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Stimulus money pays concrete benefits for a Greenboro family business

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Niveen Kattan and her family's contracting business won’t get their money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act until next year, but they’re making use of it now.

“The stimulus program is helping our company grow, bringing in new equipment and new employees,” said Kattan, president of Atlantic Contracting Co. Inc. in Greensboro.

Kattan's firm has 24 employees and did about $2.4 million in business last year building concrete curbs, gutters and sidewalks and masonry drainage structures.

When the state Department of Transportation opened bids last month on 11 road and bridge jobs to be funded by $65 million in federal stimulus money, Kattan’s firm was the low bidder on subcontracts for part of the work on two jobs. The projects in Alamance and Forsyth counties are worth $28.8 million in all, and Kattan’s share will be about $587,0000.

“I think this is like the smartest thing the government could have done with its money,” Kattan said.

“Transportation and infrastructure is one of the few things where the government invests dollars and gets something tangible in return, like roads and sidewalks. And there are so many people who benefit from these projects – not just contractors and construction workers, but suppliers and drivers and other people. This is helping my employees feed their families and clothe them and put a roof over their head.”

The lead contractors will get started this spring on the two road jobs, but Atlantic Contracting’s part of the work will come in 2010, near the end of construction. Because she can add the jobs to her schedule now, Kattan says her firm can afford to invest this year in its second power curber – a $200,000 machine that squeezes out concrete curbs.

Her calendar for this year includes contracts awarded before the economy slowed down last year – a Greensboro sidewalk project starting soon and a $500,000 DOT contract for curb-and-gutter work to be done this summer in Catawba County.

“Things have slowed down a lot since last fall,” said Kattan, whose firm was honored by DOT as the state’s top woman-owned business in 2008.

“There haven’t been a lot of jobs to bid on. In February DOT took bids for only three projects across the whole state. We’ve just been trying to keep the doors open and pay our employees. We’re all on survival mode now, trying to make it to the end of the year. The federal stimulus program has given us a lot of opportunity.”

North Carolina will receive about $735 million for road and bridge work. DOT plans to award contracts for most of these projects by the end of June, with most of the rest to come this fall.

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.