Rocky Point Quarry

THIS NORTHERN ARKANSAS QUARRY SERVES NATURAL GAS INDUSTRY — ONE MAN’S
DREAM JOB

Aug 23, 2010

Large fleet of Komatsu equipment keeps Rocky Point running smoothly

Kenny Staggs is finally doing what he apparently was always meant to do — work with rock. Staggs bought Rocky Point Quarry in Batesville, Ark., (about 100 miles north of Little Rock) a little more than five years ago. Prior to that, he ran his own small excavating company, and before that, he worked as a diesel mechanic and shop foreman for a trucking company.

“My dad said this eventually had to happen because as a child I spent a lot of time looking at rocks,” said Staggs. “Even now, rocks and rock formations fascinate me. Whenever I visit a new state, I always bring back a rock. I probably should have been a geologist, but I guess owning and working a quarry is the next best thing.”

As you might expect from somebody who has a passion for rocks, Kenny Staggs doesn’t spend much time in an office. When he isn’t out marketing and selling his aggregate product, he’s hands-on in the quarry.

“I have about 15 employees and I do everything I ask any of them to do,” said Staggs. “I run equipment. I fix things. I oversee crushing. I’ll get dirty, greasy and sweaty right along with everybody else. Whatever needs to be done on any given day to ensure a smooth operation and customer satisfaction, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Rocky Point Quarry is very much a family business. Kenny is President and his wife, Shelia, takes care of the books and serves as Vice President. Their son Nathan is Kenny’s right-hand man and helps him run the quarry.

“We have a lot of good, longtime employees, such as Sammy Phillips, who’s been with us since we started,” said Staggs. “We try to treat everybody well. Often, when an employee leaves to try something else, he ends up coming back because he finds the grass really wasn’t greener on the other side. That always makes us feel good, when good people want to come back here to work.”

Business boom from natural gas

Rocky Point Quarry has been around for decades, but Staggs has increased business considerably since taking over in 2005. Today, Rocky Point produces more than half a million tons of aggregate per year.

“Much of the quarry is a mix of limestone and shale,” said Staggs. “The previous owners screened out the shale, but my thought was that the mixture would be perfect in certain applications — for example, as a commercial base — because the shale allows it to compact better.

“So my job was clear, I needed to get out and market the product,” he added. “I drove a lot of miles in a pickup truck and spent a lot of time visiting with contractors about what we had and how well it would work for them. Our customer base includes cotton farmers, the Corps of Engineers and area highway departments. However, the vast majority of our product goes to natural gas companies and the contractors that drill for them. Our rock is perfect for building the roads and drill pads they need for their work in the Fayetteville Shale.” (Located in northern Arkansas, the Fayetteville Shale is one of the largest natural gas plays in the nation.)

Key customers of Rocky Point are energy companies such as SEECO (a subsidiary of Southwestern Energy), XTO Energy and Chesapeake Energy, all of which have extensive operations in the Fayetteville Shale. Leading contractor customers include Costner Excavating, TAW Inc., Payne’s Services and BKC Quarries.

“We cater to our customers,” said Staggs. “We opened a gravel yard closer to the Fayetteville Shale to make it easier for the natural gas companies to pick up our product. Part of our quarry is pure limestone so if customers need that, we can take care of them. We’ll also crush to spec or do our best to make any kind of special blend anybody wants. We’re in business to meet the needs of our customers. The customer is our boss, and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep him happy.”

Top equipment and dealer support

To keep Rocky Point running smoothly, Staggs runs a large fleet of Komatsu equipment from H&E Equipment Services in Little Rock. The quarry uses a number of Komatsu excavators including a PC400, two PC300s and two PC270s; two Komatsu HM300 articulated haul trucks; three Komatsu WA380 wheel loaders; and a WA450 wheel loader.

“I’ve been running Komatsu equipment since before I bought the quarry,” said Staggs. “The great thing about Komatsu machines is their reliability. They work every day and they last a long time. The excavators are outstanding. We use them for many different jobs and we just don’t have major breakdowns. We have a WA450 wheel loader that I bought used five and one-half years ago when we got the quarry. It has 13,000 hours on it now and still feeds the impact crusher every day. And the HM300s have definitely cut our haul costs tremendously.”

Staggs says the support he gets from H&E Little Rock is as important to him as the quality of the Komatsu equipment.

“Topnotch service is an absolute must in this business because if a piece of equipment isn’t working, it can slow or even shut down my entire operation. All the people I work with at H&E get that. For example, if one of our key machines is in the shop, their Branch Manager Charles Sooby gets us a replacement piece. I don’t even ask for it; Charles just knows we need it and he makes it happen. Service Manager Doug Fletcher and Parts Manager Andy Taylor also go out of their way to make sure we’re taken care of.

“Something else H&E has done is set up a consignment parts trailer specifically for us here in Batesville,” Staggs noted. “That’s important because we’re quite a ways from the H&E branch in Little Rock. Their PSSR Ron Waymack keeps track of the inventory and makes sure we have ready access to the replacement wear parts we need. That type of support is why we’ve been a loyal customer through the years.”

Another reason Staggs is loyal to H&E is because of his H&E Sales Rep, Scott Prior.

“I trust Scott completely and seek his advice on virtually all my equipment purchases, and he’s never steered me wrong. Scott’s gone with me on out-of-state trips to look at crushing equipment that he’s not selling and isn’t going to get any commission on. He does it to help me out. I really appreciate the way he and everybody at H&E go the extra mile for us.”

Bright future

When Staggs bought the business, there was no Fayetteville Shale natural gas industry to speak of in northern Arkansas.

“It really came out of the blue a couple of years ago and demand for aggregate soared. As a result, our growth was much greater and much faster than we could have imagined. That sounds like a good thing and compared to having too little demand, it is — but it’s also a lot of pressure. I couldn’t get enough stuff in place fast enough. That experience wasn’t a lot of fun and what I learned from it was that I don’t ever want to have to grow that fast again.

“I think the future looks good and fairly stable,” he added. “My goal will be to basically maintain our current level or increase it gradually over the next few years. If we need to do more, we could rearrange our crushing system, add another impact or cone crusher and increase our volume 30 percent to 40 percent out of this quarry. I’m not interested in adding any new properties, largely because it would put us in direct competition with other suppliers with which we already have good working relationships. It’s not worth it to me to destroy those relationships in order to possibly make a little more money.”

Staggs says as long as he’s able to meet the needs of his existing customers, he’s just fine with the current size of his company. “We’re bigger than I ever thought we’d be and it’s a lot of work. It’s not unusual for me to spend 60 to 80 hours a week on the job — but it’s very satisfying.”

For a guy who still loves to be around rocks, what could be better?