to invest in its own asphalt plant.
“Down here in the valley, a lot of local contractors have their own plants,” Corbitt said. “We try to compete with them, yet we’re asking them for prices on hot mix.” In addition to being a matter of remaining competitive, operating their own asphalt plant is also a matter of flexibility and reliability.
By February of 2018, Corbitt and Heredia had identified the plant they intended to purchase: a Barber Green plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. By March, they’d been approved for a loan and purchased property for the plant in Donna, Texas. By May, they received the required plant permits, and in June, equipment began to arrive.
The silo, conveyor and baghouse were purchased through Swisher Machinery. The baghouse is a reverse airflow CMI baghouse. The silo is a used Standard Havens 100-ton portable silo with insulation. The 36-inch-wide dual chain portable flat conveyor is also a Standard Havens piece.
The scale, drum and silos arrived in June, the conveyors and bins in July, and the baghouse in August. The control house and master control center arrived in November.
They also opted for the Accu-Track Total Plant Control with Custom Plant Operator Stations. “The Accutrack System was designed specifically for our plant,” Corbitt said. “It has room to grow with as the plant grows in the future.”
Texas Cordia received great support from Stansteel, Corbitt said, specifically from Janie Lyons, whom Corbitt met at World of Asphalt 2018 in Houston, at the beginning of Texas Cordia’s adventure. James “Buck” Horne of Stansteel was onsite providing guidance for fine tuning our plant right before our first trial batch.
Although putting the plant together from many disparate parts was a challenge, Corbitt said it was ultimately worth it: “Our mix has been performing wonderfully. It’s like black gold!”
Plus, the whole Texas Cordia team has enjoyed the freedom to pave whenever they want. By producing its own mix, its crews now know that quality mix is on its way, and that it will arrive on time. It’s also made it easier to keep crews’ schedules consistent, Corbitt said. “Everything just runs more smoothly. When we need hot mix for ourselves, it’s right there on tap.”
To date, the plant has produced around 4,500 tons. One quarter of that has been placed on Texas Cordia’s own jobs, and the rest has been sold to local contractors. Within their first year, Corbitt and Heredia are proud to have customers who are on their third, fourth and fifth jobs using Texas Cordia’s mix.
“When you’re competing with plants who’ve been selling mix for decades and have an established clientele, you have to be persistent when trying to land new customers,” Heredia said. “And you have to be just as persistent in showing them you produce quality materials and you have good customer service.”
In August of 2019, Texas Cordia was contracted to provide 1,150 tons for a City of Alamo project located 8 miles from its plant. “When I headed to the job site to check in with the foreman, he said, ‘So, I guess you’ll be shutting down around 2 or 3 p.m.?’ When I told him we were happy to run until 5:30 or 6 p.m., he was so thankful that we were willing to run later for them,” Heredia said.
“We really try to be more flexible for our customers,” Corbitt added, “because I remember being in their shoes not too long ago and we understand their concerns. We’ve been there, with the whole crew waiting on the first truck for hours because the plant was slow to crank up. We’ve been there, not able to finish up a job that day because the plant decided to close early. We never liked when people did that to us, so we don’t ever want to do those things to our customers. We want to treat our customers the way we like being treated.”
Ultimately, the City of Alamo was happy with the job. “Everything was right on schedule, we ran all day consistently, we produced great material that the crew was happy with, it met density, the inspectors were happy,” Heredia said. “It was a golden opportunity for us, and it went perfectly.”
“We’re actually selling mix,” Corbitt said. “It’s been very exciting for us to see things going so well.”
Fine Tune & Streamline
Since producing its first batch in December 2018, the company has had to overcome some new challenges. For example, they found setting a price for their mix to be a bit challenging.
“We want to offer a fair market price for our region down here in the valley, while maintaining the integrity of the mix,” Heredia said. “Pricing was ultimately decided based on actual hard costs and current oil prices. As oil prices fluctuate, so does the sale price. So we have to stay vigilant with our changing market.” Texas Cordia receives updated Rack Prices quarterly from the oil suppliers, and these changes are directly reflected in the sale price of the mix.
Regarding production, the company had some minor fine tuning to perfect, in terms of testing, calibration and specs, after producing its first batch in December 2018. The company submitted a mix design for independent lab tests in June of 2018 for ACP Type D (PG64-22) (Limestone) mix for commercial use. With an approved mix, Texas Cordia began to sell.
“With one great mix on hand, we have been producing trial batches that meet other designs that are utilized in this area,” Corbitt said. “We are currently working with a local reputable lab that has provided great guidance and support in getting mix designs and trial batches approved.”
In the near future, Texas Cordia hopes to have a number of TxDOT mix designs approved.
Otherwise, Heredia said, they’re dealing with the same standard procedures any producer might face. Most of the plant staff had previous production experience, Corbitt said, so training was more akin to “sharpening the edges” versus starting from scratch–both for quality, but also for safety.
“The experience of the team and what they have seen and witnessed helps keep us from making the same mistakes,” she said, such as ensuring stockpiles are clean and properly spacing for loader access.
The company started with a safety mindset from day one.
“We currently boast zero accidents, zero injuries and no lost time at the plant,” Heredia said. “Our team members conduct safety meetings on site every week and discuss any challenges that they may face during their daily work activities. They discuss how to mitigate these problems and avoid the occurrence of accidents/injuries.”
Texas Cordia plans to continue refining its team, service, and mix in the future.
“We’re also looking forward to crushing caliche as our next adventure,” Corbitt said. “Quarries have already been purchased, as we plan for our next chapter–our next generation!”
Words of Wisdom
Although decades of experience in the paving industry had already taught Heredia and Corbitt the value of a good reputation, Corbitt said this experience has reinforced the value of their word.
“We’ve been given the opportunity to provide mix for other contractors that maybe otherwise would not have given us the chance if they didn’t know us and the quality of our work,” Corbitt said. “We give our word that the plant will be running and that a customer will receive quality mix, and we keep our word.”
It’s a principle the entire team at Texas Cordia’s plant shares.
“The team at the plant is vigilant and only lets good mix leave the plant,” Corbitt said. “It is also their reputation on the line, and our plant manager wants to be the best producer in the valley.”
When asked for any other words of wisdom related to establishing an asphalt plant, Corbitt shared: “However much you think it’s going to cost–double it.”
That said, Heredia said having their own plant was absolutely worth it: “I wouldn’t change the experience and knowledge gained for anything else. That is something that stays with us no matter what.”
Corbitt added: “It is worth every penny, every tear, and every drop of sweat because tomorrow it will still be there, producing and selling for the next generation of Texas Cordia.”