Partners. Friends. Family.
A&J Construction Paves New Roads With Old World Code
For brothers-in-law Arlindo Augusto and Ray Boa, life is all about opportunity. Both are immigrants who journeyed to America where they hoped their learned skills and subsequent achievements, both personal and professional, would lead to a better life for them and their families.
The two succeeded beyond even their own expectations. Together, they have turned A&J Construction, once a very small driveway paving company, into one of the state’s premier asphalt paving, milling and reclamation operations with projects that include work on the famous Tappan Zee Bridge in New York.
Even now as they begin to cede some activities to the next generation—their children—they have a hard time believing what they’ve created. When asked if the company today is what he imagined almost 40 years ago, Augusto laughs, saying, “I was just trying to put food on the table.”
They’ve done much more than that; they’ve written their own American Dream story, with character, hard work and heart.
Augusto immigrated to the U.S. from Portugal in 1973 when he was just 24. He got his first job as a laborer working for a paving company, where he spent six years learning all he could about the business. He worked hard, but by 1979, the economy slowed and, as the youngest and newest employee, he was laid off.
As a father with a wife and two young children, he persevered, partnering with a friend to pave driveways. All they had was a pickup truck and a roller. The two called it A&J Construction. Augusto became the face of the business, going door-to-door in residential and commercial areas, looking for, scheduling and performing work. They worked together for about three years until his partner sold the company to Augusto in 1982.
Augusto recalls, “That was when I approached my brother-in-law, Ray, to see if he wanted to become partners with me. I knew he liked the business side of things like contracts and keeping financials. I was good in the field working with customers and crews—I thought we would be the perfect team.”
Boa, who immigrated to the U.S. from Angola, Africa, in 1968 at the age of 12, was working for Duracell, the battery manufacturer, but had his own dreams of entrepreneurship. Boa adds, “I always wished to own my own business, and this was an opportunity that felt right and challenging. At the time, A&J was focused on driveways, mostly residential, so my job was to help grow the business, estimate jobs, schedule the work, invoice and collect. I learned the business on a part-time basis, working evenings.”
Boa was a silent partner for seven years, then came on full time with the company in 1989 when he left Duracell. At the time, A&J Construction had seven full-time employees.
Augusto says, “It was a tough start and a lot of work, but we had invested in some equipment and had a skilled crew along with Ray in the office. The business started to grow in terms of backlog and staff. We realized early on that our company is only as good as its employees. We’re fortunate to have a talented team.”
They also got certified in the state of Connecticut as a Small Business Enterprise and a Minority Business Enterprise, so they could work on public jobs, such as bridges, highways and roads.
Then, their children grew up.
Boa’s and Augusto’s children were certainly aware of the business as they grew up. Yet it was two of Augusto’s sons, Louie and Danny, who saw the company as their life’s work.
Augusto smiles at the memory, saying, “Our kids, the boys especially, got involved with the company at a very young age. They loved the big machines. I tried to discourage their interest because I wanted them to go to college. In fact, I gave them the worst jobs in the company in hopes they would change their minds and go to college. It didn’t work. Instead, they loved it.”
Louie has very fond memories of the company’s early days. He adds, “I was five when my father started the company, and his office was in our home. We lived on the second floor, and my grandparents lived on the first floor. In those days, dad did it all—he was the estimator, accounts manager, superintendent, foreman and machine operator. Every evening, he was calling customers to schedule work and preparing proposals for new work.”
Once the company was firmly established, Augusto moved to a rental facility—and Louie and Danny would visit with an eye towards getting involved. Louie adds, “He always gave us the opportunity to learn. During the summers, we went to work with him, where we were probably more of a nuisance than helpful. Mostly we spent time washing equipment and running out for parts.”
As teenagers, they were able to work with the masons or grading crews pulling strings, where of course, the highlight was to get up on a roller and compact asphalt. Louie opted to go to a technical high school, believing that he would at some point be part of the family business. “I thought the technical school would help me learn some machinery mechanics, so I could help more with repairs and operations—and of course, drive the big machines,” he says.
By the time Louie joined the company full time in 1993, he’d done everything in the field, from laborer to operator. As he gained more experience, he moved through the ranks to foreman, superintendent and eventually project manager. Today, he is the Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of A&J Construction, working closely day to day with the estimators, project managers, dispatchers and schedulers, making sure crews have the right resources and manpower. Danny followed a similar path as his brother but now runs his own residential paving company.
A&J Construction’s projects fall into every sector of the paving market, including commercial, municipal, airport entities and state transportation agencies. The company has worked on projects throughout Connecticut and into western New York State. In 2017, it worked on the state’s first design-build project, Route 8 Bridgeport (Project 15-363), with general contractor Manafort Brothers.
Louie says, “What made this project uniquely challenging for us was that the contractor was given two weeks to demo and reconstruct two new bridges on a heavily traveled road. We came in on the tail-end of the project to install pavement before the road was opened to traffic. We worked that job night and day to meet the schedule requirements.”
“Our company’s success is a direct reflection of our strong values and talented employees.”
Ray Boa, Co-owner and President, A&J Construction
The Milling Man
A&J Construction added milling and reclamation to its list of services in 2013, establishing itself as a full-service paver and giving the team a competitive advantage. Boa’s son, Joe, a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, joined the company and was chosen to lead the new service line.
Augusto and Boa had invested over $1 million in new equipment to support milling and reclamation services. The first milling job the company secured was on the border of Rhode Island, and Joe was sent off with the crew and the new equipment to perform the work.
Joe says, “Looking back now, I realize that I knew so little. Here I was at 21 years old, leading a crew of men with a decade or more of experience. It was trial by fire.”
Fast forward five years. Today, A&J Construction owns three milling machines and a growing reputation. Projects range from milling the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York to the reconstruction of the Merritt Parkway in Westport, Connecticut. Joe still manages the day-to-day milling operations but spends most of his time as a project manager and in business development. But, he remembers the lessons learned in the field very well, just as his father and uncle intended.
Joe adds, “One of the best lessons that I’ve learned has been how to survive and thrive during hard times. I started during the recession, and now understand all the work my dad and uncle did to build the company during difficult times.”
To this day, Boa and Augusto are very close; they’re friends, partners and most importantly, family. The two have managed to foster that same bond amongst their children and their staff. A&J Construction currently has 15-20 year-round staff, and upward of 70 from March through December—and every staff member has the opportunity to advance in this growing company.
Boa adds, “Just like we invest in state-of-the-art equipment and technology to give us a competitive edge, we also invest in our employees, which includes equipment training and attending seminars to keep up with the new technology. We have very little turnover because we treat our employees well and strongly promote a culture of honesty, teamwork, accountability and safety. Our company’s success is a direct reflection of our strong values and talented employees.”
In 2014 and 2015, A&J Construction was awarded the State of Connecticut Asphalt Paving Award for the Christian Street, Oxford, project and for work performed on Route 334 and Route 188 in Seymour, respectively. The award is presented annually by the Connecticut Asphalt & Aggregate Producers Association, Inc.
With the second generation of family members taking on leadership roles at A&J Construction, Augusto and Boa say they feel good about the company’s future. Augusto concludes, “It’s very gratifying to see our kids come into the business and work to build on what we started. We’re very blessed. They’re smart, hardworking and committed to our culture and company strategy to exceed customer expectations.”