JR Construction


Nov 3, 2011

Komatsu - first choice because of its reliability and productivity

Jon Graham believes he was born to work in the dirt. The third generation in a family of excavation contractors, Graham founded his own company, JR Construction, three years ago with a vision to continue the family tradition of delivering a quality project to customers in southern Georgia.

“Our slogan is ‘Where honesty meets trust,’” emphasized Graham, President of the East Dublin company, which works in about a 100-mile radius of its home base. “I grew up working with my grandfathers and father, all of whom owned their own companies. I never really thought of doing anything else. They taught me the values of dealing honestly with customers and working hard to exceed their expectations.”

That philosophy is shared by Vice President Clifton Flanders, who joined JR Construction last year, bringing with him 40 years experience in construction site preparation, clearing, grading and mining. Those are the services JR Construction specializes in, specifically providing them to area mining customers.

“Mining services is our niche; it’s our specialty because that’s what we know best, so we play to our strength,” explained Flanders. “At this point, everything we do involves mining, including overburden removal, underground utility installation, site prep and any other services related to opening a new quarry or mine.”

Focusing on that niche makes JR Construction more efficient, helping the company complete projects on time and on budget. “Our work can have a dramatic effect on our customers’ ability to mine their products,” said Graham. “They expect high production from us, and we’ve always delivered.”

Employees deserve credit

That’s helped JR Construction develop strong relationships and a long list of repeat customers. One of the company’s current jobs is for a customer for which it’s done several projects in the past couple of years. The project involves opening a new pit near Sparta, Ga.

The work comprised several aspects, including moving more than a half-million cubic yards of overburden, as well as clearing and grubbing. JR Construction also built a perimeter berm to hold runoff water and installed stations to monitor runoff. Grading and underground pipe installation are ongoing, and eventually crews will place ballast for a rail line for which they previously did site prep.

“It’s certainly one of the biggest jobs we’ve been involved in and shows how far we’ve come as a company in three years,” observed Graham. “When I started the business in 2008, it was just five guys and I laying pipe and doing small odd jobs, such as ditch preparation and sloping work. We did whatever we could to survive because when I started the business, it was about the time that the economy took a severe downturn. I definitely questioned myself and my sanity for going into business, but it’s turned out well.

“The first ‘actual’ job we did was relocating a road on the back side of the mine in Sparta,” he continued. “It took us about three months, and we did the clearing, grading, ditching and about 500 feet of piping. Not long after, I teamed up with Clifton. That made a world of difference and brought us into mining. I’m sure eventually we’ll look outside the mines again, but, for now, this is our focus.”

JR Construction has done overburden-removal projects for the same company at other quarries near Augusta and Macon. “Those projects really highlight the scope of our work,” Flanders pointed out. “We have the capabilities to do everything from straightforward overburden removal to a complete project.”

Ensuring JR Construction is able to provide a high level of service is a staff of about 35 employees, many of whom bring decades of experience to each project. The employee numbers have risen sevenfold since Graham founded the company.

“I have always heard that if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen,” said Graham. “That’s just what we’ve done. Our guys are the best in the business, and they deserve much of the credit for the success and growth we’ve experienced in three years. They do a phenomenal job.”

TEC — a ‘partner’ in business

Graham and Flanders noted that the same can be said for Tractor & Equipment Company, which JR Construction turns to for Komatsu and Hamm equipment. They’ve worked with Tractor & Equipment Company Sales Representative Kyle McMahon to purchase about a dozen pieces of equipment, including excavators, dozers, motor graders, haul trucks and compactors.

“TEC has proven that they consider themselves partners in our company; JR Construction plus TEC equals getting the job done,” emphasized Graham. “Not only is the equipment reliable, their customer service extends beyond what’s expected. If we need some extra help with service, we call them and they come right out. It’s not unusual to have our mechanic and a technician from TEC working together on the same machine.”

“We also have to credit Komatsu Financial for helping us get the equipment we needed to grow,” added Flanders. “They worked with TEC and went to bat for us so that we could acquire the pieces necessary to do these larger mining projects. We’ve developed very good relationships with Kyle, TEC and Komatsu Financial. That plays a big role in our equipment-buying decisions.”

Komatsu was first choice

Another factor was Graham’s familiarity with Komatsu from work prior to founding JR Construction. “Komatsu was my first choice because I saw its reliability and productivity. Working in the conditions and for the type of customers we have, takes equipment that can stand up to challenges and maintain uptime. Komatsu gives us that, along with good fuel efficiency.”

While Graham was mostly familiar with Komatsu excavators, his first Komatsu purchase was actually a D61 dozer. “We got it on a rental-purchase option, but I truly knew from the beginning it was going to be a piece we would keep,” said Graham. “It has good balance and power to push a sizeable amount of material. I have to admit, I already knew the excavators are excellent machines, but I was skeptical of a Komatsu dozer, having never used one. I was sold right away, and that’s been the case with the graders and haul trucks too.”

“Working in a mine presents many challenges, not the least of which is we’re expected to keep moving, because if our machinery isn’t producing, the mine can’t either,” added Flanders. “Our Komatsu equipment ensures that’s happening. Every Komatsu machine we own or rent stands up to the challenge.”

Never let the customer down

Graham and Flanders expect that to remain the case, whether they’re continuing their focus on mining or other opportunities.

“We’re always looking to diversify,” Flanders pointed out. “However, as long as there is mining to be done, we’ll make that our main focus. Again, it plays to our strength. But we also don’t want to get locked into only one area. If the opportunity presents itself to look beyond mining, we have to be open to it.”

“The other thing we’re conscious of is not growing too big too fast,” Graham added. “We’ve experienced tremendous growth in three years, but we’ve handled it well and used it to our advantage to bring excellent service to our customers. That’s a main focus for us. If we don’t keep it that way, we’re letting our customers down, and that’s simply unacceptable to us.”