“My operators love Komatsu machines for their power and comfort, and I like that they’re reliable”
Ryan McDonald helped at his dad’s company,
McDonald Excavating, while growing up
in the southwestern Washington town of
Washougal, near Portland, Oregon. After
graduating from Washington State University
with a construction management degree, he
worked for some vertical building contractors
before rejoining his dad fulltime at McDonald
Excavating in 2005. At the time, the company
was about a 10-person firm. Today, employment
fluctuates between 35 and 50.
“We’ve had good growth, even during
the really tough years of 2008 and 2009,”
reported McDonald, who became majority
Owner and President of McDonald
Excavating this year. “The recession was
challenging – we saw a lot of contractors go
down – but for me, failure wasn’t an option.
I didn’t have a fallback plan. I’d come back
to this, and it’s what I wanted to do, so we
hunkered down and made it happen.”
McDonald Excavating is an earthwork/
utility contracting firm that focuses primarily
on public works jobs – highways, streets and
heavy civil work – for DOTs and municipalities
in the area. The company serves as a general
contractor on some jobs, but also often works
as a sub on very large projects, such as Portland
“The light rail project was our saving grace
during the recession,” recalled McDonald.
“Stacy & Witbeck, the GC on the project, hired
us as a sub and basically treated us as part of its
crew. We did a lot of jobs for them through the
years, and won an award from them in 2010.
Prior to that, we had completed quite a bit of
residential work, but this got us into the public
arena, and we found our niche there.”
In addition to Portland Light Rail, McDonald
Excavating has been involved in many other
signature jobs. They include the Portland East Side
Combined Sewer Overflow project, Vancouver
Rail West 39th Street Bridge and the upcoming
Knight Cancer Research Building at Oregon
Health and Science University in Portland.
“We’re proud of all our jobs, especially those big
ones, but my personal favorites are in Camas and
Washougal,” McDonald shared. “That’s where I
was born and raised, my wife works for the City of
Camas, and we have a lot of friends there. I like it
when people I know can see what we do.”
McDonald credits employees, such as
Superintendent Tom Kennon, for McDonald
Excavating’s excellent industry reputation for
doing quality work and completing it on time.
“We have good, experienced, honest people. Our
crews are professional. We pay our guys well and
provide benefits, and as a result, they tend to stay
with us. Our goal is to do every job right the first
time. If there is an issue and it’s our fault, we own
up to it, and we fix it.
“Because many of our jobs are in the public
arena, we do our best to work with residents to
head off any potential problems before they arise.
For example, we’re doing a sewer upgrade for the
City of Camas in the middle of a neighborhood.
Before starting the job, our foreman held a meeting
with all the homeowners to let them know who
we are, what we’ll be doing and how long it
will take. We also answered any questions and
gave the homeowners our names and numbers.
If there’s an issue, rather than call the city to
complain, we hope that they’ll call us first so we
can address it.”
Komatsu machines and Modern Machinery service
For equipment, McDonald turns to Modern
Machinery and Portland Sales Rep Dan
Kipp. The company has three tight-tail-swing
Komatsu excavators (a PC308USLC-3E0, a
PC228USLC-8 and a PC138USLC-10), two
Komatsu dozers (a D61PX-23 and a D37EX-22),
a Komatsu WA320-7 wheel loader and a
Hamm 3412 roller.
“The tight-tail-swing excavators are great
because they provide us with maximum
versatility,” said McDonald. “Why buy a
conventional machine when a tight-tail-swing
has nearly the same capacity but can work in
traffic and narrow alleys?
“My operators love Komatsu machines for
their power and comfort, and I like that they’re
reliable,” he added. “We’ve had very few
issues. We put in the keys, turn them on and
go to work. I’ve also found that KOMTRAX is
a great way to make sure that our maintenance
gets done on time.”
Beyond the quality of the equipment,
McDonald says it’s the support from Modern
Machinery that makes him loyal to Komatsu.
“Dan and Modern care about us – how we’re
doing and what they can do to help. When we
need a service tech, they get one out to us in
short order. Several of our machines are under
Komatsu CARE, so Modern takes care of our
service intervals, which is an added benefit.
We also really enjoy working with Komatsu
Financial. Their ability to be flexible and work out
deals is a huge plus for us.”
“We appreciate that Ryan has given us a
chance to show what we can do for McDonald
Excavating,” said Modern Machinery President
Brian Sheridan. “We look forward to working with
him for many years to come.”
McDonald says he’s very pleased with where
McDonald Excavating is today, and he expects
continued growth moving forward.
“The Portland area is growing rapidly. We have
more work than we’ve had at any time in the past.
I expect to continue to grow the company for the
foreseeable future. As long as we keep doing what
got us here – a good work ethic, fair prices and a
commitment to our customers – I’m very optimistic
about our future.”