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|NH's Top Family-Owned Businesses: Blaktop & Twin State Sand and Gravel|
|Published Thursday, August 24, 2017|
This is the third in a five-part series on NH's top family-owned businesses.
From left: Warren “Bud” Ames, president and CFO of Twin State; Stuart Close, CEO of Blaktop; and Seth Ames, GM. Courtesy photo.
After seven decades in the Upper Valley, Blaktop and Twin State Sand & Gravel have survived their share of economic upheavals in the construction industry and emerged stronger thanks to family ties. What began as a small paving crew is now two vertically integrated sister companies with about 60 employees and shared headquarters in West Lebanon.
Bill Taylor laid the groundwork for both businesses when he moved to the Upper Valley in 1947 to start the first asphalt plant in the region, eventually buying out his original partners and bringing on Tom Close three years later. The duo would begin integrating and expanding the businesses, growing Twin State to mine and manufacture construction aggregates that would supply Blaktop’s paving services. Though both companies have broadened their customer base, Blaktop remains Twin State’s top customer.
Family members have stepped up in difficult times to ensure the businesses would continue to succeed. Taylor died on the job at age 87 when his grandson Warren “Bud” Ames was finishing a degree at the University of NH in 1978, and Tom Close passed away just five years after his son Stuart joined the company full time in 1985.
“Stuart and I felt like we were thrown to the wolves,” says Ames, now president and CFO of Twin State. “We were both in our mid-20s and knew it was up to us to keep our families’ businesses going.”
Thanks to mentorship from Tom before his passing and assistance from UNH’s Family Business Center, Ames and Close have continued to grow both businesses. Though they’d never planned how they were going to work together, the partnership has worked out due to the duo’s complimentary management styles. “I think the fact we’ve been working together this long is a testament to the strength of both our families,” says Close, now president and CEO of Blaktop.
Moving forward, Close says the next challenge is transitioning to the next generation. They hired Ames’ son Seth as a general manager in 2010. “We’ve been really fortunate, and with ideas from [UNH’s] Family Business Center, we’re looking forward to keeping our business going for the next 70 years.”
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