ConExpo-Con/Agg '96 No Gamble for Contractors

As thousands of contractors prepare to converge on glitzy, glamorous Las Vegas for the largest construction exposition in North America, ROADS & BRIDGES gains insight into one contractor's plans for this mega event

Larry Flynn / December 28, 2000

Two things strike you about Michael Hardin upon entering the office of the
president of Hardin Paving Co., Wheeling, Ill.: He enjoys the asphalt paving
business and blackjack. These conclusions are drawn from his pleasant demeanor,
the core samples sitting on end atop his desk, strewn with bid papers, and
the blackjack table top and accessories hung prominently on the wall behind

Together, the cores, bid papers and blackjack table illustrate the gambling
spirit that is a part of a contractor's personality. But, for Hardin, attending
ConExpo-Con/Agg '96 in Las Vegas March 20&shyp;24 is not a gamble, it's
a sure thing. Contractors and ConExpo-Con/Agg, it seems, go together like
asphalt cement and aggregate.

Hardin's relationship with ConExpo goes back nearly as far as his experience
in asphalt paving. "I've been going since 1972, and probably even before
that," he told ROADS & BRIDGES.

Hardin started in the asphalt paving business as a teenager. From the time
he was 16, while in high school and summers, he worked for his father, Oliver,
who established the company in 1958. "I'm a second generation asphalt
paver," he said, adding that he once thought of attending law school,
but ended up returning to his paving roots. "I guess paving's in my

He has attended previous ConExpos in Chicago, Houston and Las Vegas. "I
enjoy going to ConExpo and seeing the side-by-side comparison of equipment,"
said Hardin. "You can tell a lot from a spec sheet, but seeing the
equipment in person helps a great deal."

This year, ConExpo, in joining forces with Con/Agg to form a mega show,
promises to offer even more for contractors, as well as equipment makers
and materials producers to observe and participate in.

ConExpo-Con/Agg is not only a must event for himself, but for his employees
as well. "The exposure for employees is important," he said. "It's
a world-wide expo with contractors and manufacturers from all around the
world. When you get 100,000 people with similar occupations together it's
a good way to pick up information. It also gives us an opportunity to meet
with corporate representatives at the show and in hospitality suites."

The opportunity to interact with fellow contractors from across the country
and around the world is of particular interest to Hardin. "It's a place
where we can meet and talk about changes taking place in the business and
technology," he said. "To compete in this business you need an
awareness of the changes taking place."

In addition to himself, four other members of the company will make the
trek to Las Vegas for the show: the company's project manager, asphalt superintendent,
base crew superintendent and one estimator. During the paving season, the
company, which specializes in municipal, commercial and industrial paving,
employs approximately 40 people.

According to Hardin, his group will be involved in both inspecting equipment
and attending the seminars held during the show.

The company owns most of its own equipment: two asphalt pavers, two small
utility pavers, six compaction rollers and three motor graders. While paver
and compactor models will be receiving a lot of attention from the group,
Hardin said the company may be in the market for a new motor grader.

"We're continuing to expand our equipment fleet as the market allows,"
he said. He adds that his group also will be on the look out for what's
new with lubricants, cleaners, small tools, and safety equipment, such as

Is the trip to ConExpo also a way to reward employees? "Yes,"
said Hardin. "You look at it as kind of a perk. It's somewhat of a
slower time for us now and Las Vegas does have its diversions."

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