Big name clients are drawn to Barriere Construction Company’s safety-driven dynamic

Up until 2021, Barriere Construction Co. (Barriere) had been a New Orleans-based, family-owned enterprise since 1949. CRH, the leading provider of building material solutions, from Dublin, Ireland, chose the business as a sound candidate for acquisition based on its extensive capabilities and value-driven culture.

“They bought us for a reason,” Jason Latiolais, President and CEO, begins. “CRH looks for companies that are innovative and creative, able to think outside the box, and bring exciting new ideas to the group, all of which we really pride ourselves on. We are at the technological forefront and constantly seek new approaches to improve our efficiencies and processes. It’s been an incredible move for our employees, as it’s presented them with new opportunities that Barriere, alone, couldn’t have offered them before.

“The family ownership element of a company often limits its workforce’s headroom for career progression, with a lower benchmark for pinnacle positions. Now, under CRH, we have a whole host of sister companies, which has opened up new roles throughout the US and Europe. We can now be an exporter of talent and offer our people subsequent space for personal growth, which has created a lot of positive energy within the organization. We also now have access to a great deal of resources and support from CRH, which is great, but otherwise, it’s generally been business as usual. We have around 400 employees and have been this size for the last ten to fifteen years, which I don’t see changing unless the market does.”

Safety and quality

Barriere is primarily a highway contractor with around 65 percent of its work being asphalt related, due to its three plants located in southeast Louisiana. The business serves New Orleans, Baton Rouge, southern Mississippi and some of the region’s northern markets with its product and paving solutions. This side of the company is heavily focused on the construction of interstates, local highways and city roads, for clients such as the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Develeopment, local municipalities, and industrial partners. The industrial side of the business leads into its other services that include concrete, structural, mechanical, drainage, water, sewer and utility work, for the likes of Shell, Marathon and Valero.

“We’re probably the largest asphalt producer in the state of Louisiana,” Jason continues. “We’ve been around for a long time, and are well-known for priding ourselves on our two core values: safety and quality. We work within very dangerous industries, where we may be laying asphalt or concrete with nothing more than a set of traffic cones to protect our people and the passing public, so it’s paramount to us that tasks are completed properly. If it wasn’t for our safety record, we wouldn’t be able to work with such large names on the industrial side, but it’s also something that our customer base, as a whole, values greatly.”

In 2022, Barriere received Construction Users Roundtable’s (CURT) Construction Industry Safety Excellence Award. This accolade recognizes the commendable safety management and improvements made by the recipient’s owners and workforce. “If you’re going to be recognized for anything in this industry, safety is top of the list,” Jason states. “You’ve got to be doing something right, because anybody can go out and lay good roads, but that’s not to say they’re doing it safely. It’s truly a testament to who we are and what we do, which is really about taking care of our employees. We have a team of three safety personnel that manages our workforce of 400 people, so the message we are always repeating is ‘everybody is a safety employee,’ which reinforces company-wide accountability and ownership.

“We talk about safety and quality a lot, but it really starts with our training, which Barriere is very big on, and has been for many years. Both our in-class and on-the-job training schemes begin with safety, and it’s something that our teams will hear throughout their entire careers with the business. They have the ability to help us be better, they are the ones who can spot something that’s incorrect, stop the action, and bring about the change. Everybody, from our entry-level employees all the way up to me, has this power. We want our workforce to go home the same way that they came to work, so they are all trained in CPR/First Aid. We run multiple different topics throughout the year, which is something that CRH has taken note of, and implemented elsewhere.”

Team effort

Of late, the company’s stellar reputation has seen it working to better the amenities and quality of life for fellow New Orleanians, as Jason concludes: “Since 2020, we have been working on the new taxi ways for the latest terminal at New Orleans airport, to extend its capabilities. Besides asphalt work, we have completed dirt and stone-based tasks and accumulated around $50 million’s worth of work in total, which is a pretty good size project for us. I’d also like to highlight the part we’ve played in carrying out the $2.4 billion budget, on behalf of the city itself. A lot of this came from the federal funding that was acquired after Hurricane Katrina devasted the region. We’re currently working on four projects that include concrete, asphalt, excavation and utility work to repair the streets and bring the local infrastructure back to where it needs to be. On any given day, there’s at least ten Barriere crews, along with subcontractors, running all over like ants, it’s pretty neat to be a part of such an effort.”