Young and hungry: Plant Manager Jacob Newquist is making a big splash at a young age

Des Moines Portable Plant Manager Jacob Newquist started in his role at just 26 years old.

When people picture a level-headed, well-organized plant manager, the image of a 28-year-old is not, perhaps, the first thought that comes to mind. 

Des Moines Portable Plant Manager Jacob Newquist started in his role at just 26 years old.

But Jacob Newquist, the plant manager of Des Moines Portable, is breaking that stigma. 

Currently overseeing the portable crew’s operations at Fort Calhoun Quarry just outside Omaha, Nebraska, Newquist is taking action and leading a team producing several hundred thousand tons of aggregates yearly. 

“It’s a very hands-on position,” he said. “I like to work with the crew. We have a small team here – everyone lends a hand where they can, and I am no exception.” 

Because Newquist oversees a portable operation, he keeps up with an ever-changing schedule. 

In a matter of days, the site’s operations and equipment can move to an entirely new location to start working. 

“When it comes down to it, we can have the whole plant torn down and cleaned, move it down the road, and then have it set back up,” he said, overlooking the quarry. “Then, we’ll be back up and crushing 500 tons an hour like we never even left.” 

This headstrong, initiative-driven mindset is what led Newquist to get involved in the industry. 

Before starting at the company two years ago, Newquist served as a tank crewman in the United States Army for four years. 

After that, he began working at a dredge operation on the East Coast while finishing college through night school at Liberty University. 

“When I finished serving, I was looking for any job that would take me. I dredged sand out in Delaware and found out I loved it,” he said. “When I left that and came out here, I saw that aggregates were a different game; I loved it even more. It’s a different thing every day, and while no one likes challenges, it is a great feeling to work with the team out here to overcome whatever comes our way.” 

Jacob Newquist, plant manager of Des Moines Portable, reviews service manuals for the site’s equipment

Initially from Algona, Iowa, Newquist bounced all over the country before returning home to the Midwest with his wife, Aleksandra. 

Two things he says he loves about his job and the site’s location are the tight-knit community feel throughout the Central Division – particularly at Fort Calhoun – and the relentless dedication to world-class safety. 

“The first thing I thought about when I came to Martin Marietta was, ‘Wow, their safety standards are on point,’” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more safety-oriented culture; before I even started, I was shown how safety is the top priority throughout orientation. I was taken around and toured several sites before I started working just to see how different sites live up to the Guardian Angel culture daily.” 

One person who noticed Newquist’s drive was Regional Production Manager Ryan Bender. 

“Someone like Jacob, you can tell right away that he is just a sincere individual,” he said. “His work ethic alone speaks for itself.” Bender, who mentored Newquist during his earliest days at the company, said everyone should aspire to work with the same type of “ambitious” attitude that drives the young plant manager. “It just shows that with the right attitude and a dedication to your team, you can really achieve great things,” Bender said. 

On top of leading the site, Newquist is also a part of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Young Leaders, a group dedicated to growing professional development for aggregate professionals aged 40 and under. 

This network of young professionals helps Newquist stay connected to peers throughout the country. 

“When you meet with other young leaders, you get to see different problems across the industry, how they tackle them and what they did,” he said. “It is a great way to get new ideas.” 

In addition to this, Newquist is a member of the Military and Veterans Community (MVC), one of Martin Marietta’s employee resource groups. 

Attending meetings to discuss topics seen by those who serve and have served in the armed forces, Newquist said the group is a continued force in the company’s journey to gain new, talented individuals. 

“I believe what the MVC is saying and planning is so important,” he said. “I think when you leave any branch of the armed services, and you’ve been there for any amount of time, you could think, ‘How on earth would any of this be transferable to an everyday, civilian job?’ But there are some skills people might not even know they have. Mainly leadership: the leadership skills you develop from serving are like none other.” 

Overall, the daily challenges and constant triumphs continue to make Newquist’s Martin Marietta journey exciting. 

Reflecting on his start with the company, he remembers that he did have some concern about his own ability to lead. 

Coming into the role, Newquist said he was willing to listen; walking onto the site, he was incredibly nervous when he met members of the team who were almost twice his age and were now under his management. 

“My mindset was that I wanted to earn their trust, so they believe that when I make a decision, they don’t have to second guess it,” he said. “Getting through the hurdle of age was a little bit of a process. But I tried to lead from the front and I tried to learn all I could because I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I did mentoring and research. That takes a lot of work and extra hours to do, but in the end, you gain an appreciation and learn a lot.”