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27 Aug, 23

David vs Goliath: How Local Aggregate Producers Compete with Global Heavyweights

In a competitive landscape featuring global giants with vast resources, it may seem like an uphill battle for local aggregate producers to carve out a market share. However, states like Alaska show a unique market dynamic, where a diverse range of producers competes effectively. How do local companies stand their ground against these Goliaths? This article aims to uncover the secret sauce that allows smaller local firms to be a David in a world full of Goliaths.

The Case of Alaska: Diversity Defies Monopoly in Aggregate Producers

While aggregate markets in many regions tend to be dominated by a few large players, Alaska presents a unique case where no single company holds a monopoly. The competitive landscape is diversified, which is indicative of the region’s unique challenges and opportunities. Let’s look at the top three aggregate producers in Alaska:

Colas SA: 7% Market Share

Colas SA is a global powerhouse hailing from France, with diversified interests ranging from civil engineering to road building, railroads, and, of course, construction aggregates. The company’s broad expertise and international reach allow it to bring cutting-edge technologies and practices to Alaska’s aggregate market. Operating in a locale that has its own unique set of challenges—ranging from extreme weather conditions to logistics—Colas SA has proven its capability to adapt and innovate.

Anchorage Sand & Gravel Company Inc: 6% Market Share

With over 85 years of operational history, Anchorage Sand & Gravel Company Inc is deeply rooted in Alaska’s construction landscape. Based in Anchorage, most of their aggregate supplies come from the Palmer region and are transported via rail to their base. The company’s long history and local expertise make it a go-to choice for many Alaskan construction projects, both big and small. The company is likely to be one of the oldest aggregate producers in the state. Their local sourcing strategy also helps in reducing the carbon footprint and supports regional economic development.

Brice Incorporated: 6% Market Share

Brice Incorporated is another key player that adds to Alaska’s diverse aggregate market. Unlike Colas SA, Brice is a home-grown Alaskan business. Operating under the umbrella of Brice Companies, they offer a wide range of services from civil construction to marine services, equipment rentals, and quarry materials. Brice Incorporated stands out for its capability to complete projects in Alaska’s most remote locations, often under challenging conditions. The company’s reputation for delivering quality work on time and within budget has made it a preferred choice for many in the state.

Local producers can compete heavily with major national producers in Alaska, let’s explore why:

Geographic Challenges as an Equalizer of Aggregate Producers

Aggregate producers in Alaska are spread widely to accommodate remote populations.
Producers in Alaska are spread across a vast geographic area - many without any highway or rail connections.

In Alaska, the dispersion of population centers is not just a logistical hurdle; it’s a defining aspect of the local aggregate industry. The state’s sprawling landmass, punctuated by mountain ranges, rivers, and large swathes of unoccupied territories, makes it exceedingly challenging for any single entity to monopolize distribution. Unlike in the contiguous states, where major highways and extensive rail networks facilitate the rapid movement of materials, Alaska’s infrastructure is limited, often requiring a combination of road, rail, and even sea or air transport to reach remote areas.

Many of Alaska’s population centers are not only widely spaced but also highly isolated, sometimes accessible only by boat or plane. Such locations include small coastal communities, indigenous villages, and work camps for oil, gas, and mining operations. This isolation transforms logistics from a routine business consideration into a critical factor for the aggregate market. It’s not merely about getting the aggregate materials from Point A to Point B; it’s about overcoming a gauntlet of geographic, climatic, and infrastructural challenges that can fluctuate seasonally, or even daily.

As a result, the ability of local aggregate producers to adapt quickly and offer more tailored services becomes a significant competitive advantage. They can often provide materials with shorter lead times and more customized delivery plans than larger corporations, which may not be as attuned to Alaska’s unique challenges. In essence, the state’s geography serves as an equalizer, fostering a more diverse landscape of aggregate producers and offering opportunities for local businesses to carve out their own specialized niches.

Low Overhead: The David's Sling

Another advantage local companies have is lower overhead costs. These companies can be nimble, allowing them to pop up where smaller-scale production meets market demands, which can be cost-prohibitive for major players.

Strategies for Local Aggregate Producers

Focus on Niche Markets

As seen in states like Idaho and Nevada where the top producers only have a market share of around 9%, local companies can compete by specializing in niche markets or products that bigger companies might overlook. Many small, yet growing markets may have not yet reached a level where the major players consider it worth investment.

Leverage Local Relationships

Companies like Anchorage Sand & Gravel and Brice Incorporated in Alaska use their local relationships to secure long-term contracts that may not be as accessible to global firms who aren’t as familiar with local community needs and business culture.

Agility and Quick Decision-making

Local producers can often make quicker decisions without going through layers of corporate bureaucracy. This agility allows them to adapt rapidly to market changes, be it fluctuating demand or disruptions in supply chains.

Case Studies from Other States

While Alaska offers a compelling example of a market where no single aggregate producer holds a monopoly, it is far from being an outlier. Several other states, including Arizona and Colorado, similarly demonstrate diverse market shares among top producers. This diversity provides a conducive environment for both local and national businesses to operate and grow. Below, we delve into the unique market landscapes in Arizona and Colorado.

Arizona: A Blend of National and Local Powerhouses

In Arizona, the aggregate market is characterized by a blend of both national and local producers. Companies like Vulcan Materials and Cemex share the space with Arizona-based businesses such as Superstition Crushing. The state’s growing urban centers, like Phoenix and Tucson, provide a robust demand for aggregates, making it a lucrative market for various players. Additionally, the state’s focus on sustainable sourcing practices offers opportunities for businesses to incorporate eco-friendly operations.

Colorado: Geographical Diversity Spurs Market Fragmentation

Colorado’s aggregate market is fragmented, much like its varied geography. With regions ranging from the Rocky Mountains to the Eastern Plains, the state has a diversified set of aggregate needs. This diversity allows companies specializing in different types of aggregates to co-exist and thrive. Companies like Martin Marietta and LafargeHolcim find themselves competing with local producers like Whitewater Building Materials Corp. Moreover, the state’s investment in infrastructure projects provides a constant demand, creating room for new entrants.

Opportunities for Local Businesses

The case studies of Arizona and Colorado underscore that opportunities abound for local businesses to gain a foothold in the market. These states, much like Alaska, demonstrate that market diversity and competitiveness can be the norm rather than the exception. Entrepreneurs and small to mid-size businesses can take inspiration from these markets to develop strategies tailored to local conditions, whether it be through specializing in a specific type of aggregate or through adopting sustainable practices that resonate with local demand.


While the competition is fierce, and the opponents are massive, the story of David vs Goliath is alive and well in the aggregate industry across the United States. From Alaska to Arizona, local firms can employ a range of strategies to compete effectively against global heavyweights. In an industry that often seems dominated by giants, there’s still room for the smaller players to not only survive but thrive.

Interested in diving deeper into this topic? Check out Mineralocity Aggregates, a cutting-edge platform offering comprehensive market intelligence, including insightful data on how local and global companies are competing in every state. Check out our Top Aggregate Producers Report to learn more about the top producers in each US state.

Report cover for the top three construction aggregate producers in each US state.

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26 Jul, 23

Digging Deep: Tactics for Enhancing Your Current Aggregate Production

In the realm of construction aggregates, producers are constantly on the lookout for strategies to optimize production, reduce costs, and maintain quality. While establishing new sites can bring about fresh opportunities, there’s also great potential lurking beneath existing operations. By “digging deep” into your current site, you can unearth ways to enhance production and ensure the longevity of your operations. Here’s how:

1. Optimal Equipment Utilization

Optimal equipment utilization is about much more than just using machinery. It’s about understanding, adapting, and innovating to ensure that every piece of equipment contributes effectively to the production goals. By focusing on these areas, you can ensure you’re getting the maximum return on   equipment investments. 

Maintenance and Upkeep: Regularly maintaining your equipment ensures it runs at its optimum capacity. Scheduled checks, preventive maintenance, and timely replacements of worn-out parts can prevent unexpected downtimes, ensuring consistent production rates.


Maximizing Equipment Runtime: By scheduling shifts efficiently and minimizing downtime, you can get the most out of your equipment. This might involve using real-time monitoring systems to identify and rectify issues before they escalate.


Capacity Matching: Ensure that the equipment used is suited for the job’s size and scope. Using equipment that’s too large can lead to unnecessary capital and operational expenses, while equipment that’s too small might not meet production demands.


Training Operators: An equipment piece is only as good as its operator. Training sessions for operators not only ensure safety but also ensure that machinery is used efficiently and optimally. It can significantly reduce operational errors that lead to wear and tear or reduced output.


Evaluate & Upgrade: The aggregate industry, like many others, is continually evolving with the introduction of new technologies. Periodically evaluating and potentially upgrading to more efficient or automated machinery can offer better production rates and reduce costs in the long run.


Custom Solutions: Sometimes, off-the-shelf equipment might not be the best fit for your specific needs. Considering custom solutions or modifications to existing equipment can significantly enhance production capabilities tailored to your site’s unique characteristics.

2. Streamline Operational Processes

Training Programs: Equip your team with the skills to operate machinery optimally. Continuous training programs can lead to improved efficiency and reduced waste.

Optimize Workflow: Review your current operational flow. Identify bottlenecks and strategize on how to eliminate them to achieve a more streamlined production process.

3. Resource Management

Re-evaluate Extraction Methods: Depending on the geological nature of your site, switching up your extraction methods might yield better results. Consider methods that minimize waste and ensure a higher recovery of materials.

Recycling and Reuse: Consider investing in equipment that can recycle used aggregates. This not only reduces waste but can also lead to cost savings in the long run and has proven to be a great business model within metro areas.

4. Quality Control

Advanced Testing: Embrace advanced testing methods to ensure that your aggregates meet industry standards. This will help maintain client trust and reduce the chances of product returns. You may also find that your resource has the potential to produce additional products and open new potential markets.

Feedback Loops: Create a system where feedback from the end-users of your aggregates is actively collected and acted upon. This can lead to improvements in product quality and better meet market demands.

5. Exploratory Drilling and Mine Planning

Site Assessment: Continually assess your site to identify untapped sections that might contain high-quality aggregates. Techniques such as exploratory drilling can offer insights into the depth, extent, and quality of these reserves.


Update or Create Mine Plans: If you’re operating based on older mine plans, it might be time for a revisit. As technology advances and new data becomes available, mine plans can be refined for better optimization. An updated mine plan can help pinpoint exact locations for extraction, ensuring minimal waste and efficient resource utilization.


 Lacking a Plan?: If your operation hasn’t had a formal mine plan in place, now is the perfect time to develop one. A well-crafted mine plan guides operations, ensuring that resources are extracted in a logical and sustainable manner. It can also act as a roadmap for future expansions, helping operations forecast potential obstacles and opportunities.


Collaboration with Geologists and Engineers: To create or refine a mine plan, it’s beneficial to collaborate with geologists and mining engineers. Their expertise can help make sense of the data gathered from exploratory drilling and other assessment methods, transforming it into actionable strategies.


Regulatory Compliance: Updated mine plans can also ensure that your operations stay in line with local and federal regulations. This can help avoid potential legal hurdles and ensures the sustainability of your operations in the long run.

6. Engage Experts

Hiring Consultants: Bringing in external expertise, like Burgex Mining Consultants can provide fresh perspectives on your operations. They can identify areas of improvement that might have been previously overlooked and provide strategies to tap into them.

7. Invest in Technology

Investing in technology doesn’t mean just buying the latest gadgets. It means integrating modern tools and approaches into the aggregate production process to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and increase output. In the rapidly evolving technological landscape, staying updated and making informed tech investments can give aggregate producers a competitive edge.

Automation: As the industry progresses, automation solutions have become more accessible and practical. Automated systems in production, loading, and transport can significantly improve efficiency and reduce labor-intensive tasks. Automated crushers, for instance, can optimize rock crushing, and automated conveyor belt systems can increase the transport speed of materials.


Real-time Monitoring: Deploy sensors and equipment fitted with IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities. These can provide real-time data about equipment health, production rates, and operational inefficiencies. By identifying issues as they arise, producers can make instantaneous adjustments, leading to consistent and optimized production.


Data Analytics: With the large volumes of data generated from real-time monitoring, utilizing data analytics can offer actionable insights. By analyzing patterns, you can anticipate maintenance needs, adjust for efficiency, and forecast production capabilities.


Drones: Utilize drones for site mapping, stockpile measurements, and monitoring. Drones can provide accurate data faster and more safely compared to manual inspections, enabling better decision-making.


Software Solutions: Invest in software tailored for the aggregate industry. Software solutions can aid in tasks ranging from inventory management and production tracking to predictive maintenance and financial forecasting.


Sustainable Technologies: With increasing emphasis on sustainability, look into technologies that reduce emissions, recycle water, and minimize waste. For instance, electric-powered equipment might offer a sustainable alternative to diesel-powered machinery in certain applications.


Mobile Applications: Equip your on-ground teams with mobile applications that allow them to report, monitor, and communicate more effectively. This can significantly streamline operations and improve response times to any challenges that arise.


Enhancing production in existing aggregate sites is all about understanding your current resources and optimizing them. With a keen focus on continuous improvement and a willingness to adapt to modern methods and technologies, producers can ensure that their sites continue to yield high-quality aggregates for years to come. For those looking to dive even deeper into the nuances of the aggregate market, tools like Mineralocity Aggregates offer invaluable insights to stay ahead in this dynamic industry.