Half a century ago, J. Don Brock got together with a handful of his friends to plan what has become one of the largest manufacturers of asphalt equipment in the world.
Around the kitchen table of one of his high school classmates, Gail Mize, Brock brainstormed the idea of Astec Industries with Norm Smith, Al Guth and Mike Uchytil. Brock, who started welding at the age of 8 at his father’s Industrial Boiler Co. in Bakewell and invented a carpet dyeing machine as part of his university thesis, hatched a plan with his friends five-year business.
The company was launched on August 9, 1972 as Astec Industries – a shortened version of Asphalt Technology, which the group believed could grow and serve the growing road paving industry.
From its beginnings with just five employees and $400,000 in borrowed funds, Astec has grown into a billion-dollar global manufacturer of equipment for road building and construction-related projects.
To mark the company’s 50th anniversary, Astec CEO Barry Ruffalo rang the opening bell Tuesday for trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, where shares of Astec Industries have traded since 1986.
Astec Industries celebrates its 50th anniversary
“Dr. Brock was an inventor and entrepreneur, and under his leadership, Astec revolutionized the industry with iconic products like the Double Barrel Drum Asphalt Plant and the Shuttle Buggy Material Transfer Vehicle,” said Ruffalo. Tuesday in an anniversary tribute to the company’s founder, who died in 2015 after being granted 100 patents. “We are continuing his spirit of innovation and commitment to customers as we evolve our operations to work more efficiently and drive more value through our rock-to-road product portfolio.”
Ruffalo has led Astec since 2019, following Brock’s son, Ben, who resigned from the company three years ago after leading Astec for nearly five years.
Today, Astec is a one-stop manufacturer of over 100 products for asphalt road construction, aggregate processing and concrete production. The company employs over 4,000 people with sales and manufacturing operations around the world.
Ruffalo has worked to promote the “Rock to Road” strategy at Astec, designed to simplify and grow the Chattanooga-based business. As Astec seeks to improve sales and margins through strategy and new congressional transportation spending measures, Astec shares have fallen nearly 40% so far this year after earnings fell. fell below analysts’ expectations and that rising inflation and interest rates drove up prices and created supply chain issues.
After Ruffalo rang the Nasdaq opening bell, Astec shares fell 19 cents a share to $41.71, down 0.45%. Astec’s decline on Tuesday was lower than the Nasdaq Composite Index, which fell 1.19% on Tuesday.
As part of Astec’s 50th anniversary celebration, the company announced it was honoring its founder’s legacy by donating $1 million to the Dr. J Don Brock Astec Industries Inc. Memorial Scholarship Endowment established at the University of Tennessee Foundation Inc. Awarded to children and grandchildren of current employees, the scholarship endowment is designed to encourage the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“Dr. Brock had over 100 patents to his name. He had a passion for learning, but he also had a reputation as an excellent teacher,” Ruffalo said. “I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than to encourage the next generation of innovators at Astec.”
— Compiled by Dave Flessner