Paragon Contractors

RECENT EXPANSION HELPS TULSA COMPANY OFFER AN IMPRESSIVE PACKAGE OF SERVICES

Nov 9, 2010

Komatsu equipment meets varied jobsite needs

Owner Dale Forrest admits to having no master plan for growth when he founded Paragon Contractors in 2005. But he hasn’t been shy about taking risks to build the business into one that does more than just the site work that was Paragon’s focus at its inception.

“Much of our expansion has been out of necessity and by recognizing voids in the marketplace we could fill,” said Forrest. “In the past two years, we’ve added heavy paving, an asphalt plant and our own trucking fleet. We’ve become a more well-rounded company that’s able to self perform nearly every aspect of a project.”

With the addition of heavy paving and other services, Tulsa-based Paragon Contractors does an increasingly larger percentage of its projects in the hard-bid governmental sectors. Forrest estimates the company does about an 80 percent to 20 percent split between governmental and private work.

“That’s a huge turnaround in our focus over a five-year period,” noted Forrest. “When I started Paragon, we were almost exclusively a private, commercial, site-construction company with an emphasis on basic site work. We still perform those services, but on a much larger scale and often as part of a total package that’s done as a general contractor. We will subcontract out portions of our work, but it’s our preference — and often that of our clients — to have us handle the entire scope of work.”

During the past five years, Paragon Contractors has built an impressive resume that now includes excavation, demolition, grading, erosion control, seeding and sodding; site utilities that include storm, sanitary, water line and fire line; concrete paving, including curb and gutter; and asphalt paving.

“Our specialty is fast-tracked, horizontal construction,” explained Forrest. “We’ve been able to deliver on that because we put the resources in place to ensure that we not only do a quality job, but we do it on time and on budget. I have to credit much of the success to our employees. With the additional services, we now have a staff of about 250, and the vast majority of them brought plenty of experience to the table, which has paid off in a number of ways.”

Management includes Operations Manager Tyler Rogers, CFO Robert Flannery, Contract Administrator Polly Whitman, General Superintendents Keith Berry and Mike Owens and Equipment Manager Brian Burris. “Paragon is fortunate to have several highly qualified superintendents who can handle a wide variety of job applications,” said Forrest.

Paragon’s field personnel is split into multiple groups, with the majority working on one of a dozen site-grading crews. The company also has a half-dozen concrete and utility crews each and an asphalt paving crew. They’ve helped Paragon Contractors complete a number of high-profile projects in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as northeastern Oklahoma and part of western Arkansas.

Teaming up with sister companies

In a few instances, Paragon has teamed up with its sister companies, United Golf LLC and Northeastern Irrigation & Landscape Inc. Forrest founded Northeastern Irrigation and Landscape about 25 years ago and United Golf about 12 years later. A case in point was the recently completed renovation of OneOK Field baseball stadium, home to the Tulsa Drillers minor-league team.

Paragon started the renovation by excavating the existing field 13 feet below street level, hauling out more than 125,000 cubic yards of dirt. Paragon and United Golf crews teamed up to install a drainage system, while Northeastern Irrigation & Landscape did irrigation and landscape work. Paragon and United backfilled and built the playing surface, and Paragon installed city utilities and paved for new curb and gutter, sidewalks and streets around the ballpark.

“Having the three companies is a real strength because we can share resources,” said Forrest. “Honestly, it’s rare that all three companies work on the same project. More often it’s one of the sister companies working with Paragon.”

A large portion of Paragon’s recent work has been right in its own backyard, including work on several hard-bid projects for the city of Tulsa under its $450 million bond issue a couple of years ago to fix the city’s aging infrastructure. Paragon has also worked on sections of the Mingo Trail along Highway 169 in the city.

Other high-profile work includes completion of the Fred Creek Phase II project at Oral Roberts University, where Paragon crews enlarged the creek and built a dam, as well as retaining walls. The company moved 30,000 yards of dirt in the process, including excavation for footings.

“It sounds like a straightforward job, but there were several challenges to it,” noted Forrest. “We’ve had a lot of rain in Oklahoma in the past few years, and working in a creek was obviously not ideal with those conditions. The footings would fill up with water, so we packed the excavations with demolition concrete, then poured the footings on top. It worked well.”

Doing such challenging projects is one of Paragon Contractors’ specialties. The company recently completed a five-and-a-half-mile, 48-inch sanitary sewer installation for the city of Owasso that was at times 24 to 28 feet deep. The $4.5 million 76th Street Interceptor work took 10 months, and much of the work was in solid rock. Paragon subcontracted drilling and blasting, then dug the trenches to lay the line.

Komatsu equipment is top choice

Even with drilling and blasting, Paragon had to hammer some of the material. It equipped a Komatsu PC300LC excavator with an NPK hammer to handle the task. Much of the digging was done with a Komatsu PC400LC-7 excavator, one of many the company owns or has on rent from Kirby-Smith.

“We’ve found that Komatsu excavators not only have the strength to handle the deeper digs and run attachments such as the hammer, but are faster than competitive brands we’ve tried,” said Forrest. “That’s been the case with every one we’ve tried, from the PC78 up to the PC400. One size we really like is the PC88, which we have several of, because they can work in open areas or confined spaces equally well. Komatsu is our operators’ excavator of choice.”

Paragon Contractors also chooses Komatsu dozers and wheel loaders, including an award-winning D51EX-22 dozer with the slant-nose design. Equipped with a Topcon GPS system, Paragon used the D51 for much of the grade work on OneOK Field. “The D51 is a very versatile machine,” Forrest pointed out. “It’s the right size for many applications, including mass and final grading. It’s the most requested machine by our superintendents.”

To house and service its equipment, Paragon Contractors is building a new shop facility next to its asphalt plant and just around the corner from Kirby-Smith’s Tulsa branch. “We’ve built a great relationship with Kirby-Smith and our Territory Manager Dan Rutz,” said Forrest. “We service our machinery with parts and support from Kirby-Smith as needed. Anytime we need something, I know I can call Dan or anyone else there and get a quick response.”

Putting plans in place

While he had no plans for Paragon Contractors to grow so big so quickly, Forrest does have plans for where the company is headed in the near future. Controlled growth and efficiency head the list.

“We’re not trying to be the biggest company on the block, but one that’s competitive and can get the job done to our customers’ satisfaction and schedule. We have the resources and personnel in place that make that a strength of Paragon’s. Our current focus is continuing to build our efficiency. We’ve grown very quickly in the past five years to meet customer demands and set ourselves up for success in this market. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to assess and look at long-term plans. We’re comfortable with where we’re at and where we’re going.”