Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is ranked among the world’s busiest airports, with an average of 1,424 arrivals and departures each day, according to Airport Council International’s 2021 rankings. Why is this important? Well, these numbers not only show how common flying has become, but they also show just how hectic CLT can be. The majority of people passing through CLT will take their seat on a plane, fasten their seatbelt and think about their destination. But then there are the other people. A select few. The people that built the third parallel runway and taxiway system at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport 14 years ago. The people who won a $69.6 million contract and worked diligently to complete the project ahead of time. These are the people at Hi-Way Paving, and this is just one of their many achievements.
Founded in 1969, Hi-Way began as a concrete paving subcontractor on interstate construction work in and around Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kentucky. Over the years the company morphed into a more generalized contractor and while they still specialize in concrete paving, Hi-Way has especially homed in and focused on aviation and airfield paving.
Dustin Keith is the owner of Hi-Way Paving, and has been with the business since 2008. A lawyer by trade, Dustin’s initial projects involved contracting, sub-contracting and dealing with in-house legalities. While Dustin has been part of the business for almost 15 years, he recently purchased Hi-Way in the summer of 2020. It was at this time that decisions were made to evolve the business with the hopes of one day celebrating their 75th anniversary.
“While we’re a prime contractor or general contractor in the heavy highway sense, we still specialize in concrete paving and our biggest wins are concrete paving jobs. However, over 50 years, we’ve grown and gained a huge number of skills along the way. We recognize that the industry has changed and so we really had a long conversation internally with the board of directors and the ownership about being able to reinvest in the company. Our aim is to really hit this next market cycle running.”
Between 2004 and 2005, Hi-Way began looking for more airfield work. In 2008, when Keith first joined the company, Hi-Way won the CLT contract. The company had never worked in North Carolina previous to this but ultimately decided to make the move down into the Carolinas. This required Hi-Way staff —who are originally from the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia regions — to relocate in order to successfully complete the project, but the result was worth it. 14 years since the runway was built and virtually no changes have been made.
Hi-Way are extremely proud of their work on CLT, as this project inspired the company to find its place in the market. And as of 2018, Hi-Way exclusively committed to airfield construction. “I’m really proud of moving in that direction. I have been running the business since 2016, and of course didn’t have the opportunity to really buy it until 2020, but we really made a conscious effort to work primarily in the airfield sector. It has been safer than working on the highway, so our safety ratings are down near as low as they’ve ever been. But also, being able to work in Nashville and Charlotte and Pittsburgh, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach and all these places that planes fly in from all over the world has just been pretty cool.”
“After celebrating 50 years in business, Hi-Way paving is going from strength to strength.”
However, job type and company focus are only some of the many changes that have been introduced over the last number of years. As any business owner will attest to, company values are a vital tenet of an organization. Simply put, they lay the foundation for what the company cares about most. After Keith purchased Hi-Way, the leadership team met to discuss the company’s core values and exactly what image they wanted to portray to the world. The team at Hi-Way looked inward when identifying its values and asked itself the question; What makes a Hi-Way employee and what makes them part of the Hi-Way family?
“It came down to respect, integrity, and commitment. Being respectful of others, respectful of other’s opinions and showing that respect to everybody in our lives is important. The integrity piece means doing what you say you’re going to do. It is striving to always be that way. And commitment means we’ve made it our mission to commit to doing the right thing. We commit to the owners, we commit to our employees, we commit to the families of our employees, we commit to each other on the job sites and off the job sites, we commit to our professional partners.”
Putting its values into action and sticking to its airfield work, Hi-Way is currently finishing up some apron expansion at Richmond International in Virginia, where everything is running smoothly. Keith is excited about the future of Hi-Way Paving, inc, and is now focusing on scaling the company. For Keith, growth is a steady thing, and Hi-Way wants to take on the right work at the right time. It is something that, once the company sticks to what it is good at, will happen when it is ready. Instead, the vision for Hi-Way is to become large enough to weather economic and industry downturns, whenever they may appear.
These are unprecedented times for businesses, which is why Hi-Way is preparing itself for what may lie ahead. Keith has experienced firsthand the uncertainty that can come if an economic slows down and is aiming to place Hi-Way in a fortified position should any uncertainty appear.
“Anybody that was in or around this industry during the Great Recession knows that it really hits home when you have got to furlough people. You have to take a pay cut yourself. You don’t know where the next job is coming from and then you start getting silly with bids. I mean, it can be a very scary time. My goal is to get us to a position that we are able to weather anything that can be thrown our way.”
Thankfully, Hi-Way has nothing to worry about as it continues its airfield work at Nashville International. The company was awarded the complete contract to reconstruct Runway 2R-20L, and the new runway was grooved and marked, flight tested by the FAA, and opened in August 2021. Working with a number of partners and subcontractors, this project included the complete removal of the existing runway and associated taxiways; excavation, stabilization, and adjustment to the subgrade where required; installation of underdrains and storm drains; all new lighting; placing a new base course and concrete for the taxiway, runway, ARFF roads, and shoulder.
Before I wrapped the interview up, I asked Keith if he had any final comments. After discussing the business throughout the interview, he wanted to focus on the people who make Hi-Way what it is.
“I truly am very proud of our entire team. I’m humbled every single day by how hard all our employees work and how dedicated they are to the company and the job and each other. I love the culture that we have developed, and I guess I’m just having such a good time that I want us to grow and be even more successful, so that everybody here can continue to have their own wins.”
After celebrating 50 years in business, Hi-Way paving is going from strength to strength. With new management and a new vision, the future is looking good for Hi-Way Paving inc. While its focus may be on the runways of international airports, it is clear to see that the sky is the limit for those at Hi-Way.