Bakersfield lacks the notoriety, glamour, and fame of other California cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Yet many outside the Golden State probably don't realize that a huge population gain from 70,000 to 350,000 in just 40 years has catapulted Bakersfield almost into the top 50 most populated cities in the U.S. Today, more people live in Bakersfield than in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Buffalo, N.Y.

Among the fastest growing cities in the fastest growing state, Bakersfield has accomplished this by diversifying its economy. It lies in the most productive oil-producing county and the fourth most productive agricultural county in the nation. Its inland location just 110 miles north of Los Angeles makes it ideal for logistics and distribution centers.

This was not lost on the braintrust at Holliday Rock, the ready-mix and aggregate supplier based in Upland, in the Inland Empire about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Holliday Rock had been expanding by starting up its own new plants and by acquiring others. Building a plant Bakersfield was a no-brainer. Except for one small detail.

“It was a little counterintuitive for us to build a concrete plant in the teeth of a recession,” says John Holliday, company president. “But we're long-term players. We've been in business for 75 years, and we've seen the up-times and the tough times. We felt that market was a good fit for us.”

Building a plant at this time had many advantages. “The city was looking for projects to go through the permitting process,” Holliday says. “It was a great time to purchase real estate. There were more contractors available to build and bid on the project. Permitting and building during downtimes is a lot easier.”

Lean design

Automation was a key to the plant's “lean production design,” says Scott Humphrey, president of Dave Humphrey Enterprises Inc., the Tracy, Calif., concrete plant engineering and manufacturing firm that designed and installed the new equipment in Bakersfield. Versatility and allowing one person to operate the equipment were goals.

Randy Hatfield, lead batch manager for Holliday Rock's High Desert plants, points to the plant's aggregate bunkers as part of its success. “We have no material on the ground,” Hatfield explains. “Everything is overhead and fed through stacker belts, so you don't need a loader operator. One person can run the whole place. It's more efficient. The set-up is nice and clean so at the end of the day, there is no mess to clean up. It's pretty tidy.”

A hopper with a shroud comes down onto each truck during loading to minimize escaping dust. Also, “a vacuum cement recovery system sucks up all of the dust, so you don't have any pollution at all,” Hatfield says.

Other plant features include cartridge filter bag houses and water spraying at all conveyor transfer points to comply with environmental regulations. All water is contained onsite. The three-acre site allows truck drivers to maneuver and park.

During much of the plant's first three years of operation, trucks from Holliday's Mojave, Tehachapi, and Palmdale plants were used for Riverside's deliveries. Just recently, ready-mix trucks have been stationed in Riverside. “We might have two or three trucks here, and then on other days, we may have 15 to 18,” Hatfield says. “It all depends on the workload.”

Aggregate deliveries and storage

Holliday Rock supplies its own aggregate to Riverside primarily from its own pit 50 miles away. “That's one of our big benefits,” says Hatfield. “We supply and truck our own aggregate.”

The company wanted to take advantage of after-hour material haul rates. The Noble 800-ton, four-compartment bunker material handling system allows drivers to deliver after business hours. The 36-inch by 90-foot galvanized radial stacking conveyor has offloading capacity of 1050 tons per hour. Cement bulk truck drivers have an offloading station with individual silo level lighting and controls.

Southern California has two major merchant aggregate suppliers, Vulcan Materials and Lehigh Hanson, and three that make their own to use it for their own concrete operations—Holliday Rock, Robertson's (another local producer), and Cemex.

“Our geographic coverage and our ability to use our own aggregates give us an advantage from a cost standpoint and also from a quality standpoint. “We know our own aggregates inside and out. We make them at our own sites and we know what we are mining,” says John Holliday. “It lets us be innovative with the concrete we make. We've done quite a few freeway projects where the concrete must set in three or four hours.”

Holliday also occasionally sells aggregate on the merchant market. The producer has reciprocal agreements with other companies. When its business slows, it might sell aggregate to cement companies that also manufacture their own ready-mix. “We'll sell them aggregate and in exchange, we'll buy cement,” Holliday says. “We help them and they help us. Typically, as things get busier, we'll go back to just providing aggregate to ourselves.”

Throughput and environmental design

The batch plant's capacity is 220 yards per hour and “it's all about producing a tight spec product at an aggressive throughput rate,” says Humphrey. Features of the Con-E-Co BatchMaster plant include a 36-inch by 1050 ton-per-hour batch transfer conveyor, water weight batcher, ready-mix truck surge hopper, and drive-through alley.

The plant's environmental performance was one goal of designers. “The plant's footprint for the water process zone needed to be compact enough to allow the plant manager to stay ahead of the site's water management responsibilities,” says Humphrey. The process water zone includes the batch plant, truck load-out and slump racks, and return truck wash-down area.

By locating the truck wash-down area between the batch plant and material bunkers, Holliday Rock was able to reduce the amount of supervision necessary to stay ahead of their process water requirements. Any water outside this zone can remain as stormwater and has different permit requirements.

With the entire yard paved and the concrete driveway perimeter raised around the batch plant area, the two different waters remain separated and manageable. The ready-mix truck washout is also a closed-loop process.

Growing for the future

Bakersfield is just one piece of Holliday Rock's recent growth spurt. Ten of its 25 ready-mix plants have been added in just the last few years. In addition to Bakersfield, it also built a plant recently in Irwindale about 20 miles west of its Upland headquarters. The producer also bought small independent plants in Tehachapi about 50 miles east of Bakersfield and Montebello just southeast of Los Angeles.

Also, Holliday Rock purchased five plants from the former Standard Concrete. Those plants are located in the Inland Empire area, which is east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino, Ontario, and Riverside areas.

“There are still some one-plant, mom-and-pop operators, and you have the global companies,” says the company president. “We like the independent niche we occupy and being a medium-sized company.”

The producer's size gives it geographic reach in the largest metropolitan area in the nation, yet it is “hands-on and very decisive,” Holliday adds. (The TCP100 list of largest North American producers in 2011 ranked Holliday Rock at number 49.)

The company in 2012 celebrated its 75 anniversary. John Holliday's grandfather O.N. Holliday founded the company in 1937. O.N. Holiday's son Frederick led the company in the mid-1980s until his death in 2005. John Holliday plans to keep the company independent and family-owned in an increasingly consolidating industry. His sister Amy is vice president and spends much of her time in marketing.

“My dad and grandfather had a great time working together for a number of years,” Holliday says. “I was blessed to spend so much time with my father, especially as an adult. He and my grandfather set us up well. I enjoy working with Amy and we both look forward to giving our children the option of participating in the family business.”

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