Hurst Excavating

TOUGH DECISION PAYS OFF FOR KNOXVILLE-AREA UTILITY CONTRACTOR

Feb 13, 2012

Komatsu, Power Equipment a great combination

About 16 years ago, David Hurst had a tough decision to make. At the time he was working for the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), and his father, Bill, passed away suddenly. David took a leave of absence from KUB to finish projects Bill had on the books from his company, Hurst Excavating.

“He had one piece of equipment and a dump truck, but he had plenty going on, mostly custom work for individuals,” said David, who started doing the work in 1994. “I got caught up, and then for a couple of years I worked both at KUB and Hurst Excavating. I had to decide on one or the other. At the time, I had only one employee besides me.”

Today, the Knoxville-based contractor mainly works in the governmental sector, installing underground utilities for municipalities and water and sewer districts. With six crews, Hurst Excavating works in about a 100-mile radius of Knoxville, replacing old and installing new water and sewer lines, as well as associated work, such as manholes.

“When I took over, we still did many residential grading, footing and clearing projects on larger properties,” said Hurst. “We still do some on a limited basis, but with my background in utility construction, it seemed natural to progress toward that. About 80 percent of our work is done as a prime contractor on those type of projects. We also do a fair amount of subcontracting.”

Niche in pipe bursting

About 10 years ago, Hurst expanded his list of services by offering pipe bursting. The company recently completed a $2.5 million project in the city of Knoxville that involved about 20,000 feet of pipe bursting on eight-, 10- and 12-inch lines.

“It’s a specialty niche that’s allowed us to expand, even beyond what we did the first few years,” noted Hurst, who continued to double the company’s size annually for several years. “We have about 50 employees now, and they’re among the best in the business. There’s no way I could have gotten to this point without them. They’re a solid, hardworking group.”

Key individuals include General Superintendent Hugh Brogdon, Project Manager Greg Stump and Estimator/Project Manager Jay Roehl.

Komatsu, Power a great combination

When Hurst dedicated himself full time to Hurst Excavating, he began looking at additional equipment. One of his first orders of business was trading an old backhoe for a Komatsu excavator. Today, he runs a half dozen excavators, including tight-tail-swing models PC78, PC138 and PC228. He also has PC200 and PC400 machines, as well as WA180 and WA250 wheel loaders and D39 and D41 dozers.

“Our work varies in size, so we have a range of excavators to fit any need,” said Hurst. “We particularly like the compact models because they allow us to get into tight quarters without the worry of hitting obstructions and we can work on city streets without closing them down. For instance, we can work in one lane, get a bucketful of material, roll it up, turn around and dump it while traffic is still moving in the other lane. For their size, they have terrific power, and we’ve found all our Komatsu equipment to be very reliable, productive and fuel-efficient.”

While Hurst appreciates what Komatsu equipment offers, he readily admits a big reason for continuing to buy it is the service he gets from Power Equipment’s Knoxville branch. For sales and rental, he works with Rental/Utility Sales Representative Wes Cowden. “When I started out, things were tough, and I’ve often looked back and wondered how I made it,” said Hurst. “If it hadn’t been for folks like Wes and Power Equipment, I probably wouldn’t have. They’ve helped me considerably. All equipment goes down at some point, so a big factor in our decision is how quickly it gets fixed. Power has never let us down.”

Eyeing expansion

Hurst believes continued growth is healthy, and though he hasn’t grown his company considerably in the past couple of years, he sees potential on the horizon. He recently hired Estimator/Project Manager Jay Roehl with an eye toward expansion into more work outside the governmental market.

“We have the equipment and the know-how to do commercial and other types of site work, but that hasn’t been a strong market lately,” said Hurst. “We continue to bid on what’s there, and we’ll see where it goes. We believe those other markets will come back, and when they do, we’re ready for it.”