Pittman Construction


Aug 7, 2013

“The best thing about Komatsu equipment is reliability”

When it comes to Atlanta construction companies, few, if any, have the history of Pittman Construction. The original patriarch of the family, Frank Pittman, started building residential structures in the city in 1884 — just 20 years after the burning of Atlanta in the Civil War.

Through the early 20th century, Frank Pittman took on increasingly larger building projects, including construction of Peachtree Christian Church, which remains a landmark Atlanta structure to this day. The company officially became Pittman Construction in 1916, and was the first to lay concrete pavement in the city.

The company’s second generation, consisting of Frank Pittman’s five sons, took over in 1920. Under the direction of Louie Pittman, road building/highway construction became the company’s specialty. At first, it built brick and cobblestone roads but eventually, concrete paving became the preferred surface, and Pittman Construction was at the forefront of that movement.

In 1956, the brothers retired and the Pittman name briefly disappeared from the Atlanta construction scene until Louie Jr., grandson of the founder, joined forces with his uncle Oscar to start Pittman Curb & Gutter Company in 1958. Three years later, they reestablished their firm as Pittman Construction and began adding services such as grading and drainage. In 1970, the company won its first Georgia DOT award as a prime contractor. In 1980, it added asphalt paving to its list of services.

Today, Louie Jr. is Chairman of Pittman Construction and his son, Arnie, the fourth generation, is President. The company employs more than 200 people, runs projects ranging up to $75 million or more, and remains one of Georgia’s leading road and highway builders. It has been involved with most, if not all, of the major arteries in and around Atlanta including I-75, I-85, I-20 and I-285, as well as other big jobs like Bobby Jones Parkway in Augusta. Although the company still does concrete work, including paving, most of its paving projects today are asphalt. The company also owns six asphalt plants, most of them along I-20, east of Atlanta.

“I’m extremely proud of our family’s history with the Atlanta construction industry,” said Louie Jr. “You don’t find many fourth-generation family businesses still going strong. I credit my grandfather for starting it and my father and his brothers for building it. I guess I helped build it back up, but I believe my son Arnie, who took over for me in 2003, has really taken it, run with it and made it what it is today. When I look back, there’s a lot to hang our hat on. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m very pleased with our legacy.”

Jobs large or small

The vast majority of Pittman Construction’s work is with cities, counties and the state of Georgia. The company can do any and all aspects of a road job.

“We excavate and grade, lay pipe and do both asphalt and concrete paving,” said Louie Jr. “We can handle very large jobs but we’ll also take on small jobs. For road projects, we can work as a prime contractor and perform virtually everything in-house with Pittman personnel, or we can work as a sub and do any part of the project.”

Pittman Construction relies heavily on many longtime, valued employees. Among them are Chief Estimator Phillip Thompson, Estimator Jim Bronaugh, Controller Jim Mann, Equipment Supervisor Michael Ardiff, Grading Superintendent Tommy Shockley, Asphalt Operations Manager Mike Davis and Concrete Foreman Rick Payne. Bruce Raynor handles traffic control and Andy Long does erosion control. Jane Kinnett and Louie’s daughter Jenny Cantrell are among an office staff that keeps things running smoothly.

“We have really good people, many of whom have been here 20 to 30 years, and some longer than that,” said Louie. “We also have great operators and field supervision, which is crucial, because that’s where the money is really made. I also owe a great deal to my wife, Carolyn, who’s been a big part of holding the company together all these years.”

Through the years, the Pittman family has been active in many industry organizations. Both Arnie and Louie have served terms as President of the Georgia Highway Association, which recently honored Louie with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

A winning combination: Komatsu and TEC

Pittman Construction has a large equipment fleet. Much of its heavy machinery consists of Komatsu units it purchased from Tractor & Equipment Company with the help of Sales Rep Mike Potts.

“We probably have 30 to 35 Komatsu pieces,” said Equipment Supervisor Michael Ardiff. “We have Komatsu excavators up to a PC400. We’re demo’ing a compact PC88 right now, and I think I know what’s going to happen. We’ll buy it, then every crew will want one. Most of our dozers are D51s and D65s and we have HM300 haul trucks. We use Komatsu WA470 and WA450 wheel loaders to run our asphalt plants.

“The best thing about Komatsu equipment and the reason we have so much of it is its reliability,” he noted. “We just don’t have many problems with Komatsu. Our philosophy is to buy a new machine, run it as a mainline piece for a number of years, and as it ages, we put it on secondary jobs. We rarely trade anything in. We find a use for our machines until they’re pretty much worn out, and for our Komatsus, that’s a long time. Bottom line, we get our money’s worth from them.”

Ardiff says the KOMTRAX machinemonitoring system that Komatsu installs on all of its new equipment is also a big plus.

“I use it to locate machines, to ensure on-time maintenance and to check equipment utilization. It’s been a big help in tracking down excessive machine idle time, which has resulted in significant fuel savings. It’s a great tool that helps us be more efficient.”

Pittman Construction has its own shop and four mechanics, but Ardiff says he frequently uses Tractor & Equipment Company for service.

“Dealer support is crucial to us and TEC does an excellent job with parts and service. It’s especially helpful when we’re working outside of metro Atlanta. For example, we have a big job in Augusta right now. It’s cheaper for me to use their technicians in Augusta than send my own guys over there. I also like the fact that although TEC is a large dealership, they treat us like we’re important. We’re not just a number to TEC, and I appreciate that.”

“We’ve done business with TEC for a long time, back when they were Stith and even before that, when they were Tri-State,” said Louie. “I’ve known Tim Aiken — who’s been our Sales Rep and is now TEC Vice President/Regional Sales Manager — and his family for decades. They’re good people and they’ve given us great service through the years. We’re very pleased with our relationship with Tractor & Equipment.”

Tradition continues

Despite challenges ahead, Louie says he’s optimistic about the transportation construction industry and Pittman Construction’s place in it.

“In the past, the gas tax funded most road work, but with today’s fuel-efficient cars, there’s much less money available than there used to be, so alternative funding methods must be found. One thing we know is that Americans aren’t going to stop driving anytime soon, which means new roads have to be built and old ones have to be maintained. Because that costs money, one way or another, funding will have to be there. Eventually, there will likely be more toll roads and/or some type of mileage-based user fee.

“As a family business, Pittman Construction has been through many up-and-down cycles during the past 129 years including bubbles, recessions, a depression and two World Wars. Today, challenges remain — both to the general economy and specifically to transportation funding — but I feel good about where we are as a company. My son Arnie has been here full time for 20 years and President the last 10. We’ve grown considerably under his leadership, and I couldn’t be prouder of what he’s been able to do to continue the family construction tradition.”