Leichty & Son Construction

SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY HELPS SOUTHEASTERN IOWA CONTRACTOR MEET CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

May 28, 2010

Komatsu durable, efficient equipment means less downtime

Father-and-son team Irvin and Kurt Leichty can boil down Leichty & Son Construction’s success to two words: quality service.

“It’s really that simple,” said Irvin Leichty, the second generation of the Leichty family to provide excavation and other constructionrelated services to customers throughout southeastern and east-central Iowa. “My father passed on that ideal to me, and I’ve always stressed it as well. Success in this business is built on backing up your word and providing a quality finished product.”

That philosophy has led the Leichty family to its 60th anniversary in business. Irvin’s father, Leonard, was the first generation, forming Leichty Construction in 1950 with a single dozer. Leonard’s wife, Ruth, played an instrumental role as well. Sons Irvin and Dallas joined their dad and later took over operations upon Leonard’s passing. Dallas eventually went out on his own, so Irvin and his son Kurt formed Leichty & Son in the early 1990s. Irvin is President of the Mount Pleasant-based company, and Kurt is Vice President. Irvin’s wife, Lucy, handles bookwork.

One area of expertise the family is well-known for is farm tiling and terrace work. In fact, the family is an industry pioneer, having installed the first tile outlet terrace ever built in Henry County. That was in the early 1970s, and since then, the Leichtys estimate they’ve completed more than 2,500 such projects, a large number for repeat customers.

“Many of our customers have personal relationships with us that date back several decades,” noted Kurt.”It’s hard to put a number on how many times we’ve worked for any one customer, especially when it comes to farm tiling, which remains a specialty of ours. Those customers depend on us to get in and out as quickly as possible so they can get their crops in the ground.”

“We automatically put some regular customers on our schedule at the beginning of the year because we do work for them every year,” added Irvin. “We’re proud that they continue to place their trust in us, and that they’re willing to pass our name along to potential new customers. That’s how our business has grown.”

Diversification adds to project list

Through the years, Leichty & Son Construction has also installed numerous septic systems for many of those same customers. Last year, Kurt and his wife, Beth, formed Leison Pumping, a division of Leichty & Son, which specializes in maintenance of septic systems installed by the parent company. It offers tank pumping, line jetting, hydro excavating and system inspection. While a large percentage of the company’s work remains agricultural and septic related, Leichty & Son works for private residential, commercial and road construction contractors as well.

“We generally do agricultural work in early spring and late fall,” explained Kurt. “In between, we do the bulk of our other work. Obviously, it’s important for us to be diversified and perform all types of excavation-related services. We can offer full site packages as well as break out individual components, including basement digs and demolition.”

Memorable projects include constructing a 26-acre lake near Wayland, where Leichty & Son moved more than 90,000 yards of dirt to dig the lake to depth, built an island in the middle of it and constructed a dam. While that was a large amount of earth, the lake project pales in comparison to the 11 miles of county road G36 Leichty & Son built in three phases during the 1970s in Washington County.

“We moved nearly 750,000 yards, which is probably the largest amount ever for us,” said Irvin, who noted it’s one of many projects Leichty & Son has helped construct, totaling more than 50 miles of highway in southeastern Iowa. “Because we worked in phases, we weren’t moving it all at once. However, it was all tied to the same road, so there was quite a bit of coordination involved. I’m pleased to say we did it all on time and on budget.”

More than 300 years experience

The Leichtys say they’re able to deliver a diversity of projects because they have experienced and versatile employees. Key members of the staff of about a dozen include Foreman Tom Arbogast, who’s worked with the Leichtys for about 30 years, and three other foremen, Matt Stalder, K.C. Rich and Danny Stevens.

Leichty & Son employees are often split into multiple crews, depending on work load. The Leichtys estimate they do dozens of tiling jobs each year along with several excavation projects.

“In total, we have more than 300 hundred years of experience between us and our staff,” said Irvin, who pointed out that Leichty & Son has never laid off an employee in its history. “That’s something we just can’t put a price on. They deserve much of the credit for our success, due in part to their willingness to do anything we ask of them. They can run machinery, put pipe in the ground — whatever it takes, including equipment maintenance and service.”

Durable, efficient equipment means less downtime

On nearly all of its projects you’ll find Komatsu equipment, which Leichty & Son began using in the early 1990s when it bought a D65EX dozer. The company has put more than 16,000 hours on it, and still uses it nearly every day.

“Despite its hours, we’ve never had to do anything to it other than routine services, and it’s still productive,” stated Kurt. “Not long after we bought the dozer, we added a Komatsu PC200 excavator and our experience was similar to the D65. Having machinery that lasts and doesn’t cost us downtime is essential. That is something we hadn’t always experienced with other brands. But because those two pieces worked so well for us, we’ve continued to add Komatsu.”

Kurt noted that every piece of Komatsu machinery the company has purchased continues to be as productive and reliable as the first two it bought. Recent additions include a PC200LC-8 and a PC50 MRZ compact excavator. The company also owns PC220LC-6 and PC220LC-7 excavators; D65EX-12, D65WX-15 and D41EX-12 dozers; and a GD650A-2 motor grader.

“One feature that really stands out is Komatsu’s fuel efficiency, which is especially true in the new PC200LC-8 and the D65WX-15,” said Foreman Tom Arbogast. “For example, I can run the D65 about 10 hours between fills, which is much longer than any other brand we’ve run in the past. That equates to more production and less downtime.”

Leichty & Son handles maintenance, calling on Road Machinery & Supplies’ Cedar Rapids Service Department as needed. “Because our Komatsu equipment is so durable, we rarely have to call RMS for service, but any time we have, they’ve responded quickly,” confirmed Kurt. “The service department has been excellent to work with, and our Territory Manager, Joel Davidson, does a great job of meeting our equipment needs.”

“We really believe that Road Machinery and Komatsu are the best in the business,” added Irvin. “Much of our business has come from word-of-mouth referrals, and we’ve done the same for RMS and Komatsu. Several contractors we know and work with have added Komatsu pieces to their fleets based on our recommendation.”

Taking nothing for granted

Like many contractors, the Leichtys believe it’s important to be members of contractors’ associations, such as the Associated General Contractors (AGC), the Iowa Onsite Waste Water Association (IOWWA), and the Land Improvement Contractors Association (LICA), which Leonard Leichty helped establish.

“There’s a lot to be learned from working with others who share similar interests and values,” said Irvin. “As members of those organizations, we can discuss with other members ways we’ve approached jobs. Sometimes that leads to a better way to handle a project, which saves time and the customers’ money. They always appreciate that.”

With a reputation for delivering satisfaction, the Leichtys work hard every day to meet customer expectations. “We take nothing for granted,” Irvin emphasized. “We’ve built a solid reputation, but that only gets us so far if we don’t work to maintain it. That’s possible by continuing to deliver on our promises. It’s important that we take that approach every day.”

That attitude assures a bright future for the company, which already has numerous projects lined up for the coming months.