Barton Malow

Rowe Trucking LLC: Driving to New Heights

Detroit-based heavy construction material hauler has grown from $500,000 to $5 million in revenue in just two years

When Rhonda Rowe was attending Central High School on Detroit’s west side, she vividly recalls writing in her yearbook that she one day wanted to manage or own a business. After accepting a buyout from Chrysler in 2009 amid the automaker’s restructuring, she made good on this goal, starting Rowe Trucking, LLC, and going into business with her father.

Rhonda’s father, Arthur, was semi-retired at the time but had established his own trucking company in 1967. And though 2007 was a difficult time to start any type of business, Rowe Trucking was able to start its operations with the three dump trucks that Arthur still owned. Now, 12 years later, Rowe Trucking has continued to earn more work, grow its profits, and has eyes on expanding both its workforce and its reach beyond southeast Michigan.

From Humble Beginnings To Rapid Growth

“When I went into business, that was at the downturn of the economy,” Rhonda recalled. “It was extremely hard. It made it hard to get contracts.”

Rowe Trucking is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) organization, and these statuses helped it earn some work in trying economic times. Eventually, the company purchased a new truck – a quad-axle semi-truck – which helped it earn even more work.

As Rowe Trucking began to earn more contracts as economic conditions improved, Rhonda brokered with other trucking companies to keep up with the workload. In doing so, she was able to learn a lot from other, more experienced truckers, including David Laming, who was then working for TKMS Trucking and Lou’s Transport. Rhonda holds Dave, currently the General Manager of State Crushing, as a close collaborator and friend and mentor in the trucking industry.

Part of Rowe Trucking’s increase in work came as Rhonda began attending outreach meetings hosted by Barton Malow on construction of the Wayne County Criminal Justice project. Rowe Trucking was eventually awarded a contract on the project, which Rhonda says is the biggest revenue project her company has worked on to date. Rowe has since performed work on another Barton Malow build, the Hudson’s Redevelopment project. These projects have helped the company grow revenue from about $600,000 in 2017 to a projected $5 million in 2019.

“Being in Detroit, being born and raised in Detroit, it gives you pride to work on projects within the city,” she said, noting that Rowe Trucking has also worked on the M1 Rail and Martin Luther King High School projects in the city. “My parents remember going downtown to the original Hudson’s. They remember downtown and what the city used to be. It’s been good to work on these different projects.”

An Even Brighter Future Awaits

As for the future, Rhonda has several goals for Rowe Trucking, and they all include further growth. She’s unsure if she’ll grow by adding to her own trucking fleet or continuing to broker with other truckers just yet, but she does have her sights set on expanding outside of southeast Michigan to areas of the country where work is more plentiful during the winter months. She also plans to purchase a building in Detroit rather than rent space in a yard, which the company does now.

In addition to Rhonda and her father, Rowe Trucking has four other employees, a number she also expects to see increase in the coming years.

“I wear a lot of different hats right now and haven’t been able to delegate things quite yet,” she said. “If I’m going to grow, I know I’m going to have to let go of some things. I can’t grow the business and work in the business as much.”

Barton Malow has long been committed to assisting the growth and development of disadvantaged, and minority- and women-owned businesses as part of its diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ve designed award-winning programs to maximize participation on our projects, and we’re active with organizations such as the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, the Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, National Association of Minority Contractors, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Women Business Enterprise Council – Great Lakes. Rowe Trucking is one of the businesses we’ve been proud to partner with and help grow.