By Michael Downes
A heavy civil contractor company is growing rapidly in West Texas, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has slowed many aspects of the nation’s economy.
ZTEX Construction, Inc. is a vertically integrated heavy civil contractor that provides earthwork, concrete, underground utilities, asphalt paving, and overall project management in El Paso and southern New Mexico. Their unique approach to business and construction has helped them weather the construction industry’s ups and downs.
Richard L. Ortiz, the company owner, said despite the uncertainty in the economy, their company continues to grow — and they are currently looking to hire more workers in the field.
He started the company in 2006 with just himself and seven employees. They now have 350 employees and are still growing and continuously hiring. ‘’Thankfully, we haven’t skipped a beat with COVID,” said Mr. Ortiz.
One key to the company’s success is their somewhat unusual structure. ZTEX has 250 pieces of equipment and fleet vehicles. They also have their own IT, marketing, safety department, surveyors, operators, and mechanics that repair their heavy equipment and other construction necessities. That vertical integration means the company can respond to changes quicker than other businesses of their type.
“It makes us unique. We don’t have to rely as much on outside services, which makes things run smoother,” said Mr. Ortiz.
The company has a tradition of promoting from within when possible. Even the Vice President, Joaquin Royo, started with a shovel. He learned every aspect of construction until he rose to his current level, stated Mr. Ortiz. The company also offers mentorship, training, apprenticeship, and certification programs to help the company as a whole and help the individual grow. We cross-train our administrative staff to alleviate growing pains. Every single one of our employees has earned their keep through sweat, dedication, and hard work, Mr. Ortiz added.
The company’s first few projects were primarily outlet malls, but they soon grew to a variety of general construction projects.
Mr. Ortiz is a big supporter of new technology and marketing. He is heavily involved in the integration of new technology assets. Marketing Director Priscilla Rodriguez said, “one of the biggest accomplishments for the survey, marketing, and the company was the launch of 3D Photogrammetry. This technology uses photographs to detect and measure the distance between points on a terrain. The technology records 3D motion fields, renders 3D mapping, generates a report, and provides a Digital Elevation Model (DEM)”. “Using Photogrammetry saves us time and money when surveying our projects. A 125-acre site survey went from taking three weeks to complete to only three days,”, said Mr. Ortiz.
“Incorporating technology into the company helped bridge the communications gap and stay one step ahead of growth challenges. It took a while to get the team tech-savvy, but now they all have emails and tablets and can communicate directly and do daily reports from the job site instantly,” said Mr. Ortiz.
“We have learned from experience the importance of communication and teamwork. Everyone works as a team to get things resolved. The company works with the mindset of urgency to react to problems and communicate to help resolve them. We can change movement and employees from one jobsite to the other on the spot to meet unexpected challenges and avoid setbacks. We take pride in what we do, and it is important to keep our group focused on the same goal. We emphasize our core values of trust, safety, direction, and leadership,” Mr. Royo added.
“People perform best if they’re respected and work in an environment of trust. We have an open-door policy and encourage feedback, so workers are more comfortable to ask questions or suggest different ways of approaching a situation, knowing that their voice matters, this is why we are able to face problems head-on and resolve them quickly,” he added.
“Safety is our highest priority, and our communication with Texas811 started since the inception of ZTEX. Texas Gas, the El Paso water company, and various clients have invited us to the local council meetings multiple times. Our partnership with TX811 is crucial to our continued success. It provides all the necessary resources to help educate our employees as we excavate and operate heavy machinery,” Mr. Ortiz stated.
We are motivated to help Texas811 grow in attendance and sponsorship of the TX811 Safety Excavation Event,” Priscilla said. ZTEX releases a video recap every year and highlights the importance of calling 811 before you dig. They share those messages on social media, their website, and digital newsletters to make everybody aware of the one-call system, not just contractors.
During the pandemic, ZTEX’s usual in-person outreach has been lessened, but they are still reaching out to other contractors and the general public with their newsletters, videos, and digital advertising.
Another asset brought to the table is publishing an in-house monthly online project partner newsletter. The marketing department takes videos and photos of worksites and collaborates with project managers for updates about each project. It helps workers and clients see the bigger picture, and it provides the client with a cool visual to post on their website and social media when the project is complete.
“Our clients ask for our newsletters, and they use the content for their weekly or monthly meetings,” she said. “They may not have a photographer on hand or a marketing department, so it’s a free added service for them — and it gives us more content for our site. Our website lays out a project from beginning to end, including ground-breaking ceremonies and the ribbon-cutting.”
The marketing department also produces an in-house production aimed at employees.
Ultimately, the emphasis on communication and trust has been a boon to the company.
And as Ken Blanchard once said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
For more information about ZTEX Construction, Inc. and their past and current on-going projects, or to subscribe to their newsletter visit ZTEXConstruction.com.
Event Recap: 2019 TX-811 Safety Excavation in El Paso, TX. www.youtu.be/mK_WBMVK-Ms