Girardeau Stevedores & Contractors

DIVERSIFIED MISSOURI FIRM RELIES HEAVILY ON FAMILY MEMBERS TO EARN CUSTOMERS’ TRUST

April 11, 2014

“I like all of our Komatsu products.”

When Lanny and Marilyn Koch started Girardeau Stevedores in 1982, barge loading and unloading was the company’s sole business. Today, Girardeau Stevedores & Contractors (GSC) still performs barge work but also handles storage, rigging, trucking and more at Semo Port (southeast Missouri) near Cape Girardeau, Mo. In addition, the company performs a wide range of other work at the port – and beyond.

“We focus on many specialty services that other contractors typically don’t offer,” said Lanny. “For example, we have about 20 cranes (up to a 300-ton model), so we run a mobile crane service. We also have nearly 20 trucks, so we do a good amount of outside trucking. We are also experienced in bridges, piling, railroad work, dirt work and millwright work. We don’t solicit jobs – our customers come to us. They know who we are, know we’re going to get the job done and know it’s going to be done right. We strive to give them a great product, and apparently we have been successful because we’ve earned their trust.”

The Semo Port is an 1800-foot slack water harbor on the Mississippi River. It provides customers access to the Gulf and the entire U.S. inland waterway system. Customers can transport cargo by barge, truck or rail into and out of the port. GSC handles a wide range of cargo, from metals and lumber, to equipment and containers. Dry bulk cargoes include fertilizers, road salt, coal, limestone and many other products.

GSC, which operates the cargo dock and terminal operations at Semo Port, has about 30 employees, six of whom are Lanny and Marilyn’s sons: Robert, Kent, Paul, John, Marty and Terry.

“Each, more or less, has his own specialty and runs his own division, however, like all of our employees, each can and will go wherever he’s needed on any given day,” said Lanny. “It’s extremely gratifying that they all work here, and without reservation, I can say they’re the hardest-working and best employees I have. When one of them is on a job, I don’t worry about it. I know they’re not coming home until it’s done.

“That said, having them all work here is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Right now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it took awhile to get here. I do my best to be fair and equal to each of them, but it’s difficult. To their credit, they’ve always worked together well, and I think they all see the big picture very clearly.”

The family connection extends beyond Lanny and his sons. Lanny’s wife, Marilyn, and two daughters-in-law handle office duties. Three grandsons also work at GSC.

Productive Komatsu Equipment

Girardeau Stevedores & Contractors owns two Komatsu wheel loaders (a WA450 and a WA380) and one Komatsu excavator (a PC400) to help it run port operations. It also rents Komatsu equipment from Roland Machinery for other projects.

“For example, we have a big dirt-work job here at the port, which involves repairing a harbor slide and stabilizing the bank,” said Lanny. “We used four HM400 artic trucks and a PC490 excavator last season. So far this year, we have three HM400s. Conditions can be rather sloppy when we’re working on the bank in the winter, but the Komatsu trucks are great at hauling through the muck.

“I like all of our Komatsu products,” he added. “The wheel loaders are awesome. We store and ship a concentrated lead product, and we use the WA450 exclusively to handle it. It literally never comes out of the lead-con building because it runs so clean. Although it predates most of the recent emissions regulations, it puts out virtually no smoke, which is very helpful in that enclosed space.”

Beyond the Komatsu product, Koch says the service he gets from Roland is top of the line. “My Sales Rep Dan Christensen and PSSR Randy Mouser take good care of us. Roland is a quality dealer, and we’re glad they’re here in Cape Girardeau.”

Exciting future

Although Koch is looking to slow down and semi-retire in a year or so, he says he’s very optimistic about what lies ahead for Girardeau Stevedores and Contractors.

“We’ve never really had a downturn, probably because we’re so diversified. If one side of our business drops, another side picks up the slack. I don’t think we’re even close to our potential. The river runs 24/7, so if we ran around-the-clock, we would be working at 100 percent. Right now, we’re working at about 30 percent, so there’s plenty of room for stevedoring growth.

“I’m confident my boys will do well when they take over,” he added. “With their work ethic, they’ll figure out the business end, and I’m not a bit worried about the company in their hands. I’m also very optimistic about what the third generation will bring to the business. One of my grandsons has a degree in economics and another is studying industrial engineering. I can see how their knowledge and skills could bring a whole new dimension to the company. So, the future is bright, and I look forward to watching it unfold. It should be exciting.”