Environmentally ‘green’ road surface company expanding

Madison County firm adding staff, doubling warehouse

GLUCKSTADT ā€” A manufacturing company is expanding to bring what it touts as an environmentally friendly, durable road surface covering to more customers.

PolyCon Manufacturing plans to add 10 more workers to its 15-person staff and is doubling the size of its warehouse to produce more of its E-Krete road resurfacing product.

The company is thinking big, envisioning the product in markets around the globe and satellite offices in other parts of the United States.

“We can almost permanize asphalt” and save cities and counties millions of dollars in the future in resurfacing, said Jack Wilson, company president and CEO. “It’s so huge for a little Mississippi company to be doing this.”

E-Krete is one-eighth-inch thick, cement-based, road-surface covering designed to protect asphalt by preventing water and ultraviolet rays from cracking the pavement.

“Water destroys asphalt, evaporates the binding that holds the rocks together,” Wilson says.

The product has largely been used on surfaces, such as parking lots and airport runways, where keeping a smooth surface is paramount.

E-Krete also has undergone more than two years of testing as a potential non-skid material on the decks of Naval ships.

But PolyCon officials are now hoping E-Krete will catch on as a common resurfacing tool for roads and bridges. The surface already has been applied to some roads and bridges in Mississippi.

The company says the material will shield asphalt from further harm by acting as an adhesive cap.

“What we do is extend the life of the pavement,” said Jim Kopf, PolyCon’s vice president of engineering. “Everybody wants to salvage their pavement.”

“Green” road-resurfacing products like E-Krete are becoming increasingly common as governments and road pavers look for ways to extend the life of roads and bridges and save money in the process.

“It’s very competitive, with the shrinking dollars,” says Randy Battey, state research engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“I would expect more as time goes on. We’re not going to get economic stimulus money every year.”

But he said such surfaces remain a work in progress. He said some surfaces similar to E-Krete do better than others in terms of creating enough friction to reduce surface slickness during bad weather.

He noted a surface covering similar to E-Krete has been put down on parts of the “water works curve” on I-55, a sharp curve near the Lakeland Drive exit that’s seen a number of bad traffic accidents over the years, to provide a more smooth surface.

Battey says concrete, E-Krete’s key ingredient, and asphalt historically are stark opposites in terms of providing a strong, unified surface for motorists. He worries asphalt still can be harmed by having a concrete-based material atop it.

But PolyCon officials say their product can successfully utilize the best qualities of concrete and asphalt.

Wilson developed E-Krete over a number of years in a makeshift lab behind his house. The growing demand for E-Krete comes as asphalt prices have risen with oil prices in recent years.

E-Krete’s cost made it more of a niche product for much of its 13-year existence.

But rising costs of asphalt, where oil is a major component, along with a push for more environmentally conscious building, have combined to ready E-Krete for wider use.

Kosciusko-based J.C. Cheek Contractors and several other contractors nationwide will partner with PolyCon to apply E-Krete to roads.

Stephen Cheek, an administrative manager with the company, says E-Krete has done well on a downtown road in Meridian. About 500 to 600 feet of worn-down road in that city was covered with the material to make the surface smoother.

“It looks like a brand new interstate,” Cheek said.

E-Krete also has been used in Forrest County, Tupelo and Corinth. .

PolyCon is in talks to distribute the brand nationwide, Wilson said.

In the meantime, PolyCon is building partnerships with companies from Chicago to Hong Kong to make the material more readily available.

“It has great possibilities and potential,” Stephen Cheek says. “It’s going to revolutionize the paving of secondary roads.”

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