Tarver Land Development


May 2, 2012

“We think Komatsu makes the best track hoes in the industry...”

What a difference a few years can make. Seven years ago, Robby Tarver had a good job and was making good money, but he wanted more.

“I wasn’t happy working for someone else, even though at the time, that someone else was my dad. I wanted my own business where I could make my own decisions. I guess what I really wanted was to ‘make it or break it’ on my own, and I was fairly confident I could make it. I didn’t have any reason to be so confident, except for the fact that when I say I’m going to do something, I’m determined to find a way to get it done.”

So Robby started Tarver Land Development, which, in the beginning, consisted of him and one employee doing small, dirt-moving jobs. From that humble start, the Alexandria, La.-based company has grown substantially.

Today, Tarver Land Development employs more than 25 people and does a wide range of work under several different company names. In addition to Tarver Land Development, Tar Stone, Tarver Pipeline and Tarver Oil Field all fall under the banner of Tarver Companies.

“The names summarize who we are and what we do,” said Tarver. “We do a large amount of road work, including asphalt paving. Pipelineand oil-field-related jobs are also rapidly becoming specialties of ours.

“No matter what type of work we’re doing, our goal is to do a quality job, do it in a timely manner, and always do what we say we’re going to do. By consistently accomplishing all those things, we’ve been able to establish an excellent client base in a relatively short time.”

Pavers and “grouting gurus”

Part of that client base is a group of Louisiana road-building companies that Tarver refers to as “The Big Five.”

“I’m proud to say we’re a sub for every one of them. They call us as needed and we bid to them. We do their dirt work, their pipe, their paving — whatever they need. They call us because they know we’ll take care of business for them. For example, we just completed two of the three segments of the I-49 extension in northern Louisiana, and finished 48 days ahead of schedule. That type of performance is what keeps them coming back to us.”

On the pipeline side of the business, Tarver points to a recent project for Acadian Gas Company. Tarver was the aggregate supplier for the company that did the 100-mile middle section of the pipeline.

“We hauled all the aggregate and, significantly, we also did their specialty contracting work,” noted Tarver. “That specialty work included grouting some levees along the Atchafalaya River. When a production pipe is pulled through the ground, it leaves a hole that has to be grouted to prevent erosion under the levees. It’s very specialized work and not many companies do it.

“We completed that job and the company we were working for was very pleased with the final product. Because of the work we did there, our name got out to other pipeline contractors. One even called us ‘grouting gurus.’ Since then, I’ve had offers from all over the U.S. — from Pennsylvania to California — to do grout work on pipeline jobs.”

“A good team”

To do the wide range of work that Tarver Land (or any of the other Tarver Companies) does — from site development to paving to pipeline — the company relies on what it considers to be the best set of employees in the region.

Key people include Donnie Givens, who oversees Tar Stone and much of the pipeline work; Robby’s brother Jarred Tarver, who heads the road construction and asphalt-paving divisions; Randall Peart, Dirt Division Superintendent; Jessie Gordon, Asphalt Foreman; and Robby’s wife, Shirrea, who does all the bookkeeping.

“Shirrea and I have made a good team throughout the past seven years,” Robby noted. “Donnie and Jarred are my right-hand men, and I have total faith in Randall, who was my first employee. From my managers to operators to laborers, I hire the best people in the industry. I pay more than the industry average to get them and to keep them. We try to treat everybody like family. The end result is that we have a highly productive work force and virtually no turnover.”

Because of the quality of the work force, Tarver says he’s often able to do more with less.

“When we’re working with a large company, they often come to my office. They’re used to seeing a lot of paper pushers, so the first thing they ask is, ‘Where is everybody?’ My answer is, ‘You’re looking at her.’ My wife is the only person in our office. Everybody else, including me, is out in the field where the work gets done. We keep our overhead low, which allows us to be more efficient and more competitive in our bids.”

Komatsu equipment/H&E support

To help him do his jobs efficiently, Tarver turns largely to machines from H&E Equipment Services. Among pieces he owns are a new PC350LC-8 hydraulic excavator and a new D51 dozer with a winch. He also rents a substantial amount of equipment from H&E.

“We love the D51,” Tarver stated. “We got it after trading in a D61. It’s about equal to the D61 in terms of power, and a big step up in other respects. Visibility is great. The track system is smooth and efficient. We do a large amount of storm work, so we put a winch on it to pull the electric company’s trucks. It has the size and power to do that well, plus it’s a great finish dozer.

“We think Komatsu makes the best track hoes in the industry and we’ve been very pleased with the PC350,” he added. “We also demo’d a PC490LC-10 on a job where we were handling large, heavy pipe and we were blown away by it. The lifting capacity and holding capacity are truly impressive. When we start getting jobs where we need a machine of that size, we already know what we want.”

Beyond the equipment itself, both Tarver and Supervisor Donnie Givens say they appreciate the support they get from the H&E Alexandria branch.

“Branch Manager C.J. Nichols and Rental Rep Jeff Bonial do a great job for us,” acknowledged Tarver. “Any time of the day or night, Jeff answers his phone. If we need service, the H&E shop is second-to-none. If we need parts, we get them. H&E takes care of us the way we try to take care of our customers.”

“The impressive thing is, Jeff and C.J. help us out even when there’s nothing in it for them,” added Givens. “We know we can count on them and trust them. And they make things happen. If I need five off-road trucks and there are only three available in their entire system, somehow or other, Jeff gets me the other two I need. That’s been my history with H&E. The effort and results are above and beyond.”

Client focused

Although he’d never been involved with construction-related work before starting Tarver Land Development, Tarver says he now loves the industry.

“The great thing about construction work to me is that it’s ever-changing. I’m never in the same place or doing the same thing for very long. I love that it’s always something new and different and presents daily challenges that keep things interesting.”

“One of the strengths of the company is Robby and our staff’s ability to catch a potential problem early and change course as necessary,” Givens pointed out. “You’ve got to do the job right the first time to make money at it, and Robby is very quick to adjust to changing situations.”

Looking down the road, Tarver says his companies are definitely in a growth mode.

“I’ve always taken a fairly conservative, slow-growth approach to the business, but make no mistake, we do intend to grow. We’ll continue to offer our current services, but I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what we can do on the pipeline side. Eventually, I’d like to see us break into doing mainline pipe jobs and I’m hopeful that will happen sooner rather than later.

“Whatever we do, you can be assured we’ll remain a company that’s focused on client satisfaction. We’ll always be responsive and hands-on, and we believe that client-first approach will keep us successful, no matter what type of work we’re doing.”