Customers in Action

Koetter Construction


February 16, 2016

D51PXi, “it’s just a great dozer”

Many construction companies are “family businesses,” but few have the amount of family involvement that Koetter Construction of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, has. Koetter Construction was founded by Bob and Gladys Koetter in 1954. Their five sons all joined the family business, and today, each runs a different division of the widely diversified firm. There are also a half-dozen third-generation family members involved.

“My parents started out building houses,” recalled Wayne Koetter, Vice President of Operations for the Site and Concrete Divisions of Koetter Construction. “In the early 1970s, we started doing more commercial/industrial-type work. Through the years, we’ve continued to add services. We’re a general contractor that can do everything. We sell the real estate, design the project, do all the site work and then build the building.

“As for all five of us boys working together, I don’t know if it was expected that we would all make a career here, but we worked in the business growing up and stayed with it. We work together, but also have our own divisions, or specialties, that we handle. We don’t really have huge disagreements. We get along well, and as a result, the business has grown.”

While Wayne runs the site and concrete operations, the other brothers’ duties are as follows: Bob managed the masonry division and now serves as President of Koetter Construction; Jack is CEO and oversees real estate services; Kenny is VP of Operations, Steel Division; and Phil is VP of Operations, Project Management, and runs the framing and wood structure division.

Today, Koetter Construction’s jobs span the commercial, industrial, medical, office and institutional industries. Its client list reads like a regional “who’s-who,” and includes Beach Mold and Tool; Samtec; D.A. Inc.; John Jones GM City; Hyatt Regency; Trilogy Healthcare; and Kentuckiana Medical Hospital.

“One of our strengths is that we’re able to offer customers a turnkey project,” said Koetter. “We do as much ‘in-house’ work as possible, with our own personnel. That said, we also have a good line of subcontractors we use throughout the year for asphalt paving, electrical and drywall finishing.”

Koetter prides itself on providing solid design-build solutions for pre-engineered, structural, concrete tilt-up, pre-cast and masonry buildings. It has benefitted from longstanding relationships with Metallic Building Company and Ceco Metal Buildings.

“We like design-build because it involves us in a project right from the beginning, when we’re able to provide valuable engineering services,” said Koetter. “We are very blessed to have worked with some wonderful clients, many of whom are repeat customers or referrals, who see the true value in getting our input prior to starting a job. Our main objective is to provide honest counsel to our clients, to guide them through the project they want at a fair price, and to complete jobs on time or early. We believe this has truly helped grow our business over the past 60 years.”

Talented, experienced workforce

Koetter Construction works within a 100-mile radius of its home base in Floyds Knobs, with most of its projects in the greater Louisville area. The company employs about 100 people.

“One of the reasons we’ve been successful is because we have a talented and highly experienced workforce,” said Koetter. “We have dozens of employees with 20-plus years of experience. They know how to handle any problem that comes up on a job. They also know how to actually listen to customers and understand their needs, which helps us deliver projects the owners want.”

Koetter says about 35 people work in his site division/concrete group.

“My workers are very versatile – able to go from operating heavy equipment to doing concrete work. They also help out other divisions, as needed. We occasionally do site jobs for other contractors, but it’s rare. About the only time we do that is when we’ve sold the ground to owners or developers who have their own builders, but want us to do the dirt work because we’re familiar with everything from underground conditions to permitting. For the most part, we stay plenty busy doing our own projects.”

Komatsu D51PXi dozer

About a year ago, Koetter Construction purchased a Komatsu D51PXi intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozer from Brandeis Machinery and Sales Rep Barry Bubnar to help it perform site prep for its buildings more efficiently.

“In the summer of 2014, we did some clearing and rough grading for a large retail store,” Koetter recalled. “The site contractor who did the final grading and the rest of the earthwork had equipment with GPS systems. We checked them out and decided that we wanted to move in that direction, but I didn’t like the masts and cables they were using. Then we found out Komatsu had GPS built into a dozer. That really appealed to me; so I had my son Nick, who’s a foreman with my division, check it out.

“He went with Barry to the Komatsu Training Center in Cartersville, Georgia, to learn more about the Komatsu iMC products,” Koetter added. “He came back absolutely convinced that the Komatsu D51PXi dozer would be a difference-maker for us. I’m old school, but I knew we had to keep up with changing technology or risk getting left behind. Nick has taken that bull by the horns. He has even added AutoCAD to his skill set to optimize the capability of the iMC machines.”

As for how the dozer is working, Koetter says even the older operators have taken to it.

“They absolutely love it. It really wasn’t a hard sell once Nick got involved. Today, if I asked them if we should get another Komatsu iMC machine, I think they would all be in favor of it. The grade control and automatics are easy to use, and they help us do the job faster and get it done right the first time. Beyond that, it’s just a great dozer. It has it all – speed, power, comfort, balance and outstanding visibility to the blade – our operators just like being on it.

“Down the road, I could see us getting more Komatsu iMC machines,” he noted. “When Nick was in Cartersville, he tried the PC210LCi excavator and was very impressed with it. I think anytime you can cut down on labor, you’re better off, and that machine, with Auto Grade Assist, would do that. We would be able to get to grade faster, which would save us money in the long run. Another factor to consider is the next generation of operators. Komatsu iMC units are the type of technology that will excite them and help bring them into our industry, and we’re going to need that as our older operators start to retire.”

In addition to the machine itself, Koetter says he appreciates the support he’s received from Brandeis and Bubnar.

“The dealership is very important to us. Barry has done a tremendous job helping us with the GPS and everything else. And being a new Tier 4 machine, it’s covered under Komatsu CARE for the first three years or 2,000 hours, so Brandeis takes care of all the services on it. Brandeis is well-respected, and we know they’re going to be there for us if we have any issues.”

60 years and going strong

Koetter Construction recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. Koetter says he and his brothers plan to be around for a while, but eventually, they will turn over the business to the “G3s,” their term for the third-generation of family members.

“We’re proud of the business that our parents started and that we’ve continued. We expect the next generation will expand and improve it further. They will undoubtedly have to continue to adapt to an always-changing marketplace, and we’re already making some changes in that regard. For example, we’ve added a Building Services Division that is responsible for comprehensive building inspections; building repair and maintenance; and fall protection design and installation. We also offer high-end masonry and hardscape services, including pavers. The Hyatt Regency remodel job is an example of a project that may not have fit our business model a few years ago, but shows our willingness to adapt to our market.

“The real key to our success will be maintaining our reputation for quality, on-time work and customer satisfaction,” he added. “We have a lot of clients who come to us first and refer us to others because they trust us to be fair, to be honest and to always do what we say we’re going to do. As long as we continue to do that, we’re optimistic about what lies ahead for the five of us, the next generation and all of our employees.”