The historic ALICO building at Fifth Street and Austin Avenue downtown is getting new roofs on its lower levels that extend from the main building. Montgomery Construction crews are covering tar-and-gravel material, which has lasted since the 22-story structure was unveiled in 1911, with a plastic membrane.

The ALICO serves as home to the American-Amicable Life Insurance Company of Texas, which employs 194 people scattered in offices throughout the building. For several years, the ALICO was the tallest building south of the Mason-Dixon line, according to historical reports.

A six-person crew is reroofing about half a dozen sections over space used for storage and IT equipment, said Austin Montgomery, who oversees commercial sales and operations for Montgomery Construction.

“The roofing was getting old, had lived its life,” Montgomery said. “We’re sweeping away the loose gravel, applying insulation and installing Mule-Hide TPO, which is a thermal plastic product.”

The work will cost about $100,000 and is expected to take another two weeks, he said. Montgomery Construction also replaced the roof on the ALICO’s main tower last summer. That project meant leasing a 275-ton crane for a month, which represented about $65,000 of the $250,000 cost.

The ALICO was Texas’ first skyscraper. When it was completed in 1911, “it was hailed as the symbol of Waco’s future, just as the Suspension Bridge was a symbol of its past,” a former Tribune-Herald columnist wrote.

Contractors Sanguinet & Staats reportedly sought to construct an indestructible building and dug 40 feet into the ground, down to solid rock, to lay the foundation. Then, with massive steel H-beams in place, they said it would sustain a “hurricane load.”

The deadly Waco tornado of May 11, 1953, ravaged much of downtown, leaving shattered buildings in its wake. The ALICO swayed, and staffers on the upper floors were thrown against the walls. But the structure suffered only minor damage and became a crisis center after the storm.

‘Boss Conference’

A Texas Minority Business “Boss Conference” is scheduled Sept. 21 in the City of Waco Multipurpose Center at 1020 Elm Ave.

Hosted by the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, the daylong event is titled “Leveraging contacts, capital and contracts for success.” It lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the $30 fee includes conference materials, breakfast and lunch, according to a news release.

Topics will include learning where and how to get capital to grow a minority-owned business; doing business with local and state government; connecting with other members of the minority business community; and learning ways to market a business to increase profits.

Tickets are available at For more information, call 235-3204.

Chiquita W. Eugene, president and CEO of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce, will serve as keynote luncheon speaker.

5G trials in Waco

Communications giant AT&T is expanding its 5G trials to include three new U.S. cities by year’s end, and the list includes Waco.

According to a report appearing in The New York Times, the trials “will test a faster broadband service in which the last leg of the connection is delivered by radio signal to a home or business using high-band wireless airwaves known as millimeter wave.”

Participants will be able to stream AT&T’s DirectTV Now service over a 5G connection “and experience shorter lag times for uses such as video conferencing and virtual-reality gaming,” according to the article.

AT&T is expanding 5G trials to business and residential customers in Waco; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana, according to a company press release. It launched its second fixed wireless trial in June in Austin, recruiting a car wash, church, apartment unit and several small businesses, according to the press release.

“Trial participants in the new markets may include universities, hospitals, churches, restaurants and other small businesses,” AT&T reported.

The service is called fixed wireless, “and is expected to be the first application of 5G technologies and could eventually be a competitor to the high-speed Internet services offered by cable companies,” The New York Times reported. “It could also be less costly to the companies than deploying fiber to the home.”

The tests are meant to help the nation’s No. 2 wireless carrier determine if the millimeter wave spectrum can travel through foliage and buildings and to study the impact weather has on the signal, according to the press release.

County garage sold

Waco businessman Joe Nemmer Jr., founder and president of Nemmer Electric, has bought the decades-old McLennan County garage at 301 S. 20th St., which carried an asking price of $225,000.

Nemmer said by phone he hopes to give the 14,850-square-foot building a thorough update while preserving as much of its historic appearance as possible. He said he will use the space for storage and vehicle parking.

The building was listed for sale by Harrell & Associates, with agent Lori Roller doing most of the heavy lifting. Roller said the transaction proved challenging because the title had not been researched for ages.

“We had to work hard on that but finally got it done,” she said.

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