After 25 years in business, Waco-based ARC Abatement has moved from a Waco garage to a handful of offices in major cities, tackling high-profile jobs along the way.
Ron Daniel founded the company in his home on North 60th Street and has guided its growth to include seven locations in three states, $40 million in annual revenues, 300 employees and work on such high-profile structures as the Houston Astrodome and a 52-story building in downtown Dallas that served as the office of the fictional character J.R. Ewing, a wealthy oilman in the hit television show “Dallas.”
Locally, he has tackled work on the ALICO building and the old Raleigh Hotel that now serves as a state office building. ARC is also in the midst of a project at Baylor University’s old football home, Floyd Casey Stadium, from which crews now are removing asbestos.
Recently, the company, headquartered at 300 S. Second St., was named the sixth best asbestos firm in the United States by the trade magazine Engineering News-Record, which annually publishes its “Top 20 Firms in Asbestos Abatement,” and moved ARC Abatement up from 10th place in 2014.
“I would describe ARC as a mom-and-pop operation that has just grown very large,” said Daniel, 55. “I’ve been very blessed to have a great group of guys working for me. Many have been with ARC 15 to 20 years, and I now have some sons working for the same company as their fathers.”
Of course, Daniel now has dozens of crews around the country removing asbestos, cleaning up disaster damage or providing a range of environmental protection strategies to oil and gas producers and drilling facilities. But there was a time when he manned the front line almost all alone.
‘$1.83 in my pocket’
“I can remember finishing a job at 2 in the morning, when I had $1.83 in my pocket and celebrated with a Dr Pepper and a Snickers bar,” he said with a smile as he discussed his company’s fortunes over lunch at the upscale Baylor Club at McLane Stadium, with his publicity director, Elizabeth Anderson, in attendance.
Daniel said the idea struck him to get involved in asbestos abatement while he served as director of engineering for the 12-story Regis-St. Elizabeth senior center formerly at 400 Austin Ave., which underwent what he described as a “major mechanical overhaul” in the late 1980s.
“I really was hired to oversee the project, and an abatement company out of Oklahoma was hired to remove the asbestos,” Daniel said. “They explained every step to me, and shortly thereafter I went out and got my abatement license. That was about 26 or 27 years ago.”
Since then, ARC has completed 3 million hours of asbestos abatement on more than 12,000 projects, and has completed 400,000 hours of mold remediation on 1,100 projects. In 2013, he founded ARC Oil and Gas Services and that same year joined with Glenn Thomas to start ARC Roofing, a full-service roofing company.
Asbestos abatement involves the removal or sealing of asbestos, a group of minerals that for years were used in the construction field as a flame retardant or insulation. Asbestos has since been classified as a cancer-causing agent because the inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“We now work all over the United States,” said Daniel, who has placed offices in the Louisiana cities of Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans; in Denver and in Austin, Dallas, Houston and Waco, which continues to serve as headquarters and employs 28 people.
His largest office operates in Dallas, where about 200 people are based, and Louisiana became a hot spot after Hurricane Katrina’s assault on the Gulf Coast in 2005. ARC got involved in cleaning up a dozen schools in New Orleans, allowing the school district to reopen them.
Probably his most labor intensive project involved the 52-story building in Dallas with connections to J.R. Ewing. He assigned about 150 people to that 1.5 million-square-foot project that lasted about eight months and involved making room for condominiums, apartments and multipurpose uses.
“When the economy is performing well, we get plenty of business,” Daniel said.
He has been involved in removing asbestos from several buildings along Austin Avenue downtown to accommodate the conversion of old structures into loft space, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, he said.
ARC removed asbestos from the old Holiday Inn/Hotel Waco to pave the way for its demolition and construction of Baylor University’s McLane Stadium. Now ARC has turned its attention to the 80-acre Floyd Casey Stadium site, which Baylor has proposed swapping to the city of Waco for property near McLane Stadium that would accommodate a multimillion-dollar sports medicine center at the corner of Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Negotiations on specifics of the deal are continuing, but ARC already has begun removing asbestos from the old stadium with an eye on demolition.
Baylor’s new facility would house Southwest Sports Medicine to serve the Baylor Bears and other sports programs in Central Texas. It also would include a “human performance center,” where physicians and Baylor faculty would collaborate on research, the university has confirmed.
In its pursuit of making money and a name for itself, ARC also refurbished, removed lead-based paint from and repainted the hangar doors of a building at the San Marcos Airport that stores the famous Yellow Rose, a World War II B-25 bomber and serves as a museum for other World War II planes and artifacts.
ARC also removed hazardous material from 1 million square feet of space in the former St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas. Daniel said a partner, Lindamood Demolition, imploded a portion of the facility, which has been replaced by the new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital.
Locally, it sent asbestos packing from the old Richard Karr Motors building at Lake Air and Valley Mills drives, where it fell to make room for a new Whataburger restaurant and retail space; several residence halls at Baylor University; and “99 percent of the work David Hoppenstein needed done when he was alive,” referring to the longtime Waco businessman, nicknamed “Hoppy,” who amassed a fortune in homes, office buildings and shopping centers all over Waco.
ARC Abatement also is getting heavily involved in stripping hazardous material from old power plants being replaced with cleaner-operating models.
“ARC Abatement is smelling the clean Gulf air,” the company’s website says. “A six-figure project has ARC abating asbestos in the turbine room of a power plant in South Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico. Though the boiler room was abandoned nearly a decade ago and the conditions around the site during the cleanup have been less than ideal, the project is going well. Environmental projects such as this one are particularly important in coastal areas due to their delicate ecosystems.”
Daniel said the removal of hazardous materials has become a highly competitive business, “though the fiercest competitors can become friends.”
He said mergers involving the largest abatement companies in the country created layoffs, “and I’ve tried to hire as many as I could.”
Complying with a mountain of regulations is part of life for ARC Abatement and other companies dealing with asbestos, Daniel said, adding he relies on Waste Management of Lacy Lakeview to handle his hazardous materials and to cover asbestos as quickly as possible after a hole is dug for its disposal.
Daniel said he carries $10 million worth of insurance, as law mandates, and has seen his company grow primarily through word of mouth, social media and the work of E.H. Anderson Public Relations. He said he uses a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to constantly follow progress and expenses on every project.
“If you’re overseeing a job and you’re over budget, you are going to receive a letter,” Daniel said.
Alexandra Daniel, 28, daughter of Ron Daniel, owns ACSI Environmental Consultants, which tests for asbestos but doesn’t remove it.
She is an unabashed fan of her father, saying, “It’s pretty amazing what he’s accomplished, having started his company in our garage. In his eyes, there are no limits. The answer is never ‘no.’ He has taken his dreams and run with them. I’m very proud of him, and he’s the smartest guy I know.”
Away from the daily grind, she said, “he’s the most laid-back person you would ever meet. He’s always got something off-the-wall to say and he’s very funny.”
When she was born, she said, her father “was doing a lot of crazy jobs, running a bunch of businesses, and he kept trying to do better.”