Customers in Action

Velting Contractors


May 09, 2016

Komatsu's innovative equipment

Velting Contractors

Keeping a family business going for a century is quite an achievement. Velting Contractors, one of Grand Rapids’ leading site-development firms, isn’t quite there – but it’s close. From its founding in 1921, the company is now in its third generation of leadership, and the fourth generation is already involved in the business. It has experienced many ups and downs, including some downs that a lot of competitors didn’t survive. Now in its 95th year, Velting Contractors, Inc. is coming back strong from one of its toughest times yet.

“The Great Recession hit us very hard,” said President Scott Velting. “We were one of the largest site-prep companies in western Michigan. As late as 2008, we had 75 employees and had a great year financially. Then the recession hit, work dried up, and frankly, we didn’t react fast enough to the downturn. For the next few years, our volume topped out at about 80 percent of what we were doing before.”

In 2011, Velting Contractors was down to just a small handful of employees and had a decision to make – close the doors or restructure and basically start over.

“At that time, we had three family members and three or four other people – key foremen and operators,” Scott recalled. “We were in dire straits, so we laid out the situation for everybody. The salaried workers would take pay cuts, and there would be no guaranteed hours for employees. All we could promise was that we’d do our best to get back on our feet as soon as possible. It was sink or swim, and we all had to be on the same page or we almost certainly would have sunk. Fortunately, we stayed together as a team, and today, we’re on pretty firm ground.”

Velting Contractors’ road to recovery has been steady.

“In 2013, we were able to double production from our lowest point during the recession, and we’ve grown by about 25 percent each year since – so pretty solid growth,” Scott noted. “We’re up to about 20 employees, and we’ve been blessed to be able to bring back some key people and hire a number of new, highly qualified individuals as well.”

Turnkey commercial sites

Since its restructuring, Velting Contractors has focused primarily on turnkey commercial site packages in and around Grand Rapids. The company clears, grades and digs footings; installs storm, sewer and water pipe; and builds roads. It works for many of the leading general contractors in the region, including The Christman Company, OAK, Rockford, Triangle, Pioneer and Rohde.

“We’ve done jobs at the Gerald Ford Museum, Grand Valley State University, Steelcase and many others,” said Scott. “We also often do site work for projects such as office buildings, retail stores and doctors’ offices. We prefer challenging jobs that require some creativity to complete on time and on budget. Because of our talented and experienced workforce, we excel on those projects.”

In addition to Scott, the Velting workforce includes his son Kyle, who serves as Vice President, and his brother Kevin, Secretary/ Treasurer. Non-family members in key positions are General Superintendent Mike Charles and Vice President of Estimating Brad Waayenberg.

“As a company, we have a long history and an excellent reputation, and our employees are a major reason for that,” said Scott. “Throughout our recovery over the last few years, we believe the Lord has really brought us some top-notch people. Some returned to us, and some are new, but they all share our work ethic and values. As an owner, it’s truly a joy when I hear how happy our customers are with the way our employees work and conduct themselves.”

Komatsu innovation with CEC/AIS support

Velting Contractors

Much of the turnaround-success Velting Contractors has experienced is a result of the company’s decision to significantly change and upgrade its equipment fleet.

“We had some really old dozers and excavators that didn’t fit our needs anymore – and some other pieces, like scrapers, that weren’t particularly useful in this day and age,” said Scott. “We sold them all and used the proceeds to buy some brand new, smaller and more versatile machines that would better fit our new company and give us better uptime. I think it also helped give us a new, more positive attitude.”

Scott says CEC/AIS was instrumental in helping Velting Contractors transform itself.

“Beyond the quality of the equipment, CEC and Sales Rep Dick Doyle demonstrated they really wanted to work with us to make the venture a success. Dealer support is crucial, and I can’t say enough about how they’ve been there for us. Their service department is incredibly responsive. We’re not a huge account, but we get treated as though we are. I appreciate that about CEC/AIS.”

Velting Contractors owns three Komatsu dozers, including two intelligent Machine Control units (D39PXi and D61PXi); three Komatsu wheel loaders (WA380, WA320 and WA270); and three Komatsu excavators (PC360, PC228 and PC138).

“We were sold on Komatsu and CEC/AIS once we demo’d their machines,” said Scott. “For example, all of our small dozers were another brand, and everybody liked them – but then we tried the Komatsu D39. Every one of our operators agreed that it was the best grading dozer they’d ever been on. They thought the cab-forward design that enabled them to actually see the blade during operation was the greatest dozer innovation ever. They also loved the smoothness of the hydraulics.

“When we first considered the D61PXi, we thought it was too big for us at 40,000 pounds,” he added. “After we demo’d it, we found it to be incredibly nimble, and we were able to use it in places where we didn’t think we could. Our older D65s were just pushing dozers, but with this new D61i, we could push and do finish-grade dozing. It’s like two dozers in one, which makes us faster and more efficient. And of course, we love the integrated GPS. I don’t think we’ll ever have another dozer that doesn’t have integrated GPS. That type of innovation is what I like about Komatsu. Nobody else is coming up with this stuff.”

Service and maintenance contracts

In addition to purchasing the Komatsu machines, Velting Contractors also purchased service and maintenance contracts from CEC/AIS.

“With new Komatsu machines, we knew there wouldn’t be many repairs,” said Scott. “Since the equipment is so technologically advanced, we felt we would probably need dealer-trained service technicians to work on it if we did have any issues. From a maintenance standpoint, CEC/AIS tracks everything through KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s remote monitoring system. Service always gets done at the right time, and they do it after hours so they don’t interfere with production.”

Scott says the biggest advantage of having new equipment with service and maintenance contracts is that he now has a very accurate reading on his equipment owning and operating costs.

“Number one; we know our machines are going to work or we’ll have a replacement, so downtime is no longer a concern. Number two; our maintenance and repair costs are already in the budget, so there are no surprises. Beyond that, Komatsu and CEC/AIS use KOMTRAX to help us budget for fuel consumption and replacement of wear items such as tracks, teeth and cutting edges. This allows us to come up with a very accurate estimate. If we don’t win a bid, we don’t beat ourselves up over it because we know, at that price, we wouldn’t have made money on it anyway.”

A second century?

Since restructuring, Velting Contractors has exceeded Scott’s expectations.

“What I like most about having this business is that we’re often able to help others. I’m thrilled to be back on our feet and able to hire people again. We’re very careful about who we hire. A key for us is having employees who share our faith and values. I believe God has blessed us with the right people, the right equipment, the right partners and the right opportunities. It’s been a perfect mix, and something I don’t think we could have done without His hand in it. I feel as though the Lord has blessed us.”

Scott says it’s not his goal to try to get Velting Contractors back to the size it once was, or to see how big they can become.

“As a family business, we’re proud of our history, our reputation and our work – but we’re not trying to be a huge company, and we definitely don’t want to get too big, too fast. We want to manage our growth, make sure we bring on the right people and do a great job for the owners and general contractors who hire us. As long as we do that consistently, I’m confident that Velting Contractors will be around to start a second century and for many years after.”