The trucks are eye-popping: four gleaming Kenworth T800s, each decorated with the logo of a branch of the U.S. military. They belong to Minnesotan Rich Carron, a Vietnam veteran who founded Shakopee-based Valley Paving Inc. in 1978. They’re his way of recognizing what the military means to him and the dozen or so former servicemen who work for him.
The trucks are also testament to the Minnesota DOT’s veteran-owned small business preference program. Launched in 2010, it’s being expanded to professional technical contracts, as well as highway construction projects.
“The number of veteran-owned businesses in Minnesota has doubled,” says MnDOT Office of Civil Rights Team Leader Michael Johnson. Previously ranked 40th, the state now ranks fifth with 117.
The program is open to companies verified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as being veteran-owned. It applies only to Minnesota-based companies. The U.S. Small Business Administration limits participation based on average annual receipts.
The program offers a 6% credit up to $60,000 toward the qualified company’s bid proposal. This is used only to evaluate proposals, not to determine the contract award amount or payment due.
“Our annual receipts recently exceeded the program’s limitations, so we’re no longer eligible,” Carron says. “But it’s been a real eye-opener to the boost it can offer.”
As one of the largest road pavers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Valley Paving operates 22 Class 8 trucks. Most are Kenworth T800s equipped with Cummins ISX15 engines rated at 450 hp and driven through 10-speed transmissions.
“We demand excellent equipment because government contract penalties aren’t cheap,” Carron says. “Fines for airport work, for example, can be $5,000 per half-hour. Not only can you lose money, you also may be answering to the public on the nightly news.
“Being a veteran myself, I hire veterans and encourage others to put veterans back to work,” Carron says. “The program is a wonderful opportunity to help make that happen. We all appreciate the opportunities our fellow Minnesotans have provided in helping us get back to work after serving our country.”