Carlson Readies for Next Decade Behind Growing Paver Line
By Travis Colwell
If there is one thing the Pacific Northwest is known for, it’s the legendarily dreary weather. Rain and overcast skies dominate the forecast for half the year, made even more oppressive by the shortened days of winter. Thankfully, there’s also some good coffee.
But even against this backdrop, the spirit at Carlson Paving Products couldn’t be brighter.
Acquired by Astec Industries in 2000, Carlson is currently building a cutting-edge factory near its Tacoma, Washington headquarters. As they witness the construction of the company’s impressive new facility, the Carlson employees brim with confidence and excitement. For them, the new structure symbolizes the next chapter in the company’s already-impressive history.
“This represents one of the largest projects by Astec Industries,” explains Travis Colwell, Marketing Coordinator for Carlson. “Our roots have always run deep in Tacoma, and we are thrilled to be able to expand our company right here in our hometown.”
The growth of Carlson and the expansion of its manufacturing footprint has been not only been a testament to the men and women who build the company’s leading products, but also gives form to the company’s emergence as an international leader in commercial paver platforms.
Laying the Foundation
The story of Carlson’s growth and eventual factory expansion started in the mid-2000s as the company looked into new opportunities to expand its product line. Since the early 1980s, Carlson had been known for one product above all others – the front-mount asphalt screed. The global market leader in front-mount platforms, Carlson looked at new product possibilities through the same lens it had when designing new generation asphalt screeds, explained Colwell.
“Whether the first front-mounted hydraulic extensions to be put on a screed, or the first manufacturer to introduce a full line of electrically heated screeds, Carlson has always sought to solve challenges facing the industry to help contractors achieve greater results,” said Colwell.
It was with this engrained DNA that Carlson quickly identified the challenges facing commercial paving contractors in the market. An underserved segment at the time, it became clear to the company that a heavier-duty machine capable of better paving results was desired by contractors.
“We had always been on the rear of the paver with the screed, and in our minds we already had half the machine designed,” recalled Colwell.
In 2008, the company entered the commercial paver market with the CP90 platform. It was a watershed moment in Carlson’s history; debuted at CONEXPO, the paver revolutionized the platform by incorporating a heavier build with highway-class components, a larger footprint and, of course, a Carlson electrically heated screed. The paver quickly garnered the attention of the industry, and almost immediately its recipe of success began to show across new platforms around the market.
“The genesis of today’s larger, heavier commercial pavers really starts with the CP90,” Colwell said.
It was also the foundation of the company’s newest and fastest growing product line.
A Decade of Growth
While the concept of a larger, more robust paver was slow to catch on by 2010, the shift in the industry soon came into focus through not only impressive sales of the CP90, but also the competing manufacturers that began offering similar platforms. Fast forward to today, and the industry has embraced many of the concepts the CP90 intruduced; larger and more versatile machines with higher horsepower now dominate the commercial paver landscape.
As the industry has grown, so too has Carlson’s lineup. Today, Carlson’s paver line has grown to include four North American paver models and three international models. Ranging from the wide conveyor CP75 II and up to the new flagship in the CP130, Carlson’s platforms have been on the forefront of the industry’s change.
“In just over a decade, we have gone from a single platform to, now, seven distinct models, all of them organic platforms designed by Carlson through significant customer input and our deep industry experience,” said Colwell.
Just as 2008 ushered in a new era for Carlson, so too did 2019 when the company introduced its next generation of asphalt paver. Debuted at the largest industry stage in the world at Bauma in Munich, Germany, the CP60 and CP65 represent not only the company’s entrance into the global paver market, but its continued growth as a paver manufacturer.
Investing In The Future
With the growth of its commercial paver lineup and emergence into the global market, Carlson saw the greatest constraint to its future growth was space. The company’s Tacoma factory, built in 1999 to accommodate Carlson’s growth as a screed manufacturer, featured 45,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and warehouse space. But by 2017, serious discussion began to take place as the factory was pressing the limits of its manufacturing capacity.
“In analyzing the increasing demand for all our products, and especially commercial pavers, we had to grow our existing footprint,” explained Colwell.
Tentative approval to expand came in late 2017, but it was a visit by then-State Senator and future-Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier that sealed the project’s greenlighting. Taking a strong interest in the company and recognizing its uniqueness and value, Carlson quickly became a centerpiece in the newly elected County Executive’s plan for economic growth in surrounding Pierce County.
“Pierce County had faith in what we were doing and knew what role we would play in the growth in Frederickson,” said Colwell. “Our expansion meant more family wage jobs and more people employed locally. The fast tracking of the project also meant that those jobs can come more quickly.”
A multi-faceted project, the factory expansion included the addition of 80,000 s.f. of new manufacturing and office space. Construction began with the groundbreaking of a new 160-space employee parking lot in March 2018, with Phases Two and Three focusing on the construction of the expanded factory footprint. The project is on track to be completed by January 1, 2020.
With a new state-of-the-art facility, growing product lines and expanding opportunities here and abroad, it’s clear why even the Northwest’s dreary weather can’t dampen the confidence and optimism the employees of Carlson feel as they enter the new decade.
For more information, please contact Travis Colwell, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at (253) 875-8000 or by email at TColwell@carlsonpaving.com