Prodigal Son returns to industry and company he knows best

Posted by Shanna Crigger on Sep 20, 2019

SANTA CRUZ – Chances are good you have not had as many jobs as Jake Neu.

Even if you’ve had a lot, Jake of Asphalt Surfacing Inc. has had more.

The Oakley native has had 27, to be exact, all before turning 31.

“I wanted to keep going and better myself with each position,” Jake said. “I learned something new at every job. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to work hands-on and become the lead person.”

While the majority of Jake’s work has been in construction, he’s dabbled in other industries and briefly ran his own home inspection business.

Like a lot of Millennials, Jake’s always up to try something new, even if it’s temporary.

His career explorations have taken him to Maui, where he fabricated custom sheet metal, and the oil fields of North Dakota, installing insulation around pipes to prevent the oil from freezing in sub-zero temperatures.

There was a steel mill in Pittsburgh.

He’s also spent time as a laborer at Teichert, ARB and Sukut’s $800 million tri-venture with Flatiron and Dragados replacing the Calaveras Dam, where he helped unload rock from the trucks and place on site.

Now, Jake has come full circle and returned to the family business, Asphalt Surfacing Inc., where he started as a kid sweeping chewed sunflower seeds from the shop floor.

It’s where he plans to stay along with his older brother Buck Neu.

The brothers are working together to transition ownership of the Milpitas-based asphalt paving company their father Kenny Neu has run since 2002.

Asphalt and an entrepreneurial spirit run through the family, beginning with Neu Brothers Paving in 1967, which was started by Jake’s grandfather Butch and his four brothers.

At Asphalt Surfacing, Buck is running the financial side of the business while Jake estimates and manages individual projects along with dispatching the crews and equipment.

With the brothers at the helm, Kenny can begin to think about retiring.

“It’ll be hard for him to step away entirely,” Jake said about his dad’s commitment to the company and industry. “He’ll probably always want to be part of this.”

Jake and Buck are doing what young guys are apt to do when taking over a business: introducing new software and digital processes to the company’s workflow and project management.

They’ve moved to digital timecards, added GPS and adopted an online platform for estimating and scheduling.

The changes are part of operating as modern company as well as holding some kind of edge in the competition for construction craft workers, which Jake acknowledges is one of Asphalt Surfacing’s great hurdles.

“What I’ve noticed is with construction is that it’s a dying breed and not as many people want to get into this industry,” he said. “One of the things we’ve done is ask the guys what they want. What we’re hearing is they want steady work and compassion for when unexpected things come up, whether it’s a vehicle issue or a family matter. We want to be that compassionate company.”

The company specializes in asphalt paving jobs that can be as quick as one day’s work or up to a week. They also work with concrete and do a lot of patch work and seal coats.

Most of their work involves grading and paving parking lots, which keeps them busy and moving around the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast.

They extend services to Manteca and other parts of the Central Valley.

When Jake isn’t tending to a paving project, he spends time at the beach near his Santa Cruz home with longtime girlfriend Tierra and their dogs Kai and Willie.

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