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Aurora Blacktop's Future Uncertain, Owners Say

The 65-year-old family-owned Montgomery company is in trouble, due to a sagging economy and unpaid invoices to bankrupt developers. The Leifheit brothers are working to find a buyer, but say the company's asphalt plant will not run this year.

has been in the construction business for 65 years. Located on Sard Avenue in Montgomery, this well-respected company has remained family-owned for its entire existence.

But now, due to a sagging economy and a downturn in development, Aurora Blacktop’s future is uncertain. President Rod Leifheit said Friday that the company has no plans to fire up its asphalt plant in Yorkville this season, and has struggled for years to pay its bills, due to unpaid invoices from bankrupt developers.

“The developers went down, and they took us with them,” Leifheit said.

The Leifheit family is seeking a buyer for the company, Rod Leifheit said, and they’re hopeful. But in the meantime, the company has sent a letter to all its workers, informing them of the decision to shut down.

“It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that after over 60 years of business, we must close,” the April 12 letter reads. “Like many businesses today, we are victims of the economy and can no longer sustain operations. We wish all of you the best and sincerely appreciate your years of service to Aurora Blacktop.”

Leifheit said the letter was meant as a courtesy to the workers, letting them know they should look for other employment this construction season. Corey Johnson, of Laborers Union Local 149, said the letter reached every field employee of Aurora Blacktop—around 50 people, he said.

Construction workers are generally laid off over the winter months, Johnson said, and rehired in the spring for the season. He said the company’s letter has him scrambling to help members of his union find work, and came as a complete surprise, especially since workers were called in to their usual pre-season safety meeting on April 4.

“We were under the impression that they were going to start up in the second week of May, which is a little late, but that we’d be back to work a week or so after that,” Johnson said.

Johnson said union members in a referral hall may have less trouble than those in a hiring hall, who will be placed on the bottom of the hiring list in mid-April. Those people, Johnson said, may lose an entire year of work.

For decades, Aurora Blacktop has been one of the go-to companies for road resurfacing in Kane and Kendall counties. The village of Montgomery, for example, paid $393,252 to the company to do all of its resurfacing and patching work over the past year, according to Acting Village Administrator Jeff Zoephel.

While Montgomery (and the village of Oswego) have no outstanding contracts with Aurora Blacktop, Kendall County has just awarded the company more than $2.8 million in construction work.

Robert Davidson, chair of the county board's Highway Committee, said road-related construction typically does not being until late May, so the committee will discuss the situation at its May 8 meeting.

Davidson said he had not spoken with the Leifheit family about the status of the company, but had heard rumors about Aurora Blacktop's ownership. The only "official word" he had received was that work was not starting on May 1.

"We also heard the same rumors, but rumors are rumors," Davidson said. "We can't function on rumors."

Aurora Blacktop was awarded six projects Tuesday: the $1.26 million project on Galena Road, the $159,733 project on Eldamain Road, the $818,452 project on Galena Road, the $165,439 project for Bristol Road District, the $171,297 project for Little Rock Road District, and the $267,712 project for Oswego Road District.

The county has several options if Aurora Blacktop is sold, Davidson said. The new company could take over the projects, the county could award them to the second-lowest bidder, or the county could re-let the bids. State officials also would have input in several of the projects, Davidson said.

"Most of this is with IDOT money, so the state is looking over our shoulder," Davidson said.

Rod Leifheit said he and his brothers are working to find an owner that will hire the same workforce, but nothing is certain at the moment. Some of Aurora Blacktop’s workers have been with the company for decades, which Johnson said is rare in the construction industry. (“They treat people well,” he said.)

The Leifheit brothers are all hoping they can find a buyer soon and keep the company going.

“None of us want to see it go under,” Rod Leifheit said.

mike ellison April 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM
How are they still getting current projects from municipalities? Doesn't the bid process include making sure that company is financially viable?
Larry Motykowski April 21, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Mr. Ellison, part of fighting to exist as a Company to pay the bills, meet payroll, and possibly turn a 'profit' to grow is a constant effort to seek new and repeat business in a effort to keep the Company financially viable and that's called Sales. That function does not stop until they hit a concrete wall. Try it sometime. Hats off to Aurora Blacktop in pursuing their American Dream and creating jobs in the community.
mike ellison April 21, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Actually, I've generated millions of dollars in sales in my own business. I would expect that a municipality would have some sort of due diligence in order to verify that the company they hire will still be around when the job gets started. Insofar as quality work, there are a lot of people who think AB's work wasn't the greatest. A lot of roads needed to be redone far too soon.
Larry Motykowski April 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Point noted. These road companies, who are tied to gov contracts, are going to be in a similar boat because there's no $$. A good chance none of our roads will get done in this economy if there is a financial test done by our local municipalities / government bodies on their vendors who already have to jump through hoops to operate. What we need is more due diligence on all levels of Gov who wastes the peoples tax $$. It's my opinion that your opinion of AB's quality is nothing more than hearsay or gossip and has nothing to do w/ the fact that they're not getting paid due to bankruptcies from developers which has lead to their decline.
Stan Bond April 22, 2012 at 04:19 AM
I am very sorry to see this situation for Aurora Blacktop and its employees. They have performed much good work for us in Montgomery and they have participated in many community events and programs. They have been good corporate neighbors.

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