The partnership has provided Precision Blasting with additional resources and services for projects like the $25 million Villa Rica North Loop Bypass project for the Georgia Department of Transportation. Precision currently has crews drilling and blasting rock on the project, which is proposed to improve mobility in the area. The approximately 2-mile-long bypass will move most trucks and other through traffic away from downtown Villa Rica, providing a safer route around the city. The loop passes through former farmland.
Precision crews are breaking up approximately 70,000 cubic yards of rock for this project for Astra Group of Atlanta. Construction began about a year ago. Astra crews plan on having the blasted rock crushed and used as a base for the new roadway.
“At Villa Rica, it’s a good-sized job, and they are doing well,” said Jay Mayo, Vice President of Astra, the contractor for the project.
Precision has worked with Astra for more than a decade. “We have a long history with Precision, and they have done good work,” Mayo said. “Blasting has a lot of risk — not just flying debris — and they have been safe.”
Precision Blasting has introduced blasting mats on the Villa Rica North Loop Bypass project to contain the blast to the job site, ensuring nearby residences are not affected by the company’s work. Additionally, these save time when covering the blast versus the traditional way of using earth for cover.
“I have been around explosives since I was 6 years old,” Martin said. “My stepdad would let me blow the air horns before the blast took place. I was absolutely fascinated with what was going on.”
Around 1983, he started working full time for his stepdad’s company. “He showed me all of the ropes and ins and outs,” Martin said. “Then he cut me loose, and I started blasting on my own.”
That launched his lifelong blasting career. He tried bricklaying, with his biological father, but it did not hold the same allure as safely working with explosives.
“My heart was in the blasting business,” Martin said.
“It was challenging getting started, as most businesses are,” Martin said.
That stage did not last long. By providing superior customer service and prioritizing safety and quality, Precision grew. Although the Atlanta area has kept the company busy during the last few years, Precision also works in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina.
“We had grown into a good-sized company,” Martin said.
Before teaming up with MD&B of Maine, Precision Blasting blossomed, with workload and sales improving on an annual basis. But Martin wanted more.
“The company just felt stalled out somewhat,” he said. “We had lost some of the excitement that we had once had, and it felt like we were at our peak.”
Not content to let that happen, Martin sought other options.
“There were many factors that came into play for me and my wife, Laura, in making this decision,” said Martin, adding that the opportunity for employees to advance their careers, receive better benefits, and become employee-owners played an important role in their thinking. MD&B is a majority employee-owned company.
MD&B also has a leadership track to train people to grow within the company.
“The structure for growth and advancement throughout the company is now in place,” Martin said. “Laborers are becoming drillers, drillers are becoming blasters, blasters becoming division superintendents, and so forth.”
As a prime example, Precision hired a young man as a driver, but with the number of jobs increasing, the company needed an additional blaster. The young man was ready for the challenge and accepted the education opportunities now available to the company. Currently, he serves as a trainee, with plans to become a Level 3 blaster, so he will be able to work more independently. Additional training to move up in the organization is still available.
“He’s been phenomenal; he’s picking up on everything,” Martin said. “I’ve witnessed his ability to learn and progress.”
“There is a renewed emphasis on safety,” Cole said. “Safety is more structured now, but we were never an unsafe drilling and blasting company. You do not stay in business for over 30 years unless you are safe in this industry.”
Precision Blasting and MD&B have prioritized ensuring power lines are not disturbed by contact with drills’ vertical masts. For instance, on the Villa Rica job, Precision has developed written plans to avoid contact with power lines, addressing moving under the lines and placing the drills in specific directions, along with placing warning signs in areas where lines are present.
In addition, Precision Blasting now offers engineering services to its customers, whereas before, the company had to outsource evaluations of customers’ geotechnical reports, which could take a week or longer. Now, Precision has direct access to employee engineers and software that can deliver quantities within a day.
“That’s a big time saver, so we can stay focused on the operations,” Cole said.
Additionally, with engineering now in-house, Precision now does not hesitate to accept “lump-sum” jobs. Cole said that he thinks MD&B’s engineering has benefited Precision and its customers tremendously, especially with quantity takeoffs and the overall bidding process.
“The technology we have now in-house allows us to perform some of these tough projects,” Martin said. “The resources we have now lets us put a better plan together.”
The acquisition also gives Precision Blasting access to additional heavy equipment, such as the five Epiroc SmartROC and FlexiROC T40 Drill Rigs, featuring the operator/driller in a cab. Currently being used on the Villa Rica project, the equipment is a flexible top-hammer drill rig, with a long-reach boom and low center of gravity.
“We have added resources,” Cole said. “We take on a big job, we know we have a bigger company behind us now. It’s a bigger team.”
Most of Precision Blasting’s 16 drill rigs have insulated cabs to spare the operator exposures to rock dust and noise. The company has access to 160 drill rigs from MD&B locations up and down the East Coast.
Precision Blasting also can now utilize electronic initiation systems while blasting to keep vibration level down when needed to complete a job. The company can take on larger projects with a better bonding rate than they could as a solo firm.
“We are still Precision Blasting, dedicated to our long-term customers as we have always been, being able to provide the best service for our clients’ drilling and blasting needs,” Martin said. “There still is no job too big or small that Precision’s capabilities cannot handle. I am fired up. Precision Blasting and its employees are fired up. This journey has begun. The vision I had is happening, and we are ready.”
Photos courtesy of Precision Blasting