With its new plant which is adding to the city’s Southside skyline, Federal Materials Company is cementing its position as a leading supplier of concrete in the western Kentucky region.
Construction crews placed the second of two side-by-side silos which hold the powder that goes into the mix design for concrete this week, upgrading the original plant that was about 30 years old.
Federal Materials supplies concrete, sand, gravel and pre-cast and construction products, and plays a major role in commercial development and residential building in western Kentucky.
Norman Hely purchased FMC in 1931, and found success in the concrete business when the Paducah floodwall was built in 1940, according to the company’s website. FMC was one of the first ready-mix concrete producers in western Kentucky using concrete sand and mortar sand dredged from the Ohio River.
The Paducah company has been owned by Billy Harper since 1981.
“Mr. Harper purchased it when were building the (downtown Paducah) Loop here,” said Tammy Presswood, the company’s president.
“He wasn’t satisfied with the concrete services he was getting, so he purchased this ready-mix business.”
Federal Materials Company serves the region with the Paducah plant and other facilities, including Murray, Mayfield and Grand Rivers. The company deals with projects in all sizes, Presswood said.
“We’ll help someone build a sidewalk, or a foundation for their home. Everything up to a new school. Currently, we’re doing most of the concrete out at the new Jackson Purchase Energy Corp. building,” she said.
“We’re servicing Kentucky Lock, it’s a huge project. The first phase ends pretty soon, and they’ll start bidding the second phase which is going to be a massive amount of concrete.”
HMC contributes to the community — and the economy, Presswood said.
“In every one of our market areas, we have involvement with economic development groups and partner with local contractors. We’re locally-owned and community-invested for sure,” she said.
“As president, I try to be involved with the community being a volunteer with civic groups and on boards and advisory councils. Federal Materials isn’t just about concrete, it’s also about how we’re trying to help our community.”
The company president sees the approximate million-dollar investment in the Paducah plant as a commitment to providing a quality product. It’s not like there is a “secret ingredient” to producing concrete.
‘It’s sand, cement, stone ... we always say it’s like baking a cake. You have to have your cement, have to have stone, have to have sand and you have to have water,” Presswood said.
“It’s not a secret. How we make it our own is the additives that we use and the different volumes of which materials we use. For the type of weather that we’re (operating) in, we can add hot water to it to help it stay warm, we can add ice in it for the summer.
“There are different add mixtures we can do to help the contractor finish the contract.”
There are some differences in concrete, however.
“If somebody’s building a road, they’re going to need a different specific mix design, than if they are building a parking lot,” she said. “On the interstate, if they’re doing patch work, they’re going to want a class or mix design of concrete that sets up fast so they can get traffic back on it.”
One thing about the concrete business, Presswood said, is the impact of weather.
“You’re always watching the weather, because the threat of rain will hurt us sometimes more than the actual rain,” she said. Sometimes a contractor will decide to cancel a project because there is a chance of rain. Then when it doesn’t rain ... “it’s very frustrating.”
COVID-19 has impacted FMC’s business, just as it has for many other businesses and industries.
“There have been some slowdowns on projects due to COVID,” Presswood said. “Or, they (contractors) have had exposure, or they’re quarantined and have reduced staff.
“Some of the projects being delayed are out of economic fear, like ‘Should I go ahead and build that convenience store now or wait?’ ”
Presswood said HMC did not have to shut down.
“We had some people who had exposure and were quarantined, but we didn’t have to completely shut down,” she said.
“We were obviously concerned about our staff and wanted to supply everyone with everything needed.”