Brandt Petersen


May 19, 2008

Brandt Pedersen has been in business as an excavation contractor in Lake Charles, La., for 33 years. During that time, there’s been a lot of growth in the city, and Brandt Pedersen Construction, which specializes in site work for residential subdivisions, has had a hand in much of it.

But while the company is now well-established and has had considerable success, it wasn’t all smooth sailing right from the start.

“In 1975, I was 24 years old and married with two young daughters,” Pedersen recalled. “I was trying to get work through the union hall, but it was pretty tough around here at the time and I wasn’t having much luck. My dad had a small construction company, but he was getting out of the business so he could spend more time brokering equipment. When he got a call from a guy who wanted him to put in a septic tank, he told me I should go into business for myself, and I could start with that job. I didn’t have a lot of other ideas, so I agreed.”

Of course, in order to do the job, Pedersen would need some equipment — so he bought a used backhoe from his dad, who co-signed the note for him. “When I got home and told my wife I’d bought a backhoe for $10,000, she said I was crazy and thought there was a good chance we might starve,” Pedersen admitted.

“Frankly, during that first winter, I was thinking she might be right,” he added. “There wasn’t much work to be had and I was so nervous, my stomach knotted up for about a month straight. When it got to be September and I still didn’t have anything for the winter, I applied at a local refinery in hopes that I could get on there. But that’s when I finally caught a break. I got a call asking me if I wanted to lay pipe on a street job. Of course I did, and that job got me through that first winter.”

Since then, Brandt Pedersen Construction has earned a reputation as a reliable earthmoving contracting firm that does quality work and does it right the first time. As a result, the company has enjoyed slow but steady growth through the years.

Private site work specialty

Today, Brandt Pedersen Construction employs about 14 people. The company continues to specialize in site work, including underground utilities. Virtually all of it is within about a 75-mile radius of Lake Charles.

“We’re usually responsible for all the site work on our jobs, and we tend to do all of it ourselves, with the exception of paving, which we sub out,” Pedersen explained. “All our work is on the private side, most of it residential subdivisions or commercial developments. We don’t do any state, parish or municipal work.”

Significant projects that Brandt Pedersen Construction has worked on include the Geddings Subdivision and Graywood, which is a large community development currently under construction south of Lake Charles. In addition to residential lots, the project features a golf course, an Olympic-size swimming pool and tennis courts.

The company is currently also doing the site work for a large equestrian center in Lake Charles.

“It’s an interesting project,” said Pedersen. “It’s going to be a real showplace with state-of-the-art facilities. The 100-acre site will have both an indoor and outdoor arena and the ground conditions are very precise: two feet of topsoil excavation, lime-treated fill, a foot of crushed stone, four inches of lime dust and an eight- to 10-inch layer of sand mixed with fibers. It’s all part of an effort to provide maximum protection for the horse. The designer is a South American who has done jumping tracks for Olympic venues, so it’s definitely going to be top-of-the-line and we’re pleased to be a part of it.”

Credit to employees

Pedersen relies on a talented and experienced work force to complete demanding jobs like that on time and on budget.

“I’ve got guys who’ve been with me a long time and they’re really the key to the success we’ve had,” acknowledged Pedersen. “Kenneth Cornett is an excellent equipment operator and he’s worked here 19 years. James Vincent started with me when he was 16 and he’s a jack-of-all-trades — a good superintendent, a good operator and a good mechanic. And Maurice “Reese” Marceaux is an excellent superintendent.

“Our guys get along with each other and they get along well with the people who hire us. As a company, we work hard to make a project go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.”

Productive equipment

To help make its jobs go smoothly, Brandt Pedersen Construction uses primarily Komatsu equipment from H&E Equipment Services. The company has four Komatsu hydraulic excavators (PC300LC-6, PC200LC-8, PC200LC-7 and a PC160LC-7) and two Komatsu dozers (D41 and D51).

“I got my first Komatsu excavator in 1986 and I’ve lost track of how many I’ve bought since then,” said Pedersen. “Our newest one, the PC200LC-8 is an excellent machine. Komatsu is definitely our excavator of choice. They’re fast. They’re reliable. And they last a long time.

“The D51PX-22 dozer has also been a real hit with our operators. When H&E brought it out for us to demo, everybody tried it, and after trying it out, they all wanted it to be theirs. For a smaller dozer (130 hp), it has a good-size cab, which our operators really appreciate. Visibility is great. It’s also a nice size — big enough to do some pushing, but small enough to do finer, dress-up work.”

Dealer support

In addition to preferring Komatsu equipment, Pedersen also enjoys dealing with H&E Equipment Services.

“My H&E Sales Representative, Dan Lavoie, is excellent, and H&E is a very easy company to do business with. I know they’re really trying to help me, rather than trying to get everything they possibly can from me. Whether I need a machine or an attachment, they always find what I need and give me a fair price.

“I’ve also been very pleased with the service department at the H&E Lake Charles branch,” Pedersen added. “Service Manager Donovan Dupuis returns my calls quickly and really stays on top of the situation. I take all my service work to H&E — even non-Komatsu pieces.”

Quality of work emphasized

Regarding the future, Pedersen says he’s not looking to get much bigger.

“We have our niche and an excellent reputation, thanks to our really good operators, so we’re able to stay busy doing work for repeat customers. We prefer that because they know what to expect, and so do we. If an opportunity came up that required more people, we could do that, but I’m comfortable doing what we’re doing.”

Considering where he started from in that first winter, Pedersen says things couldn’t have turned out much better.

“I find a lot of satisfaction in this work, seeing a project from start to finish, and I’m proud of the quality of work we do. If we take on a job, we’re going to do it right — period. As long as we maintain that standard, I think we’ll be in good shape in the years to come.”