Baker Concrete & Excavating

NORTHEAST IOWA CONTRACTOR GIVES BACK, CONTINUES TO BUILD ON SOLID FOUNDATION, REPUTATION

Mar 13, 2012

Reliable and efficient Komatsu equipment

In late 2011, Baker Concrete & Excavating donated earthwork and concrete work on an Extreme Makeover — Home Edition project for a family in West Union, Iowa. In a few hours time, the company did some land clearing; demolished an old house, including removing the old basement; dug the new basement and poured the concrete floor.

Involvement came at the request of the general contractor tasked with overseeing the project, one of many the television show did for families in need throughout the country. Baker Concrete & Excavating Owners Steve and Mike Baker believed it was a way to give back to the community and help out the contractor, with which they frequently work.

“When the general contractor called, we didn’t hesitate to say yes,” said Steve. “Not only were we helping the contractor, but making a difference for a really deserving family. We felt fortunate to be able to do that for them.”

The project also highlighted the services Clermont-based Baker Concrete & Excavating has built up during its 15 years in business. The Baker brothers founded the business in 1997, when they bought an existing small excavation business.

Baker Concrete & Excavating now has a staff of more than 50 and two locations, its original facility in Clermont and one in Waverly that opened in 2009 when the Bakers acquired another excavation company. That acquisition has allowed them to expand all areas of their business in the Waterloo/ Cedar Falls market. Most of Baker Concrete & Excavating’s work falls into commercial and municipal categories as either a prime or subcontractor. Projects range in size from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million. Steve is President and Mike is Secretary of the growing enterprise.

“Things change”

The company takes on many projects as a package that includes concrete and earthwork, but Baker Concrete & Excavating does break those services out individually, depending on customer needs and requests. Earthwork services include clearing, grading, bulk excavation and underground installations. The company also does some demolition and snow removal.

“When we started the business, we probably couldn’t have done something like the Extreme Makeover project,” said Mike. “All we had was a backhoe and trailer. We rented a skid steer from the previous owner as needed. Our focus was small residential concrete projects, mainly garage floors and driveways.”

While they had limited equipment, they didn’t lack knowledge or experience. Steve owned a landscaping company, bought some earthmoving equipment while a senior in high school and did small projects prior to that. Mike previously worked for a concrete contractor.

“On the side, we did some small projects together,” noted Mike. “Steve knew I wanted to own my own business, so when the opportunity came up to buy a company, we decided it was the right thing to do. We started with a couple employees and, at first, that’s how we wanted it to stay.”

“But, of course, things change,” added Steve. “As opportunities that made sense came along, we took advantage of them to grow the business. We started doing water-line repairs and tiling work for area farmers. Technically, I oversee the earthwork side of the business and Mike looks after the concrete side, but we’ve never really looked at this as one side or the other. We work together and pitch in to help each other whenever necessary. We’re very hands-on.”

Staff credited for success

Although the Bakers are hands-on, with about 10 crews and as many as 25 projects in various stages of construction throughout Iowa, southern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin going at once, they can’t be on every jobsite daily. They rely on several veteran foremen and staff members to lead those jobs, including their first two employees, Dan Berger and Randy Cronin, both concrete foremen.

The Bakers credit all their employees for the success of the company. They depend on individuals like longtime Office Manager Maureen Johnson; Steve’s son Shawn, who is the company’s project coordinator; Mike’s son Blake, who handles estimating and bidding; and longtime key employees Barry Smith, Jerry Young, Eduardo Gonzales, Brian Stone, Jay Dana and Andy Boehmer.

“When we acquired the company in Waverly a couple of years ago, nearly 100 percent of the staff stayed on board,” said Steve. “That made the transition very smooth, and like the people we already had, they’re excellent. We’re confident that even when we’re not on the jobsite, the work will still get done. Our entire staff understands the value of customer service and how important that is to our business. They deserve much of the credit for the company’s success.”

Baker Concrete & Excavating crews have completed several sizeable projects through the years. The company recently completed a more than $1 million Unity Square project in Waterloo that involved street construction — a big leap from its first-ever job that involved a 24-foot by 30-foot garage floor. Last year, it completed a sewer lagoon project near Stout, Iowa, moving more than 40,000 yards of dirt.

Sold on Komatsu

On projects large and small, Baker Concrete & Excavating relies on Komatsu equipment purchased or rented from Road Machinery & Supplies’ Cedar Rapids branch. The company works with Territory Manager Brad Johnson, along with RMS parts and service staff. Its main earthmoving machines are PC200, PC220, PC270 and PC300 hydraulic excavators.

“About 10 years ago, we called Brad to rent an excavator, and he brought out a PC200, which worked very well,” recalled Steve. “A few months later, he called and told us about another company that was trading in a PC200 and asked if we wanted to take a look at it. We ended up buying it, and are still running it today. It has about 14,000 hours on it, and we’ve done nothing other than put new track on it. We were sold right away on the value Komatsu provides.”

Baker Concrete & Excavating has continued to update and add to its fleet through the years. The company currently owns a Komatsu D65 and two D39 dozers, a Komatsu WA500 and three WA320 wheel loaders along with its Komatsu excavators. “All our Komatsu equipment has been very reliable and efficient, and we really appreciate the power and smoothness of operation,” noted Mike. “In the past, we tried other equipment when we’ve needed something to rent. Our operators always compared it to our Komatsus and said there was no comparison, so we’ve more or less been exclusive Komatsu users for a long time.”

In addition to Komatsu, the Bakers have purchased Gomaco paving equipment and Volvo compaction machinery from RMS, as well as NPK attachments. “Brad and RMS have been excellent to work with,” said Steve. “During the course of the year, our jobs require communication with RMS service and parts departments at the Sioux City, Milan, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids locations, and we appreciate everyone’s assistance at RMS. We especially thank (Des Moines Service Manager) Joe Wallace, who’s helped us many times solve an issue over the phone or via email. Once, when we had an issue with a PC300, he emailed the schematics so we could print them on our large printer. That saved us a lot of time and money.”

A bright future

Steve and Mike said Baker Concrete & Excavating will continue to call RMS for machinery, just as it will continue to expand if the opportunities present themselves. In the last couple of years, they’ve dipped their toes into state DOT projects, working with heavy highway contractors to perform work as a subcontractor.

“We’ve done some bridge approaches and other minor things, and I can see now with our capabilities that’s an area we can pursue a little more aggressively,” said Steve. “The Gomaco paver is an asset for us in that area. As long as we can do that work with the consistency and quality we offer on other projects, we’ll seek it out.”

The Baker brothers also want to ensure the business continues building upon the firm foundation they’ve established.

“We envision our boys eventually being able to take over the business if they want to, and we believe they do,” predicted Mike. “They both definitely have the ability and knowledge. Our work load has increased with Blake doing the bidding and estimating, and Shawn does an excellent job running projects in the field. That’s a solid combination, and we’re confident the future looks bright for us and them.”