Arizona State Utilities

MESA, ARIZONA, COMPANY STARTS SMALL AND GROWS TO SUIT CUSTOMER NEEDS

Aug 13, 2010

Komatsu equipment keeps maintenance costs down

Arizona State Utilities is in the midst of its largest project to date. The $4.5 million site package the Mesa company is doing consists of moving mass amounts of dirt, installing utility lines, grading and paving for the 1,500-unit Toscana Condominiums at Desert Ridge.

“The fact we’re able to do such a project really highlights our growth since we started the company about 15 years ago,” said President Gail Dawson, who along with her husband, Wayne, founded the company. “It’s certainly much bigger than what we started out doing, which was working on small utility jobs, mainly for commercial developers. Wayne and a couple laborers would do the installation using rented equipment because we didn’t have any.”

What the couple lacked in equipment and manpower they made up for in experience and determination. Originally from Minnesota, Wayne had worked several years for other excavation companies in the state, as well as in Texas. Gail’s family was in the construction industry as well. The couple had their own business in Texas, but when work in that area dried up, they moved west.

“I started out working for another company here, but on the side, I was bidding jobs myself to see if I could get any,” Wayne recalled. “Finally, I picked up a couple and was able to go out on my own. Within a couple years, we built a good reputation and some repeat customers, and things really took off.”

Added help

With a growing business, Wayne knew he needed help, so he contacted his son Rodney who also had construction experience. Rodney flew from Minnesota, surveyed the situation, and came on board in 1996. Today, he and Gail are owners of the company with Rodney serving as Vice President. Wayne is General Manager.

“The company name is a reflection of what the business was focused on in the beginning,” said Rodney. “Utility work is still our specialty, and a good portion of our work falls into that sector on governmental projects. But we also offer full site packages, and that’s our preference on commercial and multifamily residential projects.”

Recent projects include installation of about 3,600 feet of 20-inch water line that supplies a water tank for the city of Chandler. Arizona State Utilities laid the line at varying depths, tying into an existing 30-inch pipe as part of the job. It was one of several the company has on the books at any one time.

Arizona State Utilities does both governmental and private development jobs throughout the state with a staff of about 30 that’s split into three to five crews. Key employees include General Superintendent Aric Smith.

“Part of our success is a good work ethic, and that’s something we look for in our employees,” said Gail. “We certainly wouldn’t be able to handle our work load without having people we can trust. We believe our employees are the best in the business.”

Komatsu keeps maintenance costs down

The Dawsons say they need equipment and a dealer they can trust too, and that’s why they’ve turned to Road Machinery for Komatsu wheel loaders (two WA320s), a PC300HD-8 excavator and a GD655 motor grader. They work with Gilbert-based Territory Manager Dan Kaercher for purchases and occasional rentals.

“We were strictly using another brand, and our maintenance costs were through the roof,” said Wayne. “We decided to try Komatsu and bought one of our WA320 loaders about five years ago. Immediately we saw the difference and started adding the Komatsu machines. They’re dependable, with minimal downtime.”

“One aspect that stands out in the loaders is their versatility,” added Rodney. “We’ve equipped one with a quick coupler, so we can easily change from bucket to forks to have one machine for loading, carrying pipe and backfilling. The other thing I like is that even though those machines are a little smaller than the same size class of a competitive brand, we’re able to get as much, if not more, production.”

Arizona State Utilities looked for a similar boost in production with its excavator, and that’s why it chose a PC300HD-8 as opposed to the standard model. “It has a little more beef underneath it, so it’s sturdier in the deeper digs,” noted Wayne.

The company does its own routine maintenance, but for longer service intervals and more in-depth work, it turns to Road Machinery. “Road Machinery has always been right there when we’ve needed something, and they do an excellent job of servicing our Komatsu machines. Because of that, we’ve turned to them to service our other brands too.”

Transitioning ownership

With a firm footing underneath them, the Dawsons are looking forward to the next phase of the business, which includes a plan to transition Rodney to total control of the company. For now, he’d like to keep Arizona State Utilities about the same size.

“There’s potential for growth, but right now it’s very manageable and that’s important to us and our customers,” said Rodney. “Of course, our customers have somewhat dictated our growth to this point as we’ve added services to meet their needs. We’ll have to see how things progress and keep an open mind.”