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Masters-Jackson acquired by APAC

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Masters-Jackson Paving Company is now under new ownership. The company, operating for nearly 50 years in the Springfield area, has been acquired by APAC Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ashland Inc., a publicly-held company with operations in specialty chemical production and distribution, motor oil and car care products, and highway construction.

The Ashland Inc. board of directors Jan. 29 approved the purchase by APAC Inc.'s highway-building unit, said Ashland Inc. spokesman Stan Lampe. No purchase price was released.

APAC acquired 10 companies in Missouri with the purchase. Those 10 companies had previously had common ownership, said David Roling, former general manager of Masters-Jackson Paving Company and now president of the Masters-Jackson Springfield division.

The operations of the Springfield division will be overseen by Roling and Mike Eshleman, who will be vice-president of operations, and Dave Foreman, who will be vice president of estimation.

The 10 companies included in the acquisition included Masters-Jackson Paving Co., Central Bridge Co., Richardson & Bass Construction Co., Daystar Petroleum Co. Inc., Columbia Trucking & Rigging Co., Central Rail Terminal Inc., Southwest Lime Quarry Inc., Central Companies Leasing Co. LLC, Central Quarries & Materials Co. LLC and Rocky Fork LLC.

With the exception of Southwest Lime Quarry Inc. and Masters-Jackson Paving, which are in Springfield, the acquired companies are located in Columbia.

Up until this sale to APAC, the 10 companies had been operated by Bill Eckhoff, who was president; Donald Mantle, vice president; and John A. Pasley, secretary and treasurer, Roling said. That management group took over in 1990. Previously, Masters-Jackson had had two other owners, Herb Masters and his partner E.E. Jackson, said George Innes, who was vice president of the company at one time.

Jackson died in 1966 and Masters purchased his share of the company, Innes said. When Masters died in 1976, the company was sold to Bridges & Company and Lee McLean, who operated the company until 1990, Roling said.

At one time, Masters-Jackson also owned a limestone quarry called Greystone Quarry. That quarry was sold to Conco Companies in 1976, Innes said.

The Springfield company's local and regional reputation have always been noteworthy, both Innes and Roling agreed. Lampe said he was not sure that southwest Missourians could appreciate the "outstanding reputation" Masters-Jackson Paving had regionally.

"This is really one of the premier companies of its type in the nation. It is a company whose name is synonymous with quality work," Lampe said.

Masters-Jackson Paving Company will now operate as APAC-Missouri Inc., Masters-Jackson Paving Company, Springfield, Mo. Division, Roling said.

Jess Potter was an employee of the company for 38 years and is now retired. He remembers the company's starting in a "little town west of Springfield called Nichols Junction," and said that the company set up its asphalt plant there in about 1946 or 1947. He remembers Masters as being a "very conservative type operator," he said.

Innes said that Masters was more of a chief executive officer figure in the company, although, "we didn't use that term back then," and that Jackson handled the day-to-day, getting-the-work-done type operations.

Both men said that the Masters-Jackson legacy is all around Springfield and Missouri. Visitors to the Bass Pro Shops today who drive on Sunshine Street are driving on a Masters-Jackson project, Innes said.

"At one time in the 1950s, there were very few state asphalt jobs they didn't build," Potter said.

Linda Overend, co-owner of Ozark World Travel, remembers Masters well; he was her father. She worked at the paving company as a teenager, running payroll and filling in where needed. It was in 1976, when Masters died, that the family made the decision to sell the company.

At that time, Ashland expressed interest in purchasing the company, but the purchase was instead made by the two local companies, Potter said.

Potter remembers Masters as a "gentleman contractor," he said.

"His handshake was as good as his signature. They called him the gentleman contractor," Potter said.

The purchase will move APAC into an area of the country where it has virtually no overlap, Lampe said.

"The Masters-Jackson group was in an area where APAC currently didn't have service," Lampe said.

Ashland is a Fortune 100 chemical company that owns Valvoline Motor Oil and is responsible for consumer brands such as Zerex¨ antifreeze and Pyroil¨ automotive chemicals, Lampe said.

In terms of making changes to Masters-Jackson Paving Co., Lampe said, "you don't fiddle with greatness." The company left its old home on West Kearney Street and will move into a permanent facility in the Daystar Subdivision on West Calhoun Street, Roling said.

A 4,800-square-foot office and a 6,000-square-foot shop building will go up in the subdivision, which is part of APAC's acquisition, as is the Daystar plant now in the subdivision. Masters-Jackson employs 25 salaried individuals and 150 hourly, and those numbers should not immediately change, Roling said.

"Our expectation is that this company should continue to achieve the same great feats it always has," Roling said.

Masters-Jackson Paving will continue to focus on the needs of the local market, in Springfield and the region, Roling said.

"APAC's emphasis is on providing the best service it can in each of the local market areas. Although it is a large, nationally-known company, it is focused on serving the local markets," Roling said.

APAC is the nation's largest highway contractor with operations in 13 southern and midwestern states, Lampe said. Ashland Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ASH.

Ashland has its headquarters in Ashland, Ky. APAC's headquarters is in Atlanta, Ga.

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