On Record: Our own best list

At a recent writer’s conference I attended, a multi-book-published author looked out at 2,000-plus attendees and declared, “Most of you in this room will never be published.”
It’s the truth, but ouch.

No one likes sand kicked in their dreams. If you’re a company owner, imagine if you had been told your chances for passing a thriving business on to your children barely registered above zero. While construction businesses have a high mortality rate, each owner started his or her firm to succeed, just as many of the would-be writers in that room started out to be on the New York Times bestsellers list.

For five years now, we’ve told the success stories of our Contractor of the Year finalists. For the most part, we’ve limited this contest to the small guys, those making less than $5 million a year (this will change to less than $10 million with the 2007 contest). You’ve read about their early triumphs and failures, how they’ve made a mark in their communities and what advice they’d pass on to fellow contractors. The popularity of this series is easy to explain: these are people who are in the same boat as you, who may have figured out something you haven’t quite got a handle on, or vice versa.

Beginning next month and through April 2006, we’ll revisit the finalists from the first four years of our program and find out what’s happened to them in subsequent years. I know some of the stories already. There have been lessons learned, hard knocks and adjustments. Others have thrived, the flight path of their firm on a straight projectory.

This series of retrospectives will place us in a position to start our reports on our 2006 crew in May, debuting with the 2006 Contractor of the Year. And who will that be?

The jury is still out, but I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the 2006 Contractor of the Year finalists:

Rich Ponce
Austin Concrete Solutions
Austin, Texas

William Bradley Allen
B. Allen Construction
Candler, North Carolina

Ryan T. Beckley
Beckley Excavation & Utility
Winchester, Oregon

Eric Gustafson
GE Construction
Loveland, Colorado

Dale Gillespie
Gillespie Excavating
Strafford, Missouri

Earl Johnson & Jeff Queen
Johnson Paving
Blue Ridge, Georgia

Roger W. Kieswetter
Kieswetter Excavating
Heidelberg, Ontario, Canada

Charles Lay
Lay Construction
Cleveland, Tennessee

Darrell & Stephanie Westmoreland
North State Environmental
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Jay Proffitt
Jay Proffitt Construction
Solon, Iowa

William J. Morris
W.J. Morris Excavating
Saratoga Springs, New York

Van Tyler
Van Tyler Excavating
Knoxville, Tennessee