AN OCCASIONAL SERIES: ONE 2 ONE WITH SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE IN THE BUSINESS
Better Roads Staff
To some extent, are you counterbalancing the work of Congressmen who do not know the industry very well?
Here’s a good example: the 3 percent rule. We were at the head of getting rid of that. The basic tenet of it was the government was going to hold money in case a contractor may have committed a crime, or they need a place to go to get money you might owe them. So, they basically declared you a criminal before you committed a crime, sort of. And the problem is that 3 percent might not seem like a lot to some bureaucrat, but all these guys work on 3 percent. Plus, all it really does … you know how cost/push goes in my business: You say to the government, if you are going to hold 3 percent of my money, guess what, I’m charging you another 3 percent because I don’t think you’re ever going to give it back.
You also introduced the Clean Construction Bill [making it easier and to upgrade construction equipment to meet emissions standards]. If I read it right, that comes directly from your experience as well.
Right. The problem is that this place had a tendency to see everything as if it was a war, so they argue from extreme perspectives. What we need to do is get things done.
Compare contractors and Congress?
I think what it is … construction business owners do one thing that this place doesn’t do: They plan. This place doesn’t allow them to do that, so it’s a constant source of frustration. How many extensions have we had for the highway bill – eight? It’s so hard for people in the real world to build that way, especially roads. You know, also, I think that, by and large, this place doesn’t have a good sense of the labor end of the business. I was never for a single second any better than the people that worked for me. Ever. It didn’t take me very long to figure that out. I take exception to some of the objections people have to the amount of money that union or non-union works make. It’s hard work and your body gives out over a period of time … and maybe you work six months a year. There’s the guy who owns the company, then there’s everybody that makes it happen.
You’re a pilot?
I’m just a guy who likes to fly. I’m just a pilot. I’m not a good one. I get around. I’ve flown in the Arctic Circle, and in Mexico and around Alaska. I pretty much fly alone. I have a seaplane. I learned to fly because it’s always fascinated me.
All things flying?
Yeah. I bought an airport once. A grass cow field was all it was, and I rebuilt it and built 29 hangars. I bought the raw steel and welded the buildings together, and they’re great buildings. I designed them and put them up with my guys.
Why a seaplane?
I live in the place that’s full of lakes and it gives you so much more mobility. One of the best things about flying is the ability to get to places other people can’t get to. I can go into the Adirondacks and find a lake and plop down, and I can be guaranteed nobody will bother me for days.
Why do you like to fly solo so much?
I just prefer it that way. I sold my six-place plane and have a new one from CubCrafters; they’re one-at-a-time airplane builders. They only make a dozen or two dozen a year. I’ve had three of them built. This last has 2,300-pound gross, which is a very powerful airplane. I have a high-performance rating. You’re up in the air on a nice cold calm day; it’s peaceful.
It’s a thrill to just go flying?
Yes, it is. Sometimes more than others. I lost oil pressure over Canada once, and looked down and there was a lake that was right there. So I landed, you know, shut the motor off, glided in. I looked around and it wasn’t a lake at all it was a giant field that was flooded, and there were barbed wire fences. I was 300 miles from the next airport and 100 from the last one, and all I could see was barbed wire and the top of posts. I was in about 3 feet of water. I checked the oil and I realized that in all likelihood it was a gauge problem. I let it idle long enough to see if it seized up, took off, kept going.
Who are the children in this photo?
They’re my kids. I got married late – that’s Gracie and that’s Emerson. Emerson Noble and Grace Catherine. She’s three and he’s four. I hope I stay here long enough for Emerson to ride his bike around this building. I don’t see anybody doing that. This place is so dry some days. I’ve never walked around this place and heard anybody playing any music.
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