Customers in Action

Landmark Construction


March 21, 2017

“Komatsu makes the best dozers”

Landmark Construction

Fred Mixson always wanted to own a business. He built bridges for a steel company, had a stint with General Electric, managed a service station and performed side jobs with his tractor. He also worked with his wife, Ann, to help manage her family’s retail business. Finally, in 1965, he ventured out on his own and started Fred Mixson’s Construction and performed small plant maintenance and minor grading projects. Fifty-two years later, his company is still going strong.

“My dad was very motivated, and he could do just about anything,” said his son, Rick, who is President of the company, which was renamed Landmark Construction in the 1980s. “He was a jack-of-all-trades, and it served him well in the construction industry.”

Fred passed away in 2004, but the North Charleston company has continued performing site-development work, utility installation and heavy concrete projects throughout South Carolina. Landmark specializes in horizontal construction, which comprises nearly 75 percent of the company’s work load. Concrete jobs account for another 20 percent, and plant maintenance is the remaining five percent. Family is also a key aspect of the company as Rick runs the day-to-day operations, Ann is Chairman and Rick’s sister, Cindy, is Vice President.

The firm has enjoyed significant expansion throughout the last half-century. When Rick took over nearly 20 years ago, the company had 50 employees. Today, Landmark Construction employs upwards of 300 people. While the recession presented a serious roadblock to its growth, it also provided the company with a blueprint for the future.

“When the economy crashed, we went from 180 employees to about 40,” recalled Rick. “It wasn’t ideal, but we learned some valuable lessons in coming back that we use today, namely humility. We appreciate what we have.”

That new perspective was one factor in the company’s resurgence. Another was the population and industrial boom in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. With the widening of the Panama Canal, Charleston is projected to benefit as one of the larger port cities on the East Coast. The economic explosion has led to quite a number of large businesses setting up shop in Landmark’s backyard, and residents have followed with more than 155,000 making the area home since 2010.

“There are about 40 people moving here per day, and major companies are also coming here to take advantage of the megaships that will use the port,” said Rick. “That’s good for us because the development has created a lot of jobs and should continue to do so in the future.”

Big companies, big projects

Landmark Construction

The lure of larger ships and cheaper freight has attracted companies like Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Michelin and Boeing, and Landmark Construction has been more than happy to help them settle into the region.

“We’re constantly building pads and doing development work in anticipation of the business that will be coming into Charleston,” explained Rick. “We have 18-20 jobs going at a time, some as much as $60 million, with our typical contract in the $5 million to $6 million range.”

In August 2015, the company started one of its largest and most complex jobs ever – a Volvo car plant in Ridgeville. Landmark won a $59 million bid to perform a risk-heavy site package for the 726-acre project that included the creation of 121 acres of ponds. Making things more complicated, Mother Nature threw a 100-year flood into the equation.

“We had nearly 26 inches of rain in two or three days last winter,” remembered Rick. “It was unreal, and not ideal for the aggressive time line we had. Fortunately, we had some dry months at the beginning of the assignment, so we were off to a good start, and the rain didn’t hurt us as much as it could have.”

Also complicating matters were the silty, clay soil and strict compaction standards that Landmark had to meet for the project. To comply with those standards, the company used cement stabilization and incorporated the dirt that was removed from the ponds on site. When the first phase was completed last summer, more than two million yards of dirt had been moved.

Landmark will also perform site and utility work for the second phase of the job, in addition to the construction of eight miles of roadway at the facility.

“This has been a great project for us,” said Rick. “We pushed hard and stayed on top of things. If we hadn’t, it could have been a disaster because of the weather and the unknowns. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience with work like this, and it paid off for us.”

The firm is also involved with an addition to a Mercedes plant in North Charleston. Landmark is developing the 60-acre site – clearing trees, digging pods, constructing pads and building new roads – and will install the water, sewer and storm pipes when the final plans for the building are complete. Work started in October 2015 and will take two years.

Renting a fleet

Landmark Construction

While the recession offered Rick a new outlook on his company, it also changed the way he constructed his fleet and continues to do so. After the economy crashed and the company was saddled with payments on a fleet that included 200 pieces of equipment, Rick decided to eliminate the possibility of that happening again.

“Before the downturn, most owners thought that they could sell their equipment if things slowed down,” he explained. “This time, no one could sell because no one was buying. Equipment was going for 25 cents on the dollar, which wasn’t enough to cover the machine. It left a lot of people upside-down.

“Our motto right now is, if it’s a highly used piece of equipment, we lease it on a one-year interval,” he added. “We know exactly what our cost-per-hour is, and we don’t have to worry about maintenance or getting stuck with a machine without a job to use it on.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is where Rick goes for new machines. For 28 years, Linder Industrial Machinery Company Sales Rep Mick Weber has helped Landmark Construction get the Komatsu and Wirtgen equipment it needs to get jobs done.

“Mick and Linder have always been right there with us,” said Rick. “If Mick tells you something, he’s going to do it, and I appreciate that.”

Landmark’s go-to pieces are Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control dozers. The company has a fleet of 15 Komatsu D39PXi, D51PXi, D61PXi and D65PXi dozers.

“We’ve always tried to be at the forefront of new technology,” explained Rick. “I love that the Komatsu dozers have everything integrated. We put in the file and get to work – no equipment to set up, no stakes to follow. We can run crews that are half the size, but twice as fast. It’s very beneficial for us.

“Bar none, Komatsu has everyone beat when it comes to visibility with its slant-nose design,” he continued. “They have great power, and the cab is comfortable and quiet. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Komatsu makes the best dozers.”

Landmark also has a pair of PC390 excavators, a PC228USLC tight-tail-swing excavator and two WA270 wheel loaders.

Another important piece of equipment for Landmark is its Wirtgen 240 soil stabilizer, which has been instrumental on both the Volvo and Mercedes sites.

“The 240 is a fantastic machine,” shared Rick. “We wouldn’t have been able to make progress on either of those large projects last winter without it. We just renewed our lease for another four years because we are so happy with it.”

While the relationship between Landmark and Linder has always been solid, Mixson expects it to strengthen as Linder plans to expand its North Charleston facility, which is located 15 minutes from Landmark Construction’s headquarters.

“We typically have 50 to 70 rentals at a time, so having a location nearby will be convenient,” said Rick. “I’m excited about having Linder’s technicians and service department so close.”

Continued growth

With a booming local economy that seems positioned for continued growth in the foreseeable future, Landmark Construction hopes to flourish with its surroundings.

“We want to expand our company and help our people succeed,” said Rick. “We’ve created this beast, and it needs to eat. This isn’t a business where you can rest. If we want to help our people thrive and advance, we need to work hard every day and continue to grow our business.

“The opportunities we have been given are amazing,” he added. “Hopefully we can continue to earn respect from our customers and opportunities to help us achieve our goals.”