Faith, Family & Freedom
Woman-owned USA Civil embraces values of integrity, honor and respect
Many entrepreneurs are driven by the satisfaction of doing something great, while others desire to leave a lasting impression on the world. For business leader Monique Smith, she was born to help clients achieve their goals by offering strategic solutions to overcome obstacles—which requires adaptability and oftentimes a willingness to go the extra mile.
This philosophy inspired her to launch USA Civil in 2005. Headquartered in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the certified woman-owned contracting firm specializes in civil construction, with target markets including industrial, energy, water/wastewater, governmental and municipal.
“My company is firmly based on a value system of God, family and country,” says Monique, who serves as President and CEO. “These guiding values boil down to principles of integrity, honor and respect, which we strive to reflect in all we do.”
She has high standards for her team of approximately 85 employees, who cater to clients primarily in Virginia as well as in North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
“The qualities I value most in employees are loyalty, trust, reliability and leadership,” she says. The dedication of her staff is clearly evidenced by the average tenure of the workforce: 10 years. Another noteworthy facet of her team is that many have professional backgrounds either in the military, police force, emergency medical services or firefighting.
When asked why she thinks employees prefer to work at her company, she promptly responds, “We always have a positive atmosphere here. I look for people with a can-do attitude, which supports our environment of positivity. I think people are attracted to that—plus, we offer great benefits!”
She laughs, then adds, “We’re always busy and are never idle. This challenges my team and pushes them, which I feel is also very rewarding. In addition, we try to promote from within whenever we see people with the aptitude and drive for this line of work.”
Unique Leadership Philosophy
Monique’s leadership style is inspired in part by a concept from the bestselling book, “212° the extra degree,” authored by Sam Parker. The book starts with this premise: “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam. And with steam, you can power a train. Just one extra degree makes all the difference.”
Monique is among millions worldwide who have been inspired by this philosophy of digging deeper to make better things happen for themselves as well as the people around them. Because Monique models and encourages extra effort, care and attention—that “extra degree”—there is a heightened sense of camaraderie among the staff as well as stronger relationships with clients and trade partners.
“The extra degree of effort, care and attention produces incredible results and has made all the difference in our company’s ability to succeed,” Monique shares.
Diverse Portfolio of Services
Over the last 15 years, Monique has maintained a consistent focus on diversifying USA Civil’s portfolio of services to meet a range of client needs. In addition to building structures, her team has extensive expertise related to grading, erosion/sediment control and access, power transmission/generation, facilities maintenance, stormwater management and environmental stewardship, plus much more.
One current noteworthy project involves building approximately 20 miles of access road leading to a high-voltage transmission line. The scope of work includes erosion and sediment control, temporary road construction and landscape restoration. Another major contract is for generation facility maintenance, which includes various services such as erosion and sediment control, site maintenance and facilities building maintenance.
The company also has a division called USA Materials. “This division supplies high-quality recycled concrete aggregate that is environmentally safe and sound for our customers,” says Jeremy Setelin, Vice President. “We are Central Virginia’s largest recycler of aggregate.”
In 2018, USA Materials participated in a massive contract to provide over 250,000 tons of material on an ongoing, multiphased I-64 widening project led by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Another notable client is Waste Management, a national firm that operates waste services facilities on behalf of more than 20 million customers.
With an eye on offering more services to meet project needs, Monique established two additional standalone operations: USA Iron and Metal and USA Logistics and Leasing.
USA Iron and Metal, which recycles everything from steel and aluminum to iron, tin and copper, opened in 2018. “USA Iron and Metal is the only recycler of metal products in Chesterfield County,” Jeremy says. The business is flourishing and has already expanded its territory. “We just opened a second location on July 6, 2020—an eight-acre facility at Clover Hill Industrial Park,” he adds. Conveniently situated next to U.S. 360 and Route 288 on the outskirts of Richmond, the centralized location serves clients along a widely expanding corridor into the western parts of the Tri-Cities area.
USA Logistics and Leasing opened earlier this year. The company provides truck-hauling services for construction and recycling jobs as well as seasonal snow removal. “We’re one of the largest snow-removal contractors for VDOT,” Jeremy notes. There are a variety of trucking options available to fit any local or long-distance transportation need. “We have an extensive truck fleet, ranging from dump trucks, flatbed trailers and water trucks to roll-off trucks, lowboys and road tractors,” he adds.
The trucking solutions team already has a notable project under its belt: removing debris from the site of a 21-story office tower that was imploded in downtown Richmond’s One James River Plaza in May. USA Materials was contracted to recycle 65,000 cubic yards of concrete, which USA Logistics and Leasing hauled off in about 6,500 truckloads within a 45-day period.
Creating a vertically integrated suite of companies is integral to Monique’s leadership paradigm, which is focused on meeting and anticipating the needs of clients in every sector, for jobs of any scope or scale.
“We like the idea of serving as a one-stop shop because our company is strongly committed to being solutions-based. If a customer has a need or a problem, we create the solution,” Monique says.
The business structure allows the team to “provide even greater service,” according to Jeremy, and serves to enhance rapport with clients. The three USA-brand organizations have enjoyed much repeat business and referrals from their appreciative customers.
The companies are also known for environmental stewardship. “We want to be responsible stewards of our environment,” Monique says. “We only have one earth, and I think it’s our responsibility to take care of it.”
Jeremy notes the recycling operations have diverted over 3.5 million tons of concrete from landfills to date, and currently produce nearly 250,000 tons of recycled aggregate products each year. He adds, “Monique’s drive to provide recycling solutions to the Central Virginia area is remarkable. Eventually, she wants to offer national solutions for recycling products.”
“The extra degree of effort, care and attention produces incredible results and has made all the difference in our company’s ability to succeed.” Monique Smith, President and CEO, USA Civil
Efficiency, Safety Are Key
Utilizing cutting-edge technologies is a must to keep projects moving forward efficiently at USA Civil and its sister companies.
Jeremy says, “Our equipment fleet has over 150 power units including excavators, bulldozers, skid steers, wheel loaders and rollers. We utilize the latest GPS machine-control systems on our equipment, which helps to ensure precision on job sites to within a quarter of an inch. We also rely on telematics to monitor our fleet, which gives us data on exactly where each piece of equipment is, how long it’s been running, and if it’s running at an optimal level. Telematics has really helped us with decision-making and efficiency on job sites.”
He adds, “Our dispatch software, which is integrated with our accounting software, has really helped the logistics company as well as the materials company. This provides us with better control and insights about our inventory, and optimizes efficiency for our customers.” He notes further that the use of sophisticated technologies provides a more customer-friendly experience.
Keeping employees safe is the company’s primary focus. “Our safety program is our top priority and we take it very seriously. We stay abreast of the latest safety culture practices and maintain a rigorous training awareness program so employees feel confident that they can return safely to their families at the end of each day,” Monique says.
Jeremy concurs. “Our experience modification rate, or EMR, is 0.81. To stay under a one in the sectors that we participate in is quite challenging,” he says. To ensure safety remains top of mind, the staff participates in weekly safety meetings. “Also, twice a year we conduct an in-house ‘safety summit,’ where we bring in outside speakers and training staff to speak to our workers in addition to our in-house presentations. During these safety summits we knock out all necessary trainings and certifications as well as discuss new safety topics and regulations.”
Roots in Construction
Monique grew up in a family entrenched in the construction business. Her husband, Richard, shares her entrepreneurial spirit, leading his own separate group of companies offering demolition, civil and environmental services under the parent organization RJ Smith Companies.
“My parents were both in construction, so it comes second nature to me, and my husband was working in construction when I met him,” Monique says. To her, it was a natural progression for them to make their careers in an industry that aligns with their interests and skill sets.
“Our three daughters have also grown up around the business,” Monique continues. “Our oldest, Savannah, is 18 and just started college in North Carolina. We also have Sheyenne (12) and Sheridan (8).”
The girls all have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be in the field. “They can all operate equipment very well,” Monique adds with a laugh. She also mentions how Savannah, a creative personality with a flair for graphic design, recently updated the companies’ websites.
It is uncertain whether the couple’s children plan to follow in their career footsteps. However, these proud parents are content with supporting whatever path their daughters choose—though the idea of transitioning into a multigenerational family business is an exciting prospect.
Whatever the future holds, the Smiths desire to leave a legacy of prioritizing faith, family and freedom above all. Savannah has already stepped up in her local community to demonstrate the ideals she shares with her parents, most recently this past July, when she delivered a heartfelt speech to an audience of hundreds at Chesterfield County’s “Go Blue Day” event.
“It was definitely a proud parent moment for my husband and I,” Monique says. “Some people in her generation are afraid to voice their support of our police because of public backlash. But Savannah was not—she stands firm in her values and in what she believes is right.”
The family also made quite an impression in the local community back in November 2018, when it raised the tallest flagpole flying the largest American flag in Virginia. Soaring majestically at 212 feet high (in homage to the “extra degree” philosophy), and located near the busy intersection of I-95 and Route 288, this highly visible symbol of unity and national freedom has become a landmark in the Chesterfield community.
“We did this to show our passion and support for our military and first responders, and we back the blue—today and every day,” Monique says.
A poignant insight from Savannah’s speech reinforces this sentiment: “These brave men and women that we stand behind and love are the reason it is possible for our nation to prosper independently and stand securely. …Many things change, but one thing that will always stay true is the fact that we are the UNITED States. Our desire to unify and propel forward together is, and will always be, stronger than our faults and divisions because there is only one nation under God.”