“On top of their efficiency and durability, all of the Komatsu machines are comfortable”
In the early 1970s, North Carolina was
experiencing a farming boom, and many people
were converting large tracts of land into farms.
William Sawyer Sr. saw an opportunity to start
his own business and formed Sawyer’s Land
Developing, Inc. After 45 years and hundreds of
thousands of cleared acres, the company remains
a leader in the industry.
“There was a big push for farmland, and
many areas were being deforested to meet that
demand,” recalled William Sawyer Jr., who
took over for his father as President in 1992 and
became owner of the Bellhaven-based business
after William Sr. passed away in 2014. “Dad
bought some equipment and started the business.
Two of his first projects were 20,000-acre farms,
some of the largest in the area at the time.”
Today, land clearing remains a central
component of the company, which expanded
its services to include heavy highway projects.
Sawyer’s Land Developing has 45 full-time and
as many as 20 temporary employees during
busier times. It specializes in clearing and
grubbing land then building roads and canals
“Usually, we are the first people on site,”
explained Sawyer. “We remove the trees, stumps
and other debris and get the site cleared and
ready. If the job requires a road to be built, we can
handle that as well.”
Although the company’s time is split between
private, land-clearing contracts and projects for
the North Carolina Department of Transportation
(NCDOT), the types of work are similar and
require more than just cutting down trees.
“If a site has trees that can be logged, we’ll
have a company come in to remove them, and
then we’ll finish clearing,” explained Sawyer.
“However, it’s more than clear-cutting an area.
We have specific procedures for how we sort and
burn the brush we’ve removed. Also, if the spot is
in a wetland or other protected environment, we
may have to cut and remove the brush by hand in
order to conserve the area.
“One advantage to doing this type of work for
such a long time is that we are familiar with these
policies and the techniques necessary to finish a
job,” he added. “Most people who drive past our
sites can’t really imagine the effort that went into
In a typical year, Sawyer’s Land Developing
handles approximately 10 to 15 projects, ranging
from yearlong wetland restorations to three-day
right-of-way clearings. Two of the company’s
current assignments require it to clear large tracts
of land both effectively and meticulously.
One of the firm’s largest undertakings was for
a mineral company. Sawyer’s Land Developing
completed a 3,700-acre wetland restoration that
took three years to finish. It built large spillways
that were used to drain on-site ponds for sand
and other material that will be used in various
ways at the site. The company cleared a 700-acre
section and removed a foot of topsoil. Sawyer’s
Land Developing also worked on a 24-acre
“Our work at that site accounted for nearly
70 to 75 percent of our business at the time,”
estimated Sawyer. “It was a very large job, and
we liked working there.”
In addition to that massive undertaking,
Sawyer’s Land Developing completed a 16-mile
stretch of land for the NCDOT in 2016.
“We cleared land for 12 miles of new road and
widened the area around four existing miles,”
said Sawyer. “We removed a 250-foot-wide
section that ran the entire length of the project.
Then we took all the material we collected, piled
it, shook the dirt out and burned it. The entire
effort will span five years, but our phase was
done by the end of 2016.”
The right equipment
Sawyer says that having the proper equipment
is major advantage for his firm. Linder Industrial
Machinery Company and Sales Rep Jared Gray
ensure that Sawyer has all the Komatsu pieces he
needs to stay on top of the industry.
“We’ve been running Komatsu equipment for
years,” reported Sawyer. “We were one of the
first in the area to use Komatsu. The machines
have been awesome for us. They have great fuelefficiency,
and they are very reliable.”
With the help of Linder, Sawyer’s Land
Developing has built a fleet that includes six
HM400 articulated trucks, seven PC210LC
excavators, a PC360LC excavator, five D85
dozers, two D65 dozers and a D61 dozer.
“We started using the HM400s about four years
ago, and we couldn’t be happier,” noted Sawyer.
“The efficiency of the trucks is outstanding,
and we have experienced little downtime. The
excavators have plenty of power, the swing is
faster compared to other brands and the visibility
is great. Also, the dozers’ undercarriages hold up
better than the competitors’.
“On top of their efficiency and durability, all
of the Komatsu machines are comfortable,”
he continued. “We appreciate that. When the
operators are comfortable, they get more done.”
Another vital piece of equipment for the
company is a KG blade. The angled blade
attaches to the dozer’s c-frame and also
features a single spear to help split stumps and
“The spear splits the stump and the blade helps
pull it out of the ground, then we come in with
root rakes behind our dozers to pile everything
together,” related Sawyer. “We’ve been highly
efficient with this process. With the KG blade, we
can clear more than three and a half acres of 15- to
20-inch stumps a day.”
When it comes to service, Linder is also there
for Sawyer’s Land Developing. Linder handles
the maintenance on the rental machines, and
also maintains Sawyer’s leased machines for
the first 2,000 hours of operation. For the Tier 4
machines that Sawyer owns, Linder provides
complimentary scheduled maintenance for
the first three years or 2,000 hours through the
Komatsu CARE program. Sawyer also purchased
extended warranties to ensure that Linder
continues servicing his machines.
“We must have our equipment up and
running,” stated Sawyer. “We do maintenance
on a majority of our machines in-house, but we
can get behind, so it’s nice to know that Linder is
going to handle a portion of our fleet. Linder and
Jared are excellent. They’ve been going above and
beyond for us since day one.”
KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s telematics system, is
also a useful tool for the company.
“It has helped us to understand how our
equipment is running,” said Sawyer. “We know
where it’s at, how much it runs and how long it
idles. It’s beneficial to have that information.”
Hard work, great people
Sawyer says that there are no shortcuts to success.
His company’s reputation has been built with a
commitment to quality results and great employees.
“The Lord has helped us find success, but we
also put in a lot of hard work,” observed Sawyer.
“We want to make sure that we’re on top of
things and finish on time and in a professional
manner. Because of that, we have developed a
good reputation, and many customers come to us
through referrals. That says a great deal.
“Another important part of our success is
our people,” he added. “We have top-notch
supervisors and operators who do a wonderful
job. Supervisors Larry Gibbs, Maurice Mackey,
Martin Jones and Will Beacham, as well as Safety
Coordinators Randy Moore and Jonathan Smith
really stay on top of things for us.”
With a dedication to hard work and terrific
people, Sawyer believes the future is bright.
“This isn’t an easy business, but it’s what we
do,” he said. “We are dedicated to it, and I think
that will keep us successful in the future.”